What are hate crimes?
A hate crime is any crime that stems from prejudice and hatred towards the social group to which the victim belongs.
Hate crimes are identified by:
- the opinion and interpretation of the victim,
- circumstances (eg the victim is an activist in the field of LGBTIQ rights, the victim held hands with a person of the same gender),
- hostile graffiti (in case of material damage),
- hostile shouts and remarks,
- place and time (eg Pride Parade Day),when the perpetrator is known to be homophobic.
What is hate speech?
Hate speech is the expression of opinions and ideas that are directed against a particular social group. Article 297 of the Slovenian Criminal Code defines criminal hate speech in its narrower form. This is a crime based on the personal circumstances of the victim and is committed in a way that may endanger or disturb public order and peace, or by using threats, insults or insults. It is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. There is not much case law.
What is discrimination?
“Discrimination means any unjustified factual or legal unequal treatment, differentiation, exclusion or restriction or omission due to personal circumstances, which has the goal or consequence of obstructing, reducing or annihilating equality.” (Article 4 of the Protection against Discrimination Act (ZVarD))
Unequal treatment can occur in different contexts, e.g. at work, in a public institution and the like. (Protection against Discrimination Act (ZVarD))
There is also indirect discrimination, in which a seemingly neutral measure puts the discriminated individual at a disadvantage.
Why is it important to treat hate crimes separately from ordinary crimes?
Hate crimes can affect the victim more severely than an ordinary crime would. In the environment where the crime took place, the victim may feel less safe and therefore become more cautious, change their appearance, and long-term psychological consequences such as depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma are also possible.
Hate crimes have a negative impact not only on the victim, but also on the community to which the victim belongs, as such crimes are proof to members of the community that they are not welcome and safe in the wider social environment. Hate crimes are therefore treated and punished more severely than other crimes.
Even in cases where the police are not competent to deal with a particular case of hate crime, discrimination or hate speech, it is important that the case is recorded. This data will make it easier to achieve systemic changes in legislation and changes in their police treatment.
Why do we use the term victim?
We use the term victim because it is the most widely and most frequently used term to describe a person who suffers and/or survives violence. At the same time this term is also used in law and thus in the prosecution of suspects. Other suitable terms are also survivor and person experiencing violence. We do not use the term victim as a name for a person who is in a passive position and helpless, but only as a name for a person who has suffered, experienced or is experiencing violence.
What can I do as an eyewitness?
The most important thing is to recognise the crime. Due the trauma, victims are often unable to defend themselves, gather evidence, call the police… If you are witnessing any crime, especially a hate crime, it is crucial that you do not overlook the event and that you do the right thing.
Take care of your own safety first, then the victim. If necessary, help the victim to a safe place and call the police in case of a crime. Connect with other eyewitnesses and gather evidence: photos, videos, and statements from other eyewitnesses will help prosecute the perpetrator. You can also report the crime to the police yourself, but the case will only be dealt with if the victim also decides to report it.
In cases of hate speech and discrimination where the victim or someone else is not in physical danger, step in to defend the victim. You can advise her where to go for help with reporting an event, or refer her to proper institution.
What can I do if the police don’t take me seriously?
Reporting to the police can be burdensome, and the victim is in a particularly vulnerable position if the report occurs immediately after the crime. Whenever possible, the victim should have someone they trust with them at the time of reporting and who is familiar with the application process. This can be a friend, a partner, a representative of a non-governmental organisation, a lawyer … It is recommended to submit the report as soon as possible, but it can be reported at any time.
You can report to the police by e-mail, online (eUprava), by phone, through a lawyer, with the help of a non-governmental organisation, to a police officer in person (when visiting at home or at a police station).
When reporting to the police station, ask the police officer on duty to direct you to someone who will accept the report. Be persistent, don’t let yourself be driven away!
If the treatment of the police officer you are referred to is problematic (eg they are homophobic, they do not not take you seriously,…), ask for someone else. If this does not help, you can officially complain to the station commander or to the General Police Administration, via e-mail, in writing or in person.
If it is a hate crime, you must make this clear in the report. It must be clear from your statement that you were affected by the event (if true) and that the perpetrator knew of the personal circumstance and attacked you because of it.
After reporting, read carefully what is written. Stay in touch with the police officer who took your report and ask what the next steps are. You can update the report later, but it is recommended that you do not change it.
You can also submit the report directly to the prosecutor’s office through a lawyer, that means without contacting the police. The prosecution will then direct police to investigate the case.