At a glance
“If hate crimes are not properly investigated and prosecuted there is a risk of their reoccurrence and escalation,” says Kirsten Joppe, Chief of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo’s Security Monitoring Section. “This is especially relevant in Kosovo, which is a home to many ethnic, religious and cultural communities,” she adds.
Hate crimes are defined as crimes motivated by victims’ characteristics, be those ethnicity or race, religious or political beliefs, or cultural belonging. While the Kosovo police over the last thirteen years have focussed on identifying the perpetrators of hate crimes, they overlooked the importance of understanding the motives which lay behind them.
According to Joppe, identifying the motives behind the crimes is crucial for the police to be able to protect those affected. “More often then not hate crimes affect groups who are in a minority in any given social setting or locality,” says Joppe. The OSCE Mission has initiated a series of training sessions designed to help the Kosovo police identify and investigate this kind of crime to protect those affected from reoccurring violence.
In December 2011 the Mission organized train-the-trainer sessions for 16 police officers who have since become trainers on hate crimes issues and investigation techniques. To spread this knowledge throughout police structures, those trainers have so far conducted training for 138 police officers. In addition, since February 2012, an OSCE-developed course on hate crimes has been delivered at the Kosovo Academy for Public Safety, which is mandatory during basic training.
“Hate crimes happen everywhere, but in societies suffering from a lack of tolerance and mutual understanding those most vulnerable are the main victims,” explains Adrian Demiri, a police investigator and one of the 16 trainers. “For the police it is important to learn how to identify indicators of possible hate crimes which went unnoticed earlier, investigate them properly and forward the case for further proceedings.”
Given the general lack of awareness of hate crimes, the Kosovo police did not register hate crimes as a specific crimes category nor did it have an overview of how many such crimes occur in Kosovo. This is starting to change with hate crimes now being reported on separately.
“The mere fact that the police are ready to accept this kind of training sends a positive signal and shows that there is a commitment to prevent such crimes,” says Joppe. “Of course this is a long process and time is needed to achieve significant results. However, the OSCE is willing to continue working with the police to make this goal possible.”
While Demiri has already started applying these new skills in practice, the OSCE Mission will take the next step and organize workshops for higher police management, in the last quarter of 2012.
Both Demiri and Joppe agree that in order to combat this negative phenomenon successfully, all Kosovo institutions and not just the police should first properly understand the concept and issues behind hate crimes in order deal with them successfully.
The Mission has already organized training sessions on hate crimes for judges and prosecutors in December 2011 and is planning to organize workshops for civil society representatives later in 2012. The Mission will also conduct a second round of workshops at schools Kosovo-wide in October 2012.
“We should teach young people about tolerance, mutual understanding and co-existence. In the end, this is where the future resides,” Demiri concludes.
Written by Mirjana Ugrenović & Nikola Gaon