Combating Hate Crime and Hate Speech in France and Italy

04 February 2016

Combating Hate Crime and Hate Speech in France and Italy


Lotta contro i Crimini e l’Incitamento all’Odio Razziale in Francia e in Italia

Lutte contre les Crimes de Haine et les Propos Haineux en France et en Italie


For years, the ERRC has been documenting hate crime and hate speech in various countries. With support from the Open Society Initiative for Europe, the ERRC is carrying out a project designed to expose the extent of anti-Roma hate crime and hate speech in France and Italy and improve the authorities' response to these problems. The purpose of this project is to introduce a new methodology for this work and apply it in these two Western European countries, where the extent of anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime is largely recognised, but poorly documented or addressed.

Project Activities

The full methodology for documenting hate crime and hate speech, developed in the course of this project, is available here (in English). The ERRC has been using this methodology, applied by our staff in Budapest and our consultants on the ground (based in Paris and Milan), to monitor incidents of hate crime and hate speech. While the term “hate crime” has various meanings in different jurisdictions, for the purposes of this project it refers to any offence against the person (i.e. violent crimes) motivated by racial or ethnic bias. Hate speech, for the purposes of this project, refers to any speech by a State official which is offensive to Roma and is actionable under domestic legislation (e.g. as an incitement to hatred). The point of departure for analysing whether something amounts to a hate crime or hate speech is the EU Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, which sets the minimum standards for France, Italy, and the 26 other EU Member States. After documenting incidents, the ERRC sends letters to the authorities to determine what actions, if any, are being taken in response. The ERRC relies on freedom-of-information laws in order to obtain this information. At the same time, the ERRC is collecting information about the policies and protocols in place for dealing with hate crimes and hate speech in France and Italy in order to determine whether they are effective. During the course of the project, the ERRC will also hold sessions for lawyers, activists and NGOs in both countries, introducing the methodology and encouraging Roma individuals and NGOs to report incidents via a web-based reporting tool we have developed.

Project Outcomes

The project is designed – like all of the ERRC's work in this area – to improve the State response to hate crimes and hate speech. The project will culminate in advocacy meetings with the relevant authorities (police, prosecutors, Interior Ministry) in each country. We aim to change their behaviour so that:

  • they start collecting their own data about the extent of hate crimes and hate speech against Roma, and publishing it;
  • they improve their policies and protocols so that hate crime and hate speech are treated more seriously and investigated more effectively;
  • they increase the number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions for hate crimes and hate speech.

In addition to advocacy, the ERRC will also analyse the project results to determine if litigation is possible. Such litigation would not concern any one individual case. Instead, it would be civil litigation under anti-discrimination laws designed to expose and eliminate institutional discrimination within police or prosecution services, resulting, for example, from the failure to provide an appropriate level of service to Roma communities facing hate crimes and/or hate speech.

Data Protection

The ERRC believes that it is impossible to combat discrimination against Roma without collecting disaggregated data about Roma, including in this area. This should not be confused with processing sensitive personal data (e.g. storing data that identifies a particular victim of crime as Roma), which is strictly regulated by EU law as well, of course, by national law in France and Italy. The project methodology ensures that at no time does the ERRC collect, store, or otherwise process data about the ethnicity of any identifiable individual, unless that information is already public. While outside partners are invited to submit information about particular incidents through our web-based reporting tool, they are not invited to submit any personal data through that tool. If any such data is submitted, it will not be processed further by the ERRC and will be destroyed. For example, if someone reports “John Smith, a Romani man, was attacked on 1 January 2016 at the following location...”, the ERRC will reject the entry and ensure that it is permanently deleted.

If you would like more information about this project, please contact Nicole Garbin (




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