Report calls for Czech authorities to take proactive approach against right-wing extremists

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Neo-Nazi concerts and gatherings of right-wing extremists, as in other parts of Europe, are not uncommon in the Czech Republic, and in the past Czech police have been criticised for not doing enough to prevent such events. But in the last few years, say authorities, the situation has improved. According to statistics by the country's organised crime unit, the number of racist concerts has dropped, one reason why officials were somewhat taken aback by a recent report by the UN. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination suggested the Czech Republic still needed to do more to prevent neo-Nazi gatherings, urging the country to adopt a more "proactive and vigorous policy".

Images of right-wing extremists gathering for neo-Nazi concerts at country pubs or halls are nothing new in the Czech media, but increasingly in recent years the Czech police have monitored such activities with greater intensity and police have stepped in and shut down events upon the breaking of the law. Even so, the decision to move in isn't always clear-cut: over the years, following numerous legal run-ins, neo-Nazi organisers have become increasingly savvy, now regularly billing events as "private parties" with the aim of blocking police intervention. Blanka Kosinova, the spokeswoman for the country's organised crime unit who disagrees with the UN assessment that the Czech Republic wasn't proactive enough, suggests the survey was based on old information and that newer numbers say something different:

"In recent years, we have seen a drop in the number of neo-Nazi gatherings and concerts in the Czech Republic. We saw 18 such events last year compared to 33 in 2004. Speaking for our unit, we feel the drop has been influenced by police restrictions: we do all we can to make sure such events don't take place. They try as hard as they can to stay a step ahead and know the law to the letter. If we can't stop the event, we at least try and complicate things for them by checking venue licences or for the sale of alcohol to minors. We monitor events closely for any breaking of the law."

Political analyst Zdenek Zboril, a leading expert on extremism in the Czech Republic, agrees police specialists have become more effective in recent years:

"I witnessed police activity at four or five such concerts in the ast half a year and agree they are better prepared and trained. My own experience is such that I can confirm that right-wing extremism or radicalism has changed mainly in the last two or three years and is in decline."

But Mr Zboril also points out that the drop in the number of neo-Nazi concerts can not only be attributed to police success: not only has there been a drop in the number of followers of racist music among etremists, in Mr Zboril's view radical activists have upgraded their focus: spreading hatred in other forms, namely over the internet. Neo-Nazis have also focused their energies in pseudo political groups thinly disguising extremist views and racial intolerance, providing different and more complex challenges for authorities than cracking down on concerts.