Thematic Study on Racist and related hate crimes in the EU The case of Sweden

    Hate crimes 2008- Reports to the police where the motivation for crime includes ethnic background, religious faith, sexual orientation or transgender identity or expression English summary of Brå report No. 2009:10

    Hate crimes 2010 in Sweden-Statistics relating to offences reported to the police with an identified hate crime motive A summary of report 2011:8


One problem with recording hate crimes in Sweden is that there isn’t a common definition of hate crimes between the different authorities. The government body that gathers statistics on is the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebygganderådet, Brå). These reports are primarily a statistical summary of the hate crimes reported to the police. The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention categories hate crimes according to xenophobic/racist (Afrophobic, anti-Roma), antireligious (Islamophobia, anti-Semitistic or other antireligious motives), homophobic, biphobic, heterophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

Although racist hate crimes have consistently been in the majority of all reported hate crimes to the police in Sweden, there is still a lack of research in this area compared to other forms of hate crimes such as homophobic hate crimes. During 2009, there has been an increased media attention on several incidents of harassment and violations towards Muslims as well as anti-Semitic, afrophobic, and homophobic hate crimes.

The existing legislation in Sweden surpasses the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA and covers, in addition to the criteria in that instrument, sexual orientation as a ground of protection.

Several existing legal provisions address racist violence and other hate crimes. The criminal provisions on hate speech are found in the two constitutional laws, Freedom of Press (Tryckfrihetsförordningen) and Freedom of Speech (Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen) Acts and in the Swedish Penal Code Ch. 16 para 8 (Brottsbalken 16:8).

Aggravating circumstances concerning common offences with a racist motive,  Chapter 29, section 2 (7) of the Penal Code provides for the racist motives of offenders to be taken into account as an aggravating circumstance when sentencing in cases of criminal acts such as assault, unlawful threat, molestation and inflicting damage. The aggravating circumstances include: ‘a motive for the crime was to aggrieve a person, ethnic group or some other similar group of people by reason of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious belief, sexual orientation or other similar circumstance’.

Sweden has not ratified the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.

Concerning independent police (and related) complaints mechanisms in Sweden there is a special unit, National unit for police cases (Riksenheten för polismål), where the public can register complaints and get these investigated when it comes to all crimes, not only hate crimes, perpetrated by among others police employers.

Sweden has been monitored by several inter-governmental organisations  such as CERD,10  the OSCE (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe  bodies  and  institutions  such  as  ECRI.11   One of their concerns is that the Chancellor of Justice rarely prosecute hate speech under the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression and the Freedom of the Press Act.

Several initiatives have been focused on improving the response of enforcement officers to hate crimes. One of the major initiatives by the Swedish Police Service is the establishment of a Hate Crime Unit in Stockholm.

Source: The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebygganderådet, Brå)