Friday

22nd Nov 2019

Opinion

Neo-Nazis mobilise against minorities in Czech republic

  • Neo-Nazis on the march, here in the twon of Přerov on 1 May 2013 (Photo: Jiří Šlemar, www.romea.cz)

Ultra-right parties and their neo-Nazi supporters have unleashed an unprecedented level of coordinated anti-Roma demonstrations throughout the Czech Republic this year, aiming to tip the balance at the polls and increase their access to power in the country’s upcoming elections.

The Czech Republic faces a series of four nationwide elections between now and the end of next year – to the lower house, one-third of the Senate, the European Parliament and local governments. The country faces a threat similar to the one in Greece and Hungary that has already cost the lives of their citizens.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

There have been 30 anti-Roma marches organized since the beginning of the year and at least 10 more are planned. The Romani minority is the target of these hateful attacks because of deeply entrenched anti-Romani sentiment in Czech society that is easily mobilized.

In recent years, ultra-right actions there are no longer confined to extremists, but have been joined by ordinary citizens of all ages and both genders. Even the Czech Intelligence Service (BIS) has pointed out the danger of this widespread anti-Roma atmosphere. This year, it is only thanks to the so-far successful performance of law enforcement that the violence has not cost lives, although it has resulted in at least a dozen police sustaining injuries, as well as damage to property.

The police have so far managed to control these rallies and prevent violence, but this has been done by restricting the freedoms of those opposing the anti-Roma gatherings.

“Gypsies to the gas chambers”

On 27 September the country’s third-largest city, Ostrava faced its second major riot and attempted pogrom on Romani neighbourhoods this year. A handful of nonviolent counter-protesters were not given any support by local authorities, who instead dispersed their legal assembly on the grounds that it was they, not the neo-Nazis, who were disturbing the peace. A neo-Nazi mob then engaged police in street fighting long into the night. While physical injury has not yet been perpetrated against anyone Romani during these demonstrations, the psychological war against them is currently being won by the ultra-right in Ostrava.

The anti-Romani rallies this year have been organized by members of the Workers’ Social Justice Party (in Czech “DSSS”) and a breakaway faction called the “Czech Lions.” (Their political platforms are explicitly racist include and place a heavy emphasis on repressing what they call “inadaptables”, which everyone understands as a code word for Roma.; during their rallies and especially the mob violence that follows them, the pretense of coded language is dropped and it is normal to hear them calling to send “gypsies to the gas chambers”.

The predecessor to the DSSS, the Workers’ Party was dissolved by the courts in 2010 because its neo-Nazi ideology contravened Czech law. Unfortunately, this did not prevent the party from simply regrouping under a new name.

When ordinary people join the neo-Nazis in not only shouting such messages but throwing rocks at police, this emboldens more mainstream politicians to show their constituents that they too are “tough on Roma.”

In places where these anti-Romani demonstrations have occurred, local governments have enacted “zero tolerance” policies, ordinances restricting personal liberty that apply only to Roma neighborhoods and a ban on behavior perceived as “Roma”, such as sitting outdoors in public. Municipal social workers and police have conducted disruptive (probably illegal) visits to Roma households and involved local journalists who have published video footage of these “raids” online.

International network of hate groups

The rise of anti-Roma extremists in the Czech Republic is not merely a national phenomenon; it is fueled by an international network of hate groups.

A few days after the 27 September demonstrations, human rights defenders across the Czech Republic were hacked by a white power group whose website is registered in California that posted racist content to websites, generated racist emails from address books, and published the correspondence of the email accounts that were hacked online.

Polish, German and Slovak ultra-right supporters have also been coming to the Czech Republic to participate in these marches. These cross-border alliances should be of particular concern to all of Europe and require a concerted European response: EU recognition of anti-Gypsyism as a particular phenomenon that must be combated in all member states; EU monitoring and condemnation of hate crimes and hate speech directed against Roma; and strong enforcement of existing legal tools, such as the Race Equality Directive and the Convention on Cybercrime.

The next neo-Nazi demonstration in Ostrava and other Czech cities will be held on 28 October, a day which celebrates the founding of independent Czechoslovakia and which has long been a traditional time for nationalists and the ultra-right to call for a country free of all non-Czechs.

It is imperative that law enforcement nip any potential for violence in the bud and keep those assembling as far away from the targets of their wrath as possible. However, this should not be done by restricting or prematurely dissolving the peaceful protest gatherings of Roma and non-Roma who decide to publicly to denounce these neo-Nazi marches.

If any of the political parties affiliated with the promoters of hatred and genocide were to win even 1.5 % of the vote, in the Czech political system they would be entitled to taxpayer money. An infusion of resources into this movement is the last the thing Czech Republic needs.

The government must do everything it can to address the psychological warfare being waged by the ultra-right at the expense of the members of Europe’s largest, and most ill-treated, minority.

Dezideru Gergely is Executive Director at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Gwen Albert is an independent Human Rights Activist and Researcher

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Interview

'They called me Hitler's error'

As Germany commemorates the end of WWII and recalls the horrors of Nazism, one Holocaust survivor reflects on the importance of talking about the past.

Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong

As EU foreign affairs ministers meet in Brussels, we have seen unarmed protestors in Hong Kong shot at point blank range, others bloody and beaten, and then incarcerated over the border in mainland China in prison camps.

Column

Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears

For a long time, Europe's strategic chattering class has been wondering what would happen if you took the US out of Europe's security architecture.

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

European beekeeping in crisis

Europe's bee population is dying. The number of pollinator species threatened by extinction is increasing each year, and human activity is the main cause.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us