Action against hate
Hate crimes (including hate incidents) are committed because of prejudices or negative attitudes towards some groups of people. As such, they threaten entire communities and society as a whole, as they can lead to serious conflicts between different groups. In addition, they threaten the sense of security of all people in a community. Therefore, a stronger response to these crimes is needed.
Hate speech incites people to hostility and violence, which paves the way for the spread of hate violence and hate crime, in extreme cases even crimes against humanity, such as genocide.
The Estonian Human Rights Centre helps to stop and reduce hate crime by raising awareness, deepening cooperation between the NGOs and the state, and lobbying for more effective laws and policies. We also help social media platforms fight illegal hate speech by regularly monitoring the speed and the quality of hate speech removal from the platforms.
Hate crime and hate speech
A hate crime requires two components: it must be a punishable offense and it must be committed because of prejudice (motivated by hatred). Prejudices are negative opinions, stereotypical assumptions, intolerance or hatred towards a group of people because of their common characteristics. The most common characteristics related to prejudice are skin colour, ethnic origin, language used, religious beliefs, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
A hate crime is a hate motivated threat, property damage, infliction of serious damage to health, physical abuse, murder or some other offense. Hate crimes do not only endanger people belonging to a particular group, they endanger anyone who may be considered to belong to those groups, as well as, for example, human rights defenders, community centres or shrines.
In Estonia, the legislator has not added a motive of hate to the aggravating circumstances of any criminal offense. This makes it much more difficult to combat hate crimes, as hate crimes may not be punished effectively and proportionately. It is therefore also difficult to get an overview of statistics on hate crimes.
Hate speech promotes hatred or violence against individuals or groups based on certain characteristics. Hate speech is not protected under freedom of expression. This means that the state can legally prevent hate speech and punish for such expressions. Also in Estonia incitement to hatred is criminalised in section 151 of the Penal Code, but it is so restrictive that in practice it is extremely difficult to process hate speech.