Will the government’s proposals to stamp out extremism work?

In light of this weekend’s march in Ústí nad Labem, and Saturday's violent attack on a Roma family in Vítkov, the government has pledged to do more to stamp out extremism in the Czech Republic. On Monday, outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that the government would employ two key strategies in the fight against extremism: prevention and repression. Earlier today, I spoke to lawyer and expert on extremism Klára Kalibová to ask her whether she thought this would work. Firstly, I asked whether Czech courts should play a more active role in banning extremist rallies:

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “No, because I feel that the right to gather in public is a basic democratic right. We should reconcile ourselves to the fact that some gatherings of neo-Nazis are legal. They are legal, but they are not acceptable in a democratic society. So, if there are some neo-Nazi demos, then there should be a response from the democratic society, from the people who are against it, who live in Ústí nad Labem or in any other town, and who want to express their disgust with the neo-Nazi movement.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Politicians have said in response to this weekend’s activity that new legislation is needed and that something must be done to stamp out extremism. There is talk of new repressive measures to eradicate extremism; do you think that banning far right parties, for example, can prove effective?

“We don’t need legislative changes; we need a change in practice. We need a change in the Interior Ministry and its agenda, we need a change in local authorities and their agenda. Because there was an attempt to ban the Workers’ Party already, but the lawsuit which was brought by the Interior Ministry was incredibly bad – there was nothing, no evidence, no legal argument, nothing.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK You say the Interior Ministry needs to change its approach, what should its new approach be?

“They should admit that they have got it wrong, that there is something wrong. That the situation is very serious. Because we are talking about violent groups attacking people in the streets, preaching hate in the streets, violent groups who are able to organize demonstrations and riots every fortnight. Then the Interior Ministry should focus itself on the prosecution of leaders of the Czech neo-Nazi movement and of those who are attacking not only Roma people, but also left-wing people who stand against the neo-Nazi movement.” Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK

The other main strand of the government’s suggestions to stamp out extremism in the Czech Republic is prevention. What do you think can be done to stop people from becoming more extreme in their political views?

“Well, the issue of prevention is not about how not to become an extremist, but it is about how to become more tolerant. Because we need young people, who feel that it is normal to stand up to neo-Nazism - we need for them to feel that it is normal to understand other people and feel at ease in a multicultural society as well.”