Source: Hartford Guidelines
In collaboration with a team of lawyers and researchers based in the Hague, former visiting scholar Richard Ashby Wilson (University of Connecticut) has co-authored the Hartford Guidelines to Speech Crimes in International Criminal Law, a new set of recommendations based on international law for identifying and prosecuting speech crimes, which include hate speech, incitement to violence, and instigating crimes against humanity.
During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Wilson developed a framework for courts and legal scholars to identify incitement based on a series of empirical measures. As he noted in a 2017 interview with RSF, incitement law—particularly in the U.S.—is often unclear or unenforced. Since the late 1960s, U.S. courts “have not provided a systematic framework for determining the categories and contexts of speech acts that are most likely to cause imminent harm or injury.” As a result, when it comes to convicting hate speech or incitement, judges and prosecutors are frequently left to rely on their intuition and other personal factors to determine the point at which rhetoric stops being protected speech and instead becomes incitement.
The Hartford Guidelines seek to establish and promote international standards that can be used by a variety of legal institutions and actors to respond to instances of inciting speech and associated human rights violations. The publication outlines best practices for monitoring and investigating speech crimes and addresses how new forms of media (such as social media) have been used to commit or contribute to speech crimes. “At this moment in history, when nativist and chauvinistic populism is on the rise, it is more pressing than ever to define the international consensus on the limits of free speech,” says Wilson.