International law

Without doubt, the legal regulation of hate speech originated with crimes committed during World War II, particularly the crime of the Holocaust. The human rights protection systems set up after the war – the universal system (the United Nations) and the European system (the Council of Europe) – therefore passed regulations prohibiting hate speech proclamations, although the term “hate speech” was not used. Certain treaties also comply with “the prohibition of abuse of rights”. This means that even though a given treaty (convention) may include the right to freedom of expression or association, anyone propagating racist slogans or attempting to establish a neo-Nazi party cannot invoke the rights granted by such a document, since their actions or statements contradict the very ideas upon which the concept of protecting human rights is based. The following conventions and treaties are currently the most important:

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 20).
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Art. 4).
  • The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Art. 3).
  • The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Art. 17 – abuse of rights).
  • The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Art. 54 – abuse of rights).
  • An additional protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed via computer systems. 
  • Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law