The rise of anti-LGBTI crime in Europe: How will the EU address it?
In 2020 a Europe-wide survey found an alarming rise in crime and harassment against LGBTI people, with almost 60% reporting incidents over the past five years. At the same time the European Commission has adopted a strategy on victims rights across member states, but how will it impact the growing number of anti-LGBTI crimes?
Last year’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report on survey of the experiences and views of LGBTI people in EU found that 58% LGBT people experienced harassment during the five years previously, with higher rates among trans people. In addition, the 2021 FRA report on experiences of the victims of crime in EU found that among other identified groups, LGBTI people experience harassment and violence at higher rates than average.
In June 2020, to ensure that all victims of all crime in the EU, no matter in what circumstances the crime took place, can rely on their rights, the European Commission adopted its first-ever EU strategy on victims’ rights (2020–2025).
What kinds of action does it set out?
It outlines key actions to be conducted by the European Commission, Member States and civil society under these priorities:
· Empowering victims of crime
· Improving protection and support of the most vulnerable victims
· Facilitating victims’ access to compensation
· Strengthening cooperation and coordination
The strategy recognises that hate crime disproportionately affects certain communities such as Jews, Roma, Muslims, people of African descent, migrants and the LGBTI community, and notably those who are targeted on multiple grounds. It also pays greater attention to improving protection and support of the most vulnerable victims, although the strategy should be applied to victims of crime no matter who they are.
So how does it work? Five key elements of the strategy:
1. Communication with victims, and a safe environment for victims to report crime
The European Commission plans to launch an awareness campaign across the EU; provide information and support for victims with specific needs; promote training activities for judicial and law enforcement authorities; and provide EU funding as needed.
Member States are invited to ensure full and correct implementation of the Victims’ Rights directive; launch national awareness campaigns; and support civil society including with EU funding.
Victim support organisations are encouraged to engage with national authorities and participate in mutual training activities.
2. Support and protection of the most vulnerable victims
The European Commission will build on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and promote integrated and targeted approach to support victims with special needs (victims of gender-based violence or of hate crime, LGBTI victims among others). It will complete the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention or adopt alternative measures to achieve the same objective. The Commission will assess the introduction of minimum standards on victims’ physical protection as well as assess reporting tools for migrant victims or victims in detention. It will also create guidance on protecting victims of hate crime and hate speech.
Members States should take actions building on lessons from COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in relation to better support and protection of victims of gender-based and domestic violence. They should set up specialist support services for the most vulnerable victims such as Child Houses, Family Houses, LGBTI+ safe houses; and facilitate cooperation and coordination between judicial and law enforcement authorities and social and health care workers.
Civil society organisations are called to provide support to victims in cooperation with national authorities.
3. Facilitating victims’ access to compensation
The European Commission will monitor and assess the EU legislation on compensation, including state compensation, offender’s compensation, and if necessary propose new measures by 2022.
Member States should evaluate national compensation schemes and, if necessary, eliminate the existing procedural hurdles. They should ensure funding for fair and appropriate state compensation for violent and intentional crimes. They should ensure that victims are not exposed to secondary victimisation during the compensation procedure, and cooperate with other Member States in cross-border cases.
Victim support organisations are encouraged to engage with the national compensation authorities to offer support, exchange best practices and mutual training activities.
4. Strengthening cooperation and coordination
Member States should set up national victims’ rights strategies with a holistic approach and involving all relevant actors; and promote higher involvement of the civil society into national actions.
5. Strengthening the international dimension of victims’ rights
The European Union aims to strengthen cooperation with international and regional partners, such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe to promote high international standards for victims’ rights. It aims to use EU funding and political dialogue to advocate victims’ rights and to ensure access to justice for victims in partner countries, and to promote cooperation to improve support and protection for EU citizens victimised in third countries.