EU Council Framework Decision on Combating Racism
Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia
On 28 November 2008, the Council of the EU adopted Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.
Article 1 requires EU Member States to punish specified intentional conduct, including “publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”. For the latter purpose, Member States may choose to punish conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.
Article 4 provides that, for offences other than incitement to violence or hatred, “Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that racist and xenophobic motivation is considered an aggravating circumstance, or, alternatively that such motivation may be taken into consideration by the courts in the determination of the penalties”.
This recognises that, across the EU, there are various methods of addressing racist crime, and in particular, that incitement to hatred legislation is not the sole means of addressing racially motivated crime.
Member States were required to take the necessary measures to comply with the Framework Decision by November, 2010.
In order to assist Member States with the issues related to the transposition of the Framework Decision into their national law and to exchange national experiences in this respect, the Commission set up an Expert Group comprising one representative from each Member State.
The first meeting of the Expert Group on Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law took place on Monday 22 February 2010 in Brussels. Ireland was represented by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (this is now the Department of Justice and Equality).
At the meeting, Ireland stated that its legislation protecting minority groups from having hatred incited against them was more than 20 years in existence but was still sufficiently robust to continue to provide that protection. Following a detailed examination of Irish legislation, Ireland was satisfied that it was in compliance with the Framework Decision by virtue of the provisions in its existing criminal law (Prohibition Of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 and public order legislation). Formal notification of Ireland’s compliance with the Framework Decision and supporting documentation were submitted to the European Commission by the November 2010 deadline.
On the basis of reports by the Council and the Commission, the Council is required, by 28 November, 2013, to assess the extent of compliance by the Member States. After that, the Commission may table a further initiative(s) in this area.
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