Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings Constitutional Court of Austria

The Ministry of Justice as well as the Ministry of the Interior conducted awareness-raising programs for their employees in 2016 regarding hate speech and discriminatory practices on the Internet and in social media. In addition, non-discriminatory language use is part of the standard training for all police officers in Austria. Such training is provided in cooperation with the Anti-Defamation League. The pilot project "Police Liaison," also launched in Vienna in 2016, was aimed at raising police awareness and reducing discriminatory incidents. The emphasis is on the fact that in addition to widespread xenophobia and pan-German nationalism, anti-Semitism remains a major cornerstone of far-right ideology in Austria.

The Austrian government has recently been focusing on online hate speech in general, and in 2016 it initiated the Violence on the Internet project. These are guidelines for dealing with "hate messages" on social media in terms of damages and compensation according to media legislation ("Mediengesetz") and awareness-raising activities in the administrative bodies of the government itself (police, public prosecutors, courts) to better prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes. It was also announced that special prosecutor positions will be created to deal with hate crimes in general. The government has also set up a free counseling service "Against Hate on the Internet" ("#GegenHassimNetz"), which supports and advises victims in various languages on reports of hate speech, cyber-bullying and other forms of verbal and mental abuse online and those who have witnessed it.

In addition, the Department of Justice recently reached an agreement with the social network Facebook that requires the social network to investigate, within no more than 24 hours, any valid report of content that violates the anti-hate and discrimination laws described above and to remove such content or restrict access to it.

On top of everything else, the police continue to remain active against neo-Nazi activity, tightly controlling any manifestations of hate-mongering organizations. In April 2019, for example, Austrian authorities conducted searches across the country, targeting 32 people suspected of neo-Nazi activity. The harsh measures of the authorities are due to an increase in the number of hate crimes.

The authorities found in 2016. a significant increase in such crimes: For incitement to hatred in connection with right-wing extremism and racism, charges were filed in 380 cases (282 in 2015); also in connection with right-wing extremism, there were 339 cases of vandalism, up from 289 in 2015; 48 cases of threats in connection with right-wing extremism, up from 31 in 2015 hate incitement to criminal activity in connection with right-wing extremism were charged in 44 cases, up from 25 cases in 2015; there were also 24 cases of hate attacks, up from 20 in 2015; and 13 cases of wearing/displaying national socialist symbols, up from 0 in 2015. The overall increase in such crimes was +13.6 percent. Of these crimes, 27.1 percent were reported as xenophobic, 3.1 percent were reported as anti-Semitic, and 2.1 percent as Islamophobic. Thus, the total number of recorded extreme right-wing hate crimes is increasing everywhere. There are no statistics on LGBT hate crimes, but a recent study found that almost 80 percent of Austrian LGBT people have experienced verbal abuse in public and more than 25 percent have been victims of physical violence.

In many cases, Austrian politicians made statements against xenophobia during 2016/2017. The most prominent of these were members of the Social Democrats (SPÖ), the Greens (Grüne), NEOS and the People's Party (ÖVP). This party, as well as the FPÖ, also distanced itself from some of its members when they were subjected to intense public scrutiny. Austrian President Heinz Fischer used his New Year's speeches during this period, as well as commemorations such as the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Violence and Racism in memory of the victims of National Socialism (May 8), to appeal to Austrians in general and politicians in particular to support human rights and fight against xenophobia and hatred.

There are several state institutions that advise and support people who feel they have been discriminated against ("Gleichbehandlungsanwaltschaften"), as well as specialized equal rights offices in administration and public service. Despite well-developed anti-discrimination measures, Austrian federalism creates a complex situation in which anti-discrimination in certain areas of public life falls not under federal but under regional (Länder) jurisdiction. Because the relevant anti-discrimination laws are not completely parallel, this means, for example, that federal protection against discrimination in access to goods and services applies only if there have been violations relating to ethnicity, gender or disability - but not to sexual orientation, religion or age, which are included in the regional laws of individual states, for example in Vienna.

As a result, the situation has been criticized for its lack of transparency and diverging standards. In this context, the Council of Europe warned in 2015 that Austria had not ratified Protocol no. 12 of the European Charter of Human Rights, which obligates signatory countries to prosecute hate crimes related to National Socialism, and did not propose equivalent laws against all hate crimes motivated by racist ideologies. He also criticized that the large number of different anti-discrimination laws and institutions in Austria undermines their effectiveness, that federal anti-discrimination laws only cover discrimination based on ethnicity and gender outside the workplace, and that the "Gleichbehandlungsanwaltschaft" is not fully independent.

There is no separate codification of hate crimes in the Austrian criminal code. Austrian hate crime laws are a combination of a general penalty enhancement provision and the main crime. In other words, if an ordinary crime is committed with a bias motive, it is declared an aggravated crime and treated as a hate crime. In the 2018-20s, amid a decline in reported hate crimes, there was an increase in crimes under investigation and a simultaneous reduction in convictions. So, while there were 208 convictions in 2018, there were 191 in 2019 and 169 in 2020.

Based on support from an EU-funded project aimed at improving the recording of hate crimes, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) introduced a new electronic recording and data collection mechanism on November 1, 2020. The mechanism is supported by MIA guidelines, which include a new definition of hate crime monitoring, a system of bias indicators, and improved data quality management. The implementation of the new mechanism was complemented by an e-learning program for police officers, launched in August 2020 and conducted through the e-campus of the Police Academy ( Sicherheitsakademie , SIAK). By May 10, 2021, 22,788 police officers had completed the three-module e-learning program and were certified. Further, 207 police officers from the federal states have been trained in frontline training and as contact persons for CSOs and victim support organizations; to date, they have conducted most of the mandatory training for all colleagues who have completed the online training program. Beginning in May 2021, an additional module for prosecutors and judges has been launched. The training is also available to all prosecutors and judges.

In addition, in 2021 the Interior Ministry developed a fact sheet on hate crimes, translated into nine languages, and together with the Institute for Sociology, Law and Criminology ( Institut für Rechts- und Kriminalsoziologie, IRKS) conducted a study of hate crime victimization on unreported cases called "Prevalence of Prejudice-Based Crimes in the Austrian Population". The latter, based on 2,325 telephone interviews, concluded that nearly four percent of those surveyed had been victims of hate crimes. Safety perceptions of hate crime victims were significantly worse than those of other respondents who had suffered a crime without prejudice. Victims were much less likely to report hate crimes than victims of non-biased offenses. The survey results were included in the pilot report "Hate Crimes in Austria", which reflects improvements in hate crime reporting and data collection in Austria from 2019, published in June 2021.

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