a) Tolerance/Intolerance. This ranges from “no problem at all” to various degrees of ‘intolerance’, which exist to some extent in all countries and cultures. It takes, however, a turn for the worse when intolerance is openly shown and remains uncontested by the relevant authorities. A “new normal” starts to take shape. We identify here a stage where intolerance develops with the repetition of uncontested messages portraying a particular group as dangerous or noxious in a society. Intolerance occurs principally on a social and cultural level – clubs, sporting events, neighbourhoods, press articles, political discourse and popular culture such as cinema and television. Often, citizens’ public demonstrations and marches to support an unrelated cause, turn violent either spontaneously or not, against a particular group or their property, and are allowed to continue undisturbed. The choice of the authorities not to react nor contest, is a tacit approval of this form of intolerance. Opinion leaders at all levels (parents, teachers, journalists, sports stars, politicians, etc.) can become promotors of these messages.
However, at this stage, the aggrieved still have recourse to law. Intolerance is not yet ‘discrimination’. Fundamental rights to non-discrimination still apply.
Acts of intolerance usually fall outside the scope of the criminal law framework. Acts of violence, however, perpetrated with a particular bias are properly hate crimes, and are typified within the criminal law. Cases of “hate speech” are not hate crimes because they are not violent acts and they are not ruled in every country by the criminal body of law.
Intolerance is the most difficult to quantify as it is more often defined as a ‘feeling’. But it conditions the environment with the repetition of negative messages portraying a group as dangerous to the status quo. If at all, the negative messages are contested by individuals or opinion leaders, who then point the finger to less defined entities such as “the media” or “the local culture”, or to certain political figures. However, if the victim does not report acts of intolerance, or the authorities do not react firmly against it, the ground is prepared for worse.
b) Discrimination: This follows where intolerance goes unchecked. Discrimination occurs when there are laws or rules that apply to a particular group and not to all. The hallmark of ‘discrimination’ is a change in law which entrenches a treatment of, or a distinction against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which that person belongs. There are instances of direct and of indirect discrimination. It is direct when the actions are clearly directed to an individual belonging to a particular faith, and indirect discrimination when for example a company only hires professionals from a particular level of schooling, from which those in a religious group are banned from registering. In this case, it is usually the State that becomes the perpetrator, violating religious freedom. In the West, these violations occur in cases of limitations to freedom of conscience, often linked to a profession or branch of education, which is also protected by Article 18. Blasphemy laws, because they place one belief above all others, and because they are protective not of an individual but of a group, appear at this stage. Although discrimination might be legal domestically, it falls within the domain of international law. It remains illegal according to the UDHR and UN conventions as well as to regional conventions (and OSCE commitments). Victims, after exhausting national channels, can rely on the international community for help. Instances of discrimination include limitations in access to jobs (including public office), denial of emergency aid unless the recipient belongs to a particular faith, lack of access to Justice, the inability to buy or repair property, to live in a certain neighbourhood or to display symbols of faith. For example, in 2020, limitations during the Covid-19 pandemic sometimes locking down temples but leaving shops open, appeared to be applied in a disproportionate and discriminatory way against religious groups.
c) Persecution: This stage usually follows discrimination and includes “hate crimes”. Acts of persecution and hate crimes are performed by a biased perpetrator, who may or may not know the religious identity of the victim. Acts of persecution and hate crimes are typified under national criminal law and/or international law. Persecution and discrimination usually co-exist, the one building upon the other. However persecution by, say, a local terrorist group can exist in a country without State-driven discrimination being present. Persecution might be an active programme or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on membership of a religious group. This happens for example in Africa where farmers, who might be Christians, are systematically attacked by herders, who might be Muslim, under the pretext of a climate change effect. Acts of violence (often fuelled by the public discourse and group thinking) may be perpetrated by single individuals. Acts of persecution need not be “systematic” nor occur following a strategy.
Sia gli attori statali che quelli non statali possono perseguitare un dato gruppo, ma in questa fase quel gruppo non può fare ricorso alla legge. Gli attori privati che commettono crimini d'odio contro un gruppo vengono difficilmente puniti. Le vittime sono “giuridicamente” vessate, subiscono espropri e talvolta vengono uccise. La persecuzione può essere identificata e verificata attraverso la testimonianza delle vittime, le notizie dei media, i rapporti del governo e delle ONG o attraverso le associazioni locali, ma questa verifica è spesso ostacolata dalle continue violenze e potrebbe richiedere diversi anni.
Violence frequently accompanies persecution. Violence turns these acts into hate crimes. Individuals belonging to minority groups may be subject to murder, expropriation and destruction of property, theft, deportation, exile, forced conversion, forced marriage, blasphemy accusations, etc. These acts may take place “legally” according to the national laws. In extreme cases “persecution” may turn into genocide.
The definition of “hate crime” we use is from ODIHR: “Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people. To be considered a hate crime, the offence must meet two criteria: First, the act must constitute an offence under criminal law; second, the act must have been motivated by bias.” For the consideration of this report, the action/inaction of the Justice instances toward hate crimes is very important.
In countries where the rule of law is functioning (as in most Western democracies), courts may address instances of persecution as hate crimes. In many countries, however, there is no recourse to law regarding intolerance nor some forms of hate crimes, and persecution might be difficult to prove in front of a tribunal. Hate crimes, where a clear religious bias must be found, can follow the “normalisation” of intolerance messages and discrimination is settling in. These crimes are often perpetrated by non-State, private actors. Intolerance and discrimination however, are seldom contemplated in the applicable criminal law, and are perpetrated by both public and private actors.
d) Genocide: It is the ultimate form of persecution where only the international law seems to be capable to intervene. Genocide comprises “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, as per the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, adopted on 9 December 1948 (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CrimeOfGenocide.aspx ). It is not a ‘requisite’ to be dead in order to be a victim of genocide, as the acts in question include:
- Uccisione di membri del gruppo.
- Lesioni gravi all'integrità fisica o mentale di membri del gruppo.
- Sottoposizione deliberata del gruppo a condizioni di vita intese a provocare la sua distruzione fisica, totale o parziale.
- Misure miranti ad impedire nascite all'interno del gruppo.
- Trasferimento forzato di fanciulli da un gruppo ad un altro.
Also, not only perpetrators are liable by this convention but also those who conspire, incite to commit it or are complicit to its realization. After the European Parliament approved a resolution calling genocide the acts of Daesh against Christians and Yezidis (4Feb2016), many other nations followed suit including the United States. By creating a mechanism for bringing Daesh to justice (Res.2379) on 21 September 2017, the UN also is seeking to establish whether genocide has taken place. http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html