The violent attack against a Pakistani migrant in Vantaa should be treated as a hate crime

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The Pakistani, who was attacked brutally in Vantaa on February 23 by three white Finnish youths carrying a knife, ax, and a pointed object, sees what happened to him was a hate crime.*  

If the incident had occurred in the UK, it would be recorded as a hate crime by the police because the victim perceived it to happen against him because of his ethnic background or faith.

For some unknown reason, the Finnish police investigating the case are still not clear on the motive of the crime. The fact that the victim considers what happened to him a hate crime is a strong sign that the police will have to see it in that way.

The police’s reaction to what happened to the Pakistani in Vantaa shows the daily experiences of ethnic minorities who are confronted by racist violence in Europe and Finland. This, we believe, is a classic example of institutional racism.

In an email to Migrant Tales, the Itä-Uusimaa police state that motive is the primary factor in determining a hate crime. It pointed out in another email: a hate crime is registered as such if “the injured party [victim or other injured party], other parties or police see it as a hate crime.” [1]

This case, which must be one of the worst ever reported against a migrant in Finland irrespective of its classification, should help us to see some of the weaknesses that hate-crime victims face in this country.

One of these that became clear immediately is the police’s reaction. Not only did it take the police until February 27 to come out with a statement, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Chief Inspector Mikko Minkkinen, was quoted as saying in Helsingin Sanomat  and YLE News here is nothing that suggests it was a racist crime.

What is surprising is that the police makes such a claim without asking what the victim thinks. It may believe that since the attackers were intoxicated or that the attack was not planned absolves the attackers of a hate crime. Wrong.

A hate crime can occur when intoxicated and doesn’t have to be planned. Both factors are totally irrelevant.

The OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting manual establishes motive through a background check of the crime.

Some of these bias indicators that point to an Islamophobic or anti-migrant hate crime are:

  • Difference of ethnicity/background between the perpetrator and victim;
  • Timing
  • Proximity to a mosque as well or another venue associated with Muslims/migrants;
  • What does the victim’s community say?
  • What does the perpetrator say why he did it?
  • The vehemence of the attack – this is a very strong indicator.

Any two of the above would warrant the police investigation Bias/hate as a motive.

So far, and as far as we can gather, there are three points: (1) difference of ethnic background; (2) what does the victim’s community say; (3) and the vehemence of the attack.

The violence of the attack speaks volumes. Without going into gruesome detail, it took four hours to remove the victim’s stitches. A recent operation that the victim underwent took eight hours.

Read the full guide here.

According to another comprehensive guide for hate crime victims and NGOs published by the UK Race and Europe Network (EKREN) and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a hate crime sends a terrible message. The police should recognize that by attacking an individual, as in the case of the Pakistani, a warning to a broader group of people who share the same characteristics.

The police by denying or playing down what happened is a hate crime, or ruling out this possibility, suggests denial of an ever-growing social problem in Finland. Moreover, it is a blow to the police’s credibility in the eyes of the migrant and minority community.

Sending email comments like the ones below by the Itä-Uusimaa police don’t assure anyone that they fully understand the viewpoint of the victim and the Muslim and migrant community. The email below, sent on February 28, states: “Our investigation has shown that there’s nothing to point to a hate crime. The fact that the victim is Pakistani or some other than a Finnish citizen doesn’t make this automatically a hate crime.”

In an email to the police, I did not suggest that this made it automatically a hate crime. I only asked on what grounds it wasn’t a hate crime.

Apart from the lack of expediency and the police taking sides in the case, another factor that emerged is Finland’s lack of preparedness to deal with hate crime cases.

In a March 7 story published by Migrant Tales,  Finding help if you are a victim of a hate crime in Finland can be difficult, reveals a serious problem.

I wrote:

“I called Amnesty International, and they told me to get in touch with the Finnish League for Human Rights. Right, you guessed it. I was told by them to call the Refugee Advice Center. They have a helpline from 10-12, but after waiting for 20 minutes, I gave up.

Fortunately, Victim Support Finland (RIKU) got in touch with me the following day after I left them a message.

I asked if they knew of any lawyers who had experience in handling hate crimes. The person admitted that hate crime is such a new phenomenon in the Finnish penal code that such lawyers are hard if not impossible to find.”

Apart from the police and other public services, there is an alarming lack of activity by NGOs in Finland on this front. An OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting page reveals that the only group cited is Migrant Tales and from 2016!

We stand with the victim and the Pakistani and Muslim community that the horrendous crime that took place on February 23 should be treated as a hate crime by the police.

* The Criminal Code of Finland does not recognize the term “hate crime.” Section 5 states that a basis for increasing punishment (564/2015) is if the “offense for a motive based on race, skin color, birth status, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability or another corresponding grounds.”

[1] Asianomistaja (uhri tai muu asianomistaja), muu asianosainen tai poliisi pitää sitä viharikoksena.

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    ***Mikko Minkkinen, was quoted as saying in Helsingin Sanomat and YLE News here is nothing that suggests it was a racist crime ***
    Mikko Minkkinen, is a RCIST police like the rest of police crowd in Finland, and the only thing he knows and can do it is bully foreigners, because he was born a terrorist racist !

    Mikko Minkkinen will not understand your language even you write him 100 messages, even you ask him million questions, the only thing he understand is a bully language , a language like his language!

    Even a 3 years old child can understand this is hate crime, racist case, terrorist case .

    He supports racists and in fact he shows his real face to Finnish society which makes him guilty and a criminal person ! now everybody can see what a monster is behind his face!

    Now where is justice in Finland? it never been in this country for us, all we have is hate hate hate, attack attack attack, terror, terror terror !

    Racists will not stop, they will attack more and more because Police and law in Finland is supporting them!

    Will Mikko Minkkinen keep silent if this happens to his brother, his son, his family or on himself?