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Russia hate crimes up slightly in 2008: rights group

[JURIST] Russian human rights group the SOVA Center [advocacy website] announced Thursday that the number of Russian hate crimes rose slightly in 2008 over 2007 levels, with 97 people killed and 525 wounded. According to the deputy head of SOVA Galina Kozhevnikova higher conviction rates for hate crimes [AP report] prevented the numbers of hate crimes from rising any higher. The release of the SOVA Center report comes just days after Kozhevnikova received an e-mailed death threat from a neo-Nazi group. In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] called on Russian authorities to launch an immediate investigation [CPJ press release] into the threats. Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [HRW press release] outlining the dangers faced by Russian migrant workers in a climate of rising xenophobia.

Last January, the SOVA Center reported a 13 percent rise in hate crimes from 2007 to 2008 [JURIST report]. Kozhevnikova criticized Russian authorities at the time for not responding to the increase in violence, saying that many hate crimes were only prosecuted as incidents of hooliganism, which would carry a lighter sentence than hate crimes. In June 2007, Human Rights First [advocacy website] reported that hate crimes are on the rise throughout Europe [JURIST report], after conducting a study examining recent hate crimes in France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. That study found a "proliferation of violent hate crimes directed against ethnic, religious and national minorities" in Russia especially.

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