Recently, INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Luis Arreaga led the United States delegation to the 25th session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in Vienna. CCPCJ is the lead United Nations policymaking body in the criminal justice field.
At the meeting, the United States highlighted the importance of preventing and responding to hate crimes – also known as bias-motivated crimes. These threats can undermine the rule of law and become serious security challenges for any nation. As the main theme of the 2019 iteration of the CCPCJ, this topic will continue to garner interest.
INL hosted a side event at the 2016 CCPCJ focused on effective criminal justice approaches to preventing and countering these criminal acts. Led by PDAS Arreaga, the panel included Cristina Finch, Director of the Tolerance and Non-discrimination Department at The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR); Atlanta Police Department (APD) Deputy Chief Erika Shields; and Mauricio Noguera, Advisor-Prosecutor of the Gender Unit in the Attorney General’s Office in Colombia. Kathleen Coogan, INL’s Senior Gender Advisor moderated the panel, and ODCE/ODIHR was INL’s event co-sponsor.
The panel is part of a long-term effort by the United States and other like-minded countries to highlight the need to help police, prosecutors, and criminal justice systems respond to bias-motivated crimes around the world. The conversation at this CCPCJ side event built upon the Doha Declaration, a major political document adopted at the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in April 2015. The Declaration acknowledges the need for specialized training for law enforcement so they can better recognize and suppress hate crimes and enhance cooperation between the public and criminal justice agencies.
Panelists provided useful ideas on how to achieve the goal of ensuring justice systems serve all members of society. Mr. Noguera described how his office focuses on prosecuting cases involving bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Colombia. Ms. Finch described OSCE/ODIHR’s work with participating states to customize capacity building programs aimed at preventing and responding to bias-motivated crimes. Deputy Chief Shields described Atlanta Police Department’s approach to combating bias-motivated crimes through community outreach and capacity building, and emphasized how an undercurrent of discrimination can ruin a community and lead to unrest.
Effectively countering bias-motivated crimes by government requires the commitment of government resources, as well as government’s willingness to acknowledge the presence of violent acts based on hate. The United States is helping achieve these goals, and in our international partnerships matching our words with deeds. Through the United Nations INL helps international partners improve their own criminal justice systems to combat bias-motivated crimes in a number of important ways. For example, the United States now provides specialized law enforcement training on countering bias-motivated crimes at our International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs) in San Salvador, Bangkok, Gaborone, and Budapest.
Critical to that training is INL’s collaboration with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to implement these courses. Since the INL Bureau’s partnership with APD began in 2011, APD developed a hate crimes training module based on their experience investigating and responding to hate crimes in Atlanta. This training was first delivered at ILEA San Salvador in 2014 and last year. Due to the strong, positive reception with participants, at INL’s request, APD committed to conducting the same training at all four overseas ILEAs this year (Bangkok in March, San Salvador in June, Budapest in September, and Gaborone in November). By year’s end, more than 200 foreign law enforcement officers will have graduated from the course.
Bias-motivated crimes require a practical response: we must collect information and data in order for authorities to take informed steps to counter these criminal acts, and build relationships between law enforcement authorities and the communities they serve. This is a long-term process, but one that pays off when we create an environment where our partners build the capacity to prevent, identify and solve crimes.