Roma rights monitor: Prevention key to fighting extremism

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A new study released by the Interior Ministry last week claimed support for far-right and far-left groups had dramatically increased in the Czech Republic. Most worrying was a rise in the number of racially-motivated attacks, committed by some of the country's 6,000-strong skinheads. Neo-Nazi organisations, such at the Patriotic Front and the National Social Bloc, are also becoming more politically active and more efficient. Some human rights groups have said the authorities need to use more repressive tactics to fight the problem, but as Rob Cameron reports, that view is far from unanimous.

The release of the study provoked an immediate response from human rights organisations, such as the Movement for Civic Solidarity and Tolerance. They say the authorities must use more repressive measures, shutting down far-right groups and cracking down much harder on racist crime and neo-Nazi behaviour. But not everyone shares that view. Markus Pape monitors racist attacks on the country's large Roma community for the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre. He says prevention at a very early age is the only way to fight extremism properly.

"Prevention is still being neglected. Young people do not know anything about fascism and Nazi ideology, about the results of Nazi ideology in the 20th century. A big part of Czech society is still convinced that there is no possibility that Nazi ideology could damage Czech society, because this a problem of Germany."

Markus Pape says Czech society needs to open its eyes to the dangers posed by neo-Nazis.

"They're shutting their eyes to what's going on here in the streets. And for us, it's no surprise that a lot of Czech young people give the Nazi salute on the streets because we know there is also a heritage of Nazi ideology in Czech society. This problem has not been solved in the past decades. And it's time to solve it now, but so far there are only a few people who are aware of this problem."