The Human Rights House Zagreb, in cooperation with the Police Academy and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium and the Diversity Division of Antwerp Police Department, organized a two-day training for police officers on recognizing and dealing with hate crimes. The training was held online on 19 and 20 November 2020. 

The training was attended by 20 police officers from all over Croatia and it was moderated by Tea Dabić, Head of the Human Rights and Judiciary Program at the Human Rights House Zagreb.

Introductory speech was given by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, H.E. Nicolaas Roger R. Buyck. H.E. stressed the importance of recognizing and responding to hate crimes, and emphasized the extremely important role of the police in combating hate crimes.

The first lecture of the first day of training was given by the Deputy State’s Attorney General of the Republic of Croatia, Ms. Andrea Šurina Marton, who presented on the topic of Criminal legal aspects of hate crimes in Croatia with reference to challenges in practice. Šurina Marton presented the legislative framework of hate crime, its specific characteristics and forms of hate crimes. She particularly emphasized the increase in reporting of hate crimes as well as the challenges that exist in practice, such as frequent law amendments, pluralism of regulations, overlapping legal provisions, equalization of hate crimes and hate speech, and inconsistency between theory and practice.

The Chief Inspector of the Diversity Division of Antwerp Police Department, Mr. Kristof De Busser, gave a presentation on the topic of Strategies, tools and approaches in combating hate crimes and promoting diversity – practice of the Belgian police in Antwerp. De Busser informed the participants about the practice of Belgian police when it comes to dealing with hate crimes. Participants shared their experiences in combating hate crimes through an interactive application. De Busser also presented the activities carried out by the Belgian police in Antwerp in relation to hate crimes, and gave an example of the police activity towards the LGBTIQ community under the slogan “Proud to be your friends”, which aims at raising awareness of trust in police work and the fact that citizens can turn to police for help any time.

The last presentation on the first day was given by Mr. Miren Špek, Executive Director of the Victims and Witness Support Services on the topic of Working with victims of violence, making individual victims assessment. Špek presented the existing support intended for victims and witnesses of criminal offenses and misdemeanors. He also announced that the National call center for victims will be accessible from 0-24h. In addition, he stressed the importance of recognizing the personal characteristics of victims as well as the importance of making individual victims assessment by all competent authorities in criminal proceedings, while also presenting the main challenges occurring in practice.

The second day of the training was opened by Mr. Krešimir Mamić, Head of Terrorism Unit in the Police Directorate within the Croatian Ministry of Interior. He emphasized the differences between hate speech and hate crime, as well as addressed problems of radicalization in society in the context of current events in Croatia. Mamić pointed out examples and dilemmas from practice of recording hate crimes and cooperating with the OSCE/ODIHR which monitors the situation and collects statistics on hate crimes.

The last presentation was given by Ms. Ana Urlić from Zagreb Pride on the topic of Identifying specific needs of the victim – particularity of hate crime towards LGBTIQ persons, introduction to terminology. Urlić pointed out the problem of non-reporting of hate crimes, presented possible reasons for non-reporting, as well as specific indicators that should be particularly taken into account in the criminal investigation of hate crimes. She also presented the results of a recent survey and statistics related to hate crime, violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ persons and stressed the importance of using the correct terminology when interviewing victims, as well as protecting the rights of victims of hate crimes.

Given that hatred motivated crimes represent an everyday reality throughout the EU, training for police officers intended to contribute to improving the existing knowledge and skills of police officers working with victims or potential victims of hate crimes. The training also contributes to raising awareness of the impact and consequences of hate crimes on the individual and on the wider community, including raising awareness of the existing victim support and assistance services, with focus on vulnerable groups.

The training was held in the frame of the project “Stand Up for Victims’ Rights – Fostering Rights of the Victims of Hate Crimes through Support and Civil Courage” funded by the European Union Justice Program.