Commissioner for Human Rights on neo-Nazism in CR
The Czech Senate hosted a public hearing on xenophobia, neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism on Thursday. The hearing was held at a time when there are some six thousand supporters of the skinhead movement in the Czech Republic and Czech neo-Nazi violence has claimed the lives of at least 20 people since 1990. But not all race motivated crimes are judged as such by the police and in court. Olga Szantova asked the Government's Commissioner for Human Rights, Jan Jarab whether he thought the Czech courts and police were tackling the problem adequately.
"While there is a certain improvement in cases of what could be called symbolic crimes, i.e. offences where Nazi symbols and Nazi propaganda is being spread, there still remains a deficit in those cases, when the individual, who was attacked, is a member of the Roma community. Then, of course, there is a certain tendency to down play the significance of the event and to picture the offender as just a confused adolescent, without any racist connotations and to down ply the fact that, for instance, it turns out that the young offender has a ten year record of organization in a hard-line neo-Nazi group."
Is that caused by the personality of the judges or members of the police force or is it an inadequence of our laws?
"Not at all, no. I don't think that we have any significant inadequency of laws. I think it is caused by what I have just described, that is the seeming dichotomy of orderly and disorderly citizens, the kind of stereo type in which the Roma are stereotyped as offenders rather than victims for the people who are in charge and it is sometimes difficult to re-orientate their minds in this sense."
Is there an increase in the incidence of neo-Nazi attacks and neo-Nazi activities?
"This is very difficult to say. Statistically, the last years have brought an increase, but it is mostly in the area of offences of a symbolic character, of a verbal character - propaganda and so on, rather than actual attacks against a person. Even that increase may be to some degree due to the fact that the police have improved their attitude to this and are picking them up more often."
Does the current international situation, the threats of terrorist attacks after September 11th change the situation in this respect?
"I do not think so. Of course, we have all seen that some neo-Nazis have publicly praised Usaman bin Laden, but I would suspect that there it is rather the wish to provoke, but I do not envisage our neo-Nazis going into, what could be for them, high risk activities. I'm quite convinced that these people are specialists in cowardly activities, such as a bunch of strong men beating up an isolated young kid."
So, to sum up, the main task at this point?
"We need both prevention and re-socialization and where it is clearly indicated, like these violent re-offenders, there we need a far tougher repression as well."