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September 01, 2011

Ukrainian and Russian Stakeholders Trained in Combating Hate Crimes and Xenophobia

September 2011

In response to the widespread need to enhance Russian and Ukrainian advocates’ and lawyers’ knowledge of existing laws protecting the rights of hate-crime victims and to increase victims’ access to justice, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is training defense attorneys, human rights defenders and representatives of ethnic-minority organizations.

Continuing its work to combat xenophobia and hate crimes, this summer, ABA ROLI trained more than 100 Russian and Ukrainian defense attorneys as well as representatives from government agencies, the judiciary, bar associations and civil society. More than 60 people attended trainings that were held from June 17–18 and from July 29–30 in Ukraine’s Zakarpatje and Odessa regions, respectively. Another 40 people attended trainings that were held in June and in July in the Russian cities of Pskov and in Kazan, respectively.

The interactive workshops employed case studies and included role play and mock trial exercises, allowing participants to assume several positions, including that of hate-crime victim, police officer, advocate, journalist, witness, prosecutor and judge. Trainees also discussed legal remedies appropriate for various situations. The exercises allowed them to role play cases in various stages, including the presentation of a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ukrainian participants said that two challenges undermine their efforts to combat hate crimes: inadequate Ukrainian laws to protect minorities from discrimination and the lack of cooperation between government and civil society to prevent incidents of xenophobia and racism. They said that they appreciated the opportunity to explain their challenges and frustrations to those court representatives and government officials in attendance. They also said that the skills they learned will strengthen their efforts to counteract xenophobia, to protect hate-crime victims and to prosecute perpetrators.

Defense attorneys in Russia said that prior to ABA ROLI’s trainings, they had never received any guidance on how to effectively represent victims of hate crimes. The attorneys said that the trainings deepened their understanding of human rights protections.

ABA ROLI’s efforts to combat xenophobia and hate crime in Ukraine and Russia are supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

To learn more about our work in Russia and Ukraine, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].