Slovakia: New extremism-related misdemeanors a challenge for police
Starting in February, perpetrators involved in lower-level promotion of extremist opinions in Slovakia will be at risk of fines, but not imprisonment. The Slovak daily SME reports that a legislative amendment now defines certain displays of extremism as misdemeanors.
Police are defending the change, saying it gives them new options for fining certain kinds of behavior that are not well-covered by criminal law. The daily reports that officers investigating the use of Nazi salutes or Nazi swastikas will have to focus on a perpetrator's intentions.
"If police officers see in an extended right arm the intention of promoting a movement to suppress the rights of others through violence, that person faces between one to five years in prison. If police decide the person did not give the Nazi salute with that intention, then that person will just face a fine of up to EUR 500 or community service," the paper reports.
Currently Slovak courts can punish perpetrators for such displays of extremism only if they can prove a perpetrator's intention to support a movement aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms. According to police, as of February it will be possible, thanks to the amendment to the misdemeanor law, to also issue fines for acts of extremism that are not covered by criminal law and the threat of prison.
"From the perspective of the public interest in suppressing manifestations of extremism, it is important that illegal behavior of this sort not be tolerated," said police spokesperson Michal Slivka. In 2009, for example, the Slovak Attorney General halted the prosecution of Slovak right-wing extremist Marian Kotleba (now the governor of the Banská Bystrica Region) for shouting the Fascist greeting "Na stráž!" ("On duty!") on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the wartime Slovak Republic, claiming it could not be proven that Kotleba intended to display sympathy for extremism by using the phrase.
Kotleba was already known at the time to be an advocate for the Fascist Slovak state and an organizer of anti-Romani events. Starting tomorrow, it will be possible to fine those who engage in behavior such as shouting the Fascist greeting.
Lawyer Jana Rojčeková said the evaluation of individual cases will be up to detectives. "If they cannot prove intention - or if they don't want to prove it - the person will not be recorded as having broken the law. There is a risk that... felonies will now be evaluated as misdemeanors," she said.
The NGO People against Racism is of a similar opinion about the new misdemeanors. SME quoted Czech political scientist Miroslav Mareš, as saying such a category of misdemeanors does not exist in the Czech Republic.
In 2012 Slovak Police reported more than 100 extremism-related felonies. SME reports that the most frequent were cases of the wearing of controversial badges, patches or tattooes with extremist symbols.
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