Hate Crime and Hate Speech Legislation in Russia: Lessons from Europe

April 21, 2015
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004


Alexander Verkhovsky, Director, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis


Dmitry Dubrovsky, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy

moderated by

Sally Blair, National Endowment for Democracy

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About the Event

Following Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, Russian authorities have increasingly used vaguely-defined, anti-extremism laws to suppress the work of human rights activists. Codified through the laws on Foreign Agents, LGBT Propaganda, and Hate Crime, the Russian authorities’ interpretation of extremism permits an arbitrary application of these laws, which allows a dangerous means of discrimination against peaceful groups. An expert on political extremism in Russia, Alexander Verkhovsky has compiled a detailed, comparative study of how European legal systems address this complex and politically charged issue, with an eye to how these models may apply to Russia. Introducing his new book, Criminal Law of the OSCE Countries against Hate Crimes, Speech, and Incitement, Dr. Verkhovsky assessed the models of criminal policy throughout OSCE member-states, analyzed how they are structured to prevent xenophobia and discrimination, and compared them to the Russian example. Scholar Dmitry Dubrovsky extended the framework by elaborating on the issue of expert testimony, a legal mechanism routinely misused by Russian authorities to legitimize human rights violations. 

About the Speakers

Mr. Alexander Verkhovsky is the founder and director of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, a Moscow-based NGO that monitors and analyzes political extremism, ultranationalism, xenophobia, freedom of religion, and the use and misuse of counter-extremism measures in Russia. An expert on judicial responses to hate speech and various forms of radical activity, Mr. Verkhovsy received a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship in 2012 and a Human Rights First Fellowship in 2010. He previously worked as vice president of Panorama Information and Research Center and as editor-in-chief of Panorama newspaper. He has authored numerous Russian-language publications, including Contemporary Discourse Competition between Russian Nationalists and Federal Authorities in 2011, and Criminal Law of the OSCE Countries against Hate Crimes, Speech and Incitement in 2014.

Dr. Dmitry Dubrovsky most recently served as associate professor of international relations, political science, and human rights at St. Petersburg State University, where he has also been affiliated with the Andrew Gagarin Center for Human Rights. An expert on human rights in Russia, he focuses primarily on issues relating to xenophobia, ultra-right nationalism, hate crimes, and hate speech as they relate to freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. During his fellowship at NED, he is exploring ways to strengthen the role of expert communities in Russian civil rights litigation, with a special focus on homophobia and recent legislation, propaganda, and hate crimes relating to the LGBT community.