Poorly-Defined Terms Must Be Banned From Official Use

Below is the intervention read by Arthur Brooks, representing International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 12: “Tolerance and non-discrimination II, including prevention and responses to hate crimes, aggressive nationalism and chauvinism”.

Statement by the International Civil Liberties Alliance
OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Session 12: Tolerance and Non-Discrimination II

Warsaw, September 30, 2014

Mr moderator, ladies and gentlemen, thank you.

We in the International Civil Liberties Alliance agree that hatred can be dangerous and lead to serious crimes. As mentioned in the opening speech, today is the anniversary of the mass murder of many Jews at the Auschwitz death camp, undoubtedly a crime motivated by hatred propagated by Nazi Germany. However when terms such as hate crimes, and speech are poorly defined, there is a risk of malicious prosecutions and even cover-ups to shut down debate inconvenient for certain groups.

Lately, we have seen many examples of this — to cite just two, in Poland, the owner of a webpage, Damian Kowalski, was investigated by police over a supposed hate crime. His webpage, ndie.pl or “No to Islamisation of Europe” reported on cases of Islamic extremism in Western countries, often simply translating reports into Polish from mainstream Western media. The police justified their investigation, and confiscation of computer equipment, by saying the accused “incited to hatred of believers of Islam”, did not elaborate on where he had done this. Meanwhile in the UK city of Rotherham, a report found that 1400 underage girls were sexually abused and groomed for prostitution by gangs that were (more or less) unanimously acknowledged to be mainly Pakistani in origin. Such abuses were found to be covered up by police and child protect services, partly as the ethnic origin of gangs made this a sensitive issue. In other words — the need not to be even suspected of inciting hatred took precedence over physical protection of young vulnerable girls.

Such abuses can take place when terms such as hate speech are loosely defined — indeed, reasons such as fascism and hate speech have been used to crack down on inconvenient viewpoints, in this very part of Europe not so long ago.

ICLA recommends terms such as hate speech are clearly defined before being considered for implementation into domestic legal systems by participating states, and that the potential for related legislation to be abused to stifle democratic debate is recognised and taken into consideration.

Thank you.

For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.

3 thoughts on “Poorly-Defined Terms Must Be Banned From Official Use

  1. “A hate crime?You mean as opposed to a `I really,really do love you`crime?” Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt in the glorious and popular BBC drama `Is There Life On Mars?`

    Murder is murder;there is no need for the idea of hate crime:nor for hate speech.In England &Wales there are already laws against `incitement`and `actions likely to cause a breach of the peace`.For the most part juries are sane enough to judge such matters.We have done without `hate`laws for 800 years and more.Why do we need them now.Likewise the USA has developed its laws from the same inheritance.There is no need for `hate` laws.In Britain such laws have only been used against those who have sounded the tocsin against the ones (of an alien cult)who truly preaching hatred.

    • I too loved “Life on Mars”, Radford (did you know it was inspired by “Oz”?) However “hate” laws do have a purpose, like those against gender discrimination, in that they set a tone- sorry if that sounds pompous.

      Problems arise when people claim victimhood without cause, or (sometimes the same) people who preach hatred (you-know-who) are not prosecuted.

  2. Hate crimes or ‘fear crimes’ – the definition of a ‘hate crime’ needs to be very tight as the article recommends, ‘hate’ is an extreme emotion and is not too common, the benchmark being the Holocaust.

    In the holocaust, ‘hate’ was implemented by rounding up target groups and eliminating them by whatever means was convenient at the time or place, and if one could work the victims to death, then so be it.

    It is dangerous to characterize anything short of genocide as a hate crime because an extreme act needs an equally extreme word to describe it, the current use of the idea of a ‘hate’ crime leaves no room to describe relatively low level abuse that falls a long way short of mass murder.

    In the current use of the idea of ‘hate’ crime, I am, strictly speaking, commiting a ‘hate’ crime against the German people if I write about my family murdered in Lithuania in WWII, and if I were to write about the Me Lai massacre, would this be a ‘hate’ crime against the American people?

    Yet if I talk about Mohammed marrying a 6 year old and consumating the marriage when the child was nine, although it is part of the Islamic scriptures, it is a ‘hate’ crime because, by implication, worshippers of Mohammed are caused ‘offence’.

    Now the outcome of ‘hate’ in a genocidal context is torture and death, the outcome of ‘hate’ in an Islamic (Shariah) context is the causing of offence to the believer.

    Thus ‘hate’ crime in this context is evidence of the creep of Shariah law into national law in Europe particularly. ‘Hate’ in this context is about causing ‘offence’ specifically to Islam and to Muslims. So to define ‘hate’ one also has to define ‘offence’. Now I find dogs in restaurants offensive, but I tolerate it, it is not so much a ‘hate’ crime as sheer bad taste. Now a muslim would consider it a ‘hate’ crime because the supremacist nature of Islam dictates that the Muslim has an absolute right not to be ‘offended’ especially by non-believers……

    So we come back to the fascistic nature of Islam in its desire to redefine ‘Law’ to suit its own political power structures.

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