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Papa Francesco

15 ottobre 2009 - Rassegna stampa

Hearing of the commission on security & cooperation in Europe (Helsinki commission) ( part 4 )

In the absence of information, how can democracies respond to the needs of their people and ensure that safety and the freedom of movement are guaranteed for all citizens? ODIHR’s report shows clearly that many states throughout the region do not implement commitments they have made in relation with data collection.

Now, let us try to answer the following question. Why are crimes against Muslims underreported and under-recorded? The first reason is that many states do not disaggregate data and specifically, do not record this specific type of crime. Recommations from numerous OSCE meetings, for example, the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on effective implementation on effective implementation of hate-crime legislation stress the need for states to disaggregate data.

But in fact, the implementation of this legislation has failed. The second reason is that victims of hate crimes do not report to the police because they are afraid of being victimized by the law enforcement and sometimes because they fear that their status may be disclosed. According to a recent survey of the Fundamental Rights Agency, 11 percent of the respondents of the survey had been victim of racially-motivated in-person crime, assault, threat or serious harassment at least once in the previous 12 months.

But between 53 percent and 98 percent of them, deping on their country of residence, did not report it to the police. This indicates that there is a need for increasing the capacity of law enforcement officers in dealing with hate crimes again Muslims. I would like to also encourage participating states to benefit from ODIHR’s law enforcement officers training program on hate crimes as much as possible.

A third reason could also be that there are not enough civil society organizations that are equipped to support communities.

Although states bear the primary responsibility of addressing hate crimes, civil society organizations have an important role in play rooted in communities. They have privileged access to victims and therefore can assist victims by reporting to the authorities and by providing medical or psychological care after attacks.

NGOs from only 10 participating states provided ODIHR with information on anti-Muslim hate crimes in their countries, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States. I would like now to draw your attention to an aspect of the problem that is even more complex to grasp.

I have witnessed that some media and some political parties use anti-Muslim rhetoric with a view to sell more news, to gain more attention or to attract more votes. In my opinion, this is a very short-sighted strategy. No individual, no group and no society can ever profit from increased intolerance within society. This year, I have witnessed campaigns against establishing Islamic schools and building mosques or minarets.

Sadly enough, the words I have heard and I have read remind me of those that were employed against Jews in the 1930s or in 1940s.

No need to stress that in this framework, Islam is often represented as a political ideology which is incompatible with the principles of democracy and human rights.

I would like to draw your attention to the next point. How can ODIHR, OSCE provide assistance as intolerance the discrimination against Muslims have devastating effects, not only on the daily lives of the Muslim communities but also leads to tensions in the society and the international relations to remedy this negative and disturbing phenomenon?

I encourage the participating states to benefit from the experience and assistance of ODIHR in developing educational tools to counter specific forms of intolerance, country-specific resources — resource books on Muslims in the OSCE regions and the guidelines for educators should be widely used and disseminated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to the following. Yesterday, I had a number of meetings with U.S. and European community. They mentioned that hate crimes against Muslims continue to be significant national concern even after the election of President Obama. The latest FBI report, 2007, on hate crimes showed that number of crimes against Arab-Americans, Muslims and Sikhs has increased four times since 2000.

Many Muslims have been murdered, calmly shot into the head as if it was somebody’s vetta. In 2001, the White House has signed terrorist financing laws without consulting the Congress to expand the Treasury Department’s unilateral authority to freeze the assets of Muslim charity organizations and granted the department with virtually unchecked power to designate groups as terrorist organization. The laws provide the government with the right to shut Muslim charity organizations down, often without allegations of criminal wrongdoing and criminal prosecution. The laws have disproportionately affected Muslim charities and violate rights for free and fully practice of their religion.

They have restricted Muslims from zakat donation, one of the core pillars of Islam. The American Muslims are restricted from providing material support for their religion and making charities.

American Muslims complain that with these laws, the government affects the institution through which they practice their religion.

During yesterday’s meetings, NGOs protecting Muslim rights also stressed that funding for their activity is not sufficient, not only to raise the question but also to address it at federal and interstate level. NGO-government relations are left for mechanisms to communicate and work jointly to find the best solution.

This is what I heard yesterday and they requested to convey this information to you and I am doing this. Thank you for your attention.

SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you very much for your testimony.

Mr. Mauro?

MARIO MAURO: Thank you, Chairman. Let me thank you for the invitation to address such a distinguished audience. Today’s hearing should be seen in the framework of the continuous leadership of the USA and in particular, of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on issues related to tolerance and nondiscrimination in the OSCE. In this regard, it seems to me symbolic that I am here together with Ambassador Akhmetov and Rabbi Baker for the joint country visit of the three OSCE personal representatives on tolerance issues.

As you are aware of, my mandate is broad. It covers two areas: racism and xenophobia, including specific challenges faced by Roma and Sinti, and intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions. In the limited time available, I will mention both issues. I will highlight current trs, successes and positive aspects, as well as the challenges ahead.

Since my appointment as personal representative, we have witnessed an unprecedented collapse of the global economy which has affected all societies across OSCE region. However, some groups have felt the impact of the economic collapse much harder than other. Due to their already vulnerable position, the effects of the economic crisis on migrants, refugees and minority groups within the OSCE region were especially harsh and have contributed to worsening their already unstable situation.

In a depressed economy, migrants or minority groups are seen by the majority as competitors for jobs and social services and thus as a threat to their livelihoods or standard of living. This results in labeling minority group members as a burden to society. When such discourse is prevalent, it can lead to an increase in racist and xenophobic rhetoric. Such accusations can in return lead to increased racist sentiments and can worsen the social exclusion of migrants and minorities.

Additionally, the lack of leadership of mainstream political parties throughout the region in highlighting the positive contribution of migrants to national and local economies and to essential maintenance of their societies’ infrastructures is also a matter of concern.

Such attitude at best acts as a barrier to the full participation of migrants and minority groups in societies. It also gives implicit condolence to the acts of discrimination and hatred towards migrants and their families.

(continues)

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