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Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Hate Crimes and Antisocial Behaviour


Foreword



As a Criminology course, this series aims at how policies affect criminal behaviour, emphasising the importance of its prevention and how control can be achieved in a community in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and civic conduct in society. Antisocial behaviour as a crime is usually taken by the literature to explain youth crime and how it can be treated, focusing on its risk factors, explanatory theories, or its treatment from jurisprudence. However, this course will explore its criminal components typified in the penal code and not from the behavioural sciences as the nature of this conduct, giving a different criminological perspective to the topic. Therefore, it will commence with a literature review of the concept of antisocial behaviour, accompanied by a theoretical and practical examination of the security measures that different EU countries have implemented and designed to prevent antisocial behaviour crimes. Bearing this goal in mind, it will also examine the antisocial behaviour in some EU countries such as Spain, Finland, Germany and Hungary, aiming to cover all geographical and cultural areas of Europe to compare the measures taken to prevent it.


This 101 series is divided into the following six chapters of content:

  1. Antisocial Behaviour as a Form of Criminality

  2. Incivilities from a Sociocultural Perspective

  3. Incivilities from a Gender and Urbanisation Point of View

  4. Migration and Politics about Antisocial Behaviour

  5. Hate Crimes and Antisocial Behaviour

  6. Conclusions on the Differences and Similarities across Europe


Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Hate Crimes and Antisocial Behaviour


This article will first define what is established as antisocial behaviour in Hungary and the criminal consequences of committing antisocial behaviour. Following on, this article will then examine the relationship between such antisocial behaviour and hate crimes in Hungary will be explained, taking the Hungarian sociopolitical context as a reference. This article establishes a series of recommendations prepared by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance in 2023 for the prevention of hate crime in Hungary. Lastly, some final conclusions will be presented.


The Hungarian Penal Code (2012) classifies antisocial behaviour under the name of “Public Nuisance” as: “Any person who displays an apparently antisocial and violent behaviour aiming to incite indignation or alarm in other people is guilty of a misdemeanour punishable by imprisonment not exceeding two years, insofar as the act did not result in a more serious criminal offence." Like the three European cases analysed previously —Spain, Finland and Germany— it is noteworthy that the Hungarian Penal Code (2012) refers to the same definition for carrying out the same behaviour, even in this case it directly uses the word antisocial behaviour. Regarding the consequences for committing antisocial behaviour, the Hungarian Penal Code (2012) states: "The penalty for a felony shall be imprisonment not exceeding three years if public nuisance is committed: in a gang; in a manner gravely disturbing public peace; by displaying a deadly weapon; by carrying a deadly weapon, or in a public event" (Criminal Code, 2012). However, not only the literature (Kirs, 2018; Bárd, 2017; Balogh, 2011) but several international reports (ODIHR, 2021; Perry, 2019; HRF, 2011) on antisocial behaviour in Hungary are especially focused on the hate crime in this country. In this case, The Hungarian Penal Code (2012) classifies hate crime under the name of "violence against a member of the community" as:

"Any person who assaults or displays an apparently antisocial behavior against others for being part, whether in fact or under presumption, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or of a certain societal group, in particular on the grounds of disability, gender identity or sexual orientation, of aiming to cause panic or to frighten others, or compels them by force or by threat of force to do, not to do, or to endure something" (Criminal Code, 2012).

The penal consequences for committing this hate crime would be imprisonment between one and five years (Criminal Code, 2012). For this reason, this article will focus on hate crime in Hungary, as an offspring of the crime of antisocial behaviour.


Figure 1: Hate crime cases recorded by Hungarian police in 2019. ODIHR (2019)


