NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hate crime and hate speech, often ignored by governments, increasingly fuels discrimination and violence against the world’s minorities, according to an annual survey released Thursday.
"The prevalence of hate crimes against minorities is widely under-estimated and is now being driven across borders by online propaganda, whether by sectarian jihadis or right-wing racists," said Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which compiled the survey.
"If governments ignore hate crime, the perpetrators see it as a green light to continue," he said in a statement.
The report found that hate crime and hate speech against minority groups and indigenous peoples are prevalent globally, from the least to the most developed countries.
Often used as a tool by extremists to consolidate power, oppress marginalised groups or inflame ethnic and religious tensions, hatred results not just in discrimination and intimidation but in the displacement of millions of people and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the report said.
It also results in sexual violence, particularly against women.
In the former Burma, for example, a large number of the Muslim Rohingya minority were persecuted, murdered or displaced during 2013 by Buddhist extremists, the report said.
"The rise of extremist rhetoric against Burma’s Muslim minority has been facilitated by the government’s reluctance to take meaningful steps to curb this hate speech. Even pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted criticism for her apparent silence on the targeted abuse and displacement of tens of thousands of Rohingya," it said.
However, the report also noted that civil society groups have tried to counter the spread of hate speech with campaigns that distributed thousands of stickers and T-shirts with the messages: “There will be no racial, religious conflicts because of me” and “Burmese citizens don’t discriminate by race and religion.”
In Russia, hate speech, harassment and violence against migrants from Central Asia rose in 2013, the report found, noting “the daily threat of verbal or physical abuse defines the lives of migrants” in that country.
In a case study included in the report, migrants from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan living in Moscow said they face huge obstacles in renting apartments, applying for work or even sending their children to school. Some ads for flats bluntly specify “for Slavs only,” one migrant said.
Hate slogans posted in Moscow by xenophobic and right-wing groups help fuel anti-migrant resentment which often manifests itself in hate-inspired attacks. These have included bands of youths beating up all non-white passengers on trains, MRG wrote.
In Europe, where there has been an increase in anti-migrant sentiment and right-wing organizations against the backdrop of the economic crisis, hate speech and hate crimes are also taking place, according to the report.
It cites the rise in Hungary of Jobbik, a radical nationalist party - now the country’s third largest political party - that engages in anti-Roma and anti-Jewish rhetoric. The report said that many anti-Roma hate crimes are routinely overlooked by the police and never reach the courts.
Hate speech in political rhetoric and religious sermons also play a role in exacerbating broader conflicts, including in Syria and Iraq, the report said.
"The impact on victims of violent crime is well-known, but when such crimes are motivated by ethnic or religious hatred, whole communities are made to feel under attack. Hate crimes need to be recognised as such and the perpetrators punished," said MRG’s Mark Lattimer.