Global Freedom of Expression

Hate Crimes: The legality and Practicality of Punishing Bias—A Socio‑Legal Appraisal

Key Details

  • Region
    Europe and Central Asia
  • Themes
    Hate Speech

International Journal for the Semiotics of Law – Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique


This paper assesses the extent to which enhancing a penalty for hate crimes is a necessity. It conducts its analysis by looking at the theoretical justifications for and against such enhancement and also the impact of hate crimes on their victims, their groups and society, in comparison to non-bias crimes. It recognizes the particularly damaging effect of hate crimes on these three levels (micro, meso and macro) but argues that care must be taken to ensure a high threshold framework and a clear vision in terms of protected characteristics. It argues that if penalty enhancements are to be any use, victims should be empowered to access the criminal justice system whilst the right to freedom of expression must be preserved. The paper commences with a definitional and conceptual framework of hate crimes, proceeds with the theoretical argumentations for and against hate crime legislation, conducts a legislative analysis of hate crimes, using examples from around the world as well as an assessment of the approach of the European Court of Human Rights to hate crime.

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Natalie Alkiviadou

Senior Research Fellow, Justitia, Denmark