Sociopolitical context


The main reason why the Hungarian Penal Code refers to the protection of all collectives, groups or minorities under possible threat by hate crime originates from pressure from international organisations and NGOs —such as the Working Group Against Hate Crimes (WGAHC)— for the protection of human rights (Kirs, 2018). However, it is appreciated that in practice hate crime in Hungary makes distinctions, and not only among people in the streets —such as several incidents including the disruption of an event on LGBTI Roma people in Szeged and several attacks during the Budapest Pride in 2019 (ECRI, 2023)—, but also at the legislative level, as will be shown below. In Hungary, the Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority at 7% of the total population of Hungary (Balogh, 2011). Roma people are often used as the scapegoat for social and economic problems, not only from public opinion but also from political discourse (Contreras, 2018). Prejudices and negative attitudes against Roma are pervasive in mainstream Hungarian society, so hate crime or hate speech as a problem arises recurrently (Balogh, 2011). Anti-Semitism must be considered a predominant phenomenon in Hungary as well, including within political discourse too. There are numerous cases of attacks against members of the Jewish community, or vandalism against Jewish property (Kirs, 2018). However, this hate crime is especially serious and frequent in the case of the LGTBIQ+ community, refugees or Muslim migrants. In the case of the first group mentioned, the popularly known as the anti-LGTBI law was approved in June 2021, and contains a provision that prohibits or severely restricts representations of homosexuality and gender reassignment in media content, and educational material aimed at children under eighteen (Liboreiro, 2023). The reactions were fast and forceful against this law, and up to a total of fifteen EU countries filed a lawsuit against this law and denounced it to the European Court of Justice. The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Layen, even referred to the new law as "shameful". Although it is true that this law does not appear to be in conflict with the mention in the Penal Code about antisocial behaviour "for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identity", it undoubtedly despises and delegitimises the LGTBI collective, which makes it difficult for them to integrate into society and can even be used as a justification for certain acts of hate crime. As for the hate crime for xenophobic reasons, it seems that, as in the LGTBI case, this crime is committed both on the street and at a political level. In the year 2018, the UN Human Rights Watch called on Hungary to crack down on politicians' hate speech against ethnic and religious minorities and to repeal a law that allows police to deport migrants without giving them a chance to apply for asylum (Perry, 2019). This UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the prevalence of hate crimes and hate speech in political discourse, in the media and online directed at minorities, in particular Muslims, migrants and refugees. In this vein, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Szijjarto —who is still in office— defended Hungary's policies and stated on the UN panel: “First of all, it is the firm conviction of the government that the Hungarian people have the right to live a life in safety, without fear of terrorist atrocities” (Nebehay, 2018).


Hate speech in Hungary nowadays


In a new report from 2022, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) welcomes the positive developments in Hungary since it adopted its last report on the country in 2015, but many issues still raise concerns. ECRI commends the adoption of a police hate crime protocol in 2019, which aimed to improve hate crime investigations by appointing "mentors" to each local police unit. In addition, the authorities have made significant efforts to improve Roma inclusion through the National Social Inclusion Strategy, complemented by other actions, such as the “Emerging Settlements” initiative (ECRI, 2023). Despite these advances, the ECRI report, which covers the situation in the country up to June 2022, expresses concern about other important issues, such as the adoption of restrictive laws and legislative changes that seriously undermine the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people (as mentioned above), in particular during the period of “state of danger” —associated with the Covid-19 pandemic—, and of asylum seekers. Likewise, hate crimes continue to take place on the street, the data of which is collected by the Ministry of the Interior, the Prosecutor's Office and the Criminal Police Department of the National Police Headquarters as part of the general crime statistics. The police registered 100 hate crimes in 2020, 132 in 2019, 194 in 2018 and 233 in 2017, referring mainly to threats, physical attacks and disturbance of public order (ECRI, 2023). In 2017, a new crime statistics system was established within the Unified System of Criminal Statistics of the Investigation Authorities and the Public Ministry (ENyÜBS), introducing the facility to flag hate crimes and identify the protected characteristics in each case, including the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, ENyÜBS data is limited to cases under investigation and prosecution and does not cover sentences (Bárd, 2017). Therefore, there is still a need to establish a comprehensive data collection system that provides an integrated and coherent view of hate crime cases, and to make this data publicly available. In addition, victims do not report hate crimes due to a lack of confidence in the will or ability of authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute these crimes. According to the European Commission report, public and political discourse in Hungary has become "increasingly xenophobic" and has taken on "highly divisive and antagonistic overtones" in recent years, especially targeting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, Muslims and LGBTIQ+ people. Therefore, the report strongly encourages public figures, including political leaders on all sides, to take “swift, strong and public” stand against racist and LGBTIQ+-phobic hate speech expression (ECRI, 2023). For these reasons, it is urgently necessary to implement preventive measures for hate crimes in Hungary.


