Malta lacks system to recognize and record hate crime

Multiple NGOs are working on hate crime detection tools, but there are no official statistics in Malta, and experts believe the phenomenon may be under-reported.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Malta lacks system to recognize and record hate crime - NewsMavens
Lighthouse in Malta. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Although Malta is one of the only five EU countries that does not report hate crimes, it does not mean such crimes are absent from the island.

A local NGO, SOS Malta, participated in an international project called EMORE to record and monitor hate speech. It conducted a survey of 123 respondents and found eight hate crime victims among them. Furthermore, 34 respondents had experienced hate speech and 83 witnessed one of the two or both. The main grounds were skin colour and ethnic origin.

In one case, police (inspector Kyle Borg) vs Omar Camilleri of 2012, the courts decided that the suspect, who reportedly shouted racist abuse at a Somali garbage collector and threatened him with a gun, did not want to incite violence against a minority. He was charged with misuse of a gun, but not hate crime.

Malta has strong legislation against hate speech and hate crime, but without a reliable way to track it, it is difficult to capture the true extent of the issue in the country. Local NGOs have created apps for recording hate incidents, trying to plug the gaps, but without access to police statistics, they can only speculate about the real numbers.

Details from the story:

  • "When confronted with a possible hate crime, frontline police officers [in Malta] use the generic crime report form and under the heading “action taken” provide a full description of the circumstances of the incident or crime, including the elements that on the first appearance point to a hate crime. There is no specific guidance document on how to identify hate crimes," the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) states in a recent report. 
  • Countries report to OSCE/ODIHR on hate crime, but Malta doesn't supply these data.
  • The FRA report also states that frontline police officers lack specific guidance on how to identify these acts.
  • Malta's main LGBT* NGO, MGRM, has participated in an international project on hate crimes, called UNI-Form, and interviewed police officers about their work. The officers admitted that it may be common for the police to suggest victims to work out conflicts with perpetrators by themselves.
  • There is a computerized Police Notification System in place -- it logs reports relating to abortion, crimes of religious sentiment, perjury for swearing, prostitution, but not hate crime and hate speech. 
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