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Preventing and combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance should be a priority for member States

The PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination today condemned the alarming rise in racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe.

“Those affected include migrants and asylum seekers, Jews, Muslims and Roma, Sinti and Travellers, and the reason is a supposed incompatibility between groups of different origins on cultural and religious grounds… Historical memory must help us understand that stigmatising prejudice, social exclusion, deprivation of rights, humiliation and segregation are never harmless,” warned Milena Santerini (Italy, SOC), who had prepared a report on “Recognising and preventing neo-racism”, which the PACE would discuss at its summer 2015 session.

Condemning the growing dissemination of hate speech, especially in the political sphere and on the Internet, and at the emergence of overtly anti-migrant political parties and populist movements in a number of Council of Europe member States, the Committee called on member states to ensure that the legal framework on hate speech and hate crime included the broadest possible range of grounds of discrimination, including “race”, colour, ethnicity, language, religion, disability, migrant status, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The other measures demanded by the Committee included the signature and/or ratification of Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and the additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems and the introduction into the rules of procedure of national parliaments, of the organs of local and regional authorities and of political parties rules banning racist remarks and hate speech and providing for adequate penalties where those rules were breached.

Finally, Internet service providers and social networks should be encouraged to adopt guidelines to prevent the propagation of racist remarks and hate speech, while co-operation between these parties and the law enforcement authorities should be strengthened so that the authors of racist remarks and hate speech could be identified and prosecuted.