Figure 2: Explanation of how hate crime works. ODIHR (2019)


Hate crime prevention


The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance also elaborated in its 2022 report a series of recommendations with the aim of preventing hate crimes in Hungary (ECRI, 2023). Among other measures, it urges public figures and political leaders to take a strong and public stance against the expression of hate speech and to react to such expression. Elected bodies and political parties should adopt appropriate codes of conduct that prohibit hate speech, ask their members and supporters to refrain from participating, approve or disseminate it, and sanction it. Regarding the collection of statistics, it is important to know the real number of hate crime cases with the aim to implement prevention programs. For this reason, conducting periodic surveys of victims is an appropriate tool to measure the lack of complaints, and at the same time that it is necessary to empower these victims to come forward and denounce them. In the same vein, confidence-building measures should also be implemented to improve the relationship between the police and vulnerable groups. For their part, the authorities should organise national awareness campaigns on the complaint channels available to victims of discrimination (ECRI, 2023). Finally, it is recommended that the authorities, in cooperation with all professionals, including teachers and social workers, develop and implement programs against discrimination, promoting respect for multiculturalism and sexual diversity. It is also recommended that the authorities, in close cooperation with different civil society organisations, adopt a strategic integration for migrants, including people who seek or are under international protection, covering, among others, the problems of learning the Hungarian language, special support in education, equal employment, health and housing, with goals and objectives, deadlines, financing, indicators of success, monitoring and evaluation (ECRI, 2023).


Conclusions


The Hungarian penal system includes in the hate crime references to the commission of this behaviour for reasons of gender identity, sexual orientation, or for belonging to ethnic, national or religious minorities. However, this represents an in vain effort, as well as an inconsistency if in parallel, at the legislative level, measures that contribute to fostering discrimination against these same groups go ahead. According to the acts and practices of the government, Hungary does not express a strong commitment or seek to ratify the agreements of the European Union in favour of respecting certain basic rights of certain minorities that inhabit this country, since the anti-LGTBI law continues in force and neither the government nor political representatives reduce hate speech against the main ethnic and religious diversities in danger (ECRI, 2023). This has been analysed by certain national media as an example of defending the Hungarian identity against “foreign invasion” as a government workhorse. NGOs that work with refugees or political asylums have been accused as external agents financed by entities that want to endanger the white population that lives in Hungary (Velez, 2017). The pressures of civil society, global agents and reports from different international organisations have presented instrumental advances in terms of preventive policies for hate crimes. However, the public discourse has not presented effective results so far, so there is still work to be done in the achievement of human rights in Hungary. In accordance with the duties and commitments attached to the participation of any country in the EU as a whole, the case of Hungary in this promotion of values is not verifiable, which could jeopardise its membership in this political, economic and social bloc. This country should present a real consequence of the values promoted by this institution, following, for example, the recommendations on hate crime prevention made by the ECRI, and in this way effectively and efficiently guarantee the minimum rights agreed upon by consensus.

Bibliographical references

Balogh, L. (2011) Racist and Related Hate Crimes in Hungary. Acta juridica hungarica. 52, (4) 296–315. DOI: 10.1556/AJur.52.2011.4.2


Bárd, P. (2017). What is behind the low number of hate crimes in Hungary. Criminology in Europe, 16 (1), 10-11.


Contreras, F. (2018) Hungría en el banquillo. Actuall: https://www.actuall.com/criterio/democracia/hungria-en-el-banquillo/


Criminal Code (2012) Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code. Hungary.


ECRI (European Comision against Racsim and Intolerance, 2023) ECRI Report on Hungary. Council of Europe: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/hungary-police-hate-crime-investigations-are-enhanced-but-growing-lgbti-stigmatisation-and-xenophobic-political-discourse-raise-concern


HRF (Human Rights First, 2011) Violent hate crime in Hungary.


Kirs, E. (2018) A brief reflection on the impact of the Universal Periodic Review on the efficient investigation of hate crimes in Hungary. Cojourn 3, (3) 21-27. DOI: 10.14267/cojourn.2018v3n3a3


Liboreiro, J. (2023) Quince países de la UE se unen a la demanda contra una ley anti-LGTBI de Hungría. Euronews: https://es.euronews.com/my-europe/2023/04/07/quince-paises-de-la-ue-se-unen-a-la-demanda-contra-una-ley-anti-lgtbi-de-hungria


Nebehay, S. (2018) U.N. rights watchdog urges Hungary to halt hate speech, protect refugees. Reuters:https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hungary-rights-idUSKCN1HC1AJ


ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, 2019) Hate Crime Reporting: Hungary. From: https://hatecrime.osce.org/hungary


Perry, J., Dombos, T. and Kozáry, A (2019) Connecting on Hate Crime Data in Hungary. Brussels: CEJI.


Velez, (2017) Hungría: el síndrome del “enemigo”. Euronews: https://es.euronews.com/my-europe/2017/11/23/hungria-el-sindrome-del-enemigo

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