A new commission has vowed to stamp out racism and punish police officers found ignoring racially motivated crimes.
The commission against racially motivated crimes was set up by Interior Minister Ivan Šimko and will monitor neo-Nazi activity in Slovakia.
The commission will also propose legislative changes to assist criminal investigations of neo-Nazi supporters and activists, said head of the commission Peter Mikuš.
"Racism and xenophobia are time bombs which can explode any moment. Slovakia is still in diapers regarding the level of public awareness and precautions taken to stop expressions of racism," said Ladislav Ďurkovič, head of the non-governmental People against Racism.
Ďurkovič estimated Slovakia has 5,000 neo-Nazi supporters and six neo-Nazi music groups. In the last five years, police records have documented six racially motivated murders and 165 racially motivated crimes.
International rights groups, as well as officials from the European Union, have criticised Slovakia in the past for its record on minorities and its treatment of the Roma. Investigators have documented violence against the Roma and pro-racist attitudes among police ranks.
The commission's first session was held in the national police headquarters in Bratislava December 5 and was attended by minister Šimko as well as police corps vice-president Jaroslav Spišiak.
Spišiak, who was named to the vice-presidency in October, said he would not tolerate apathy among police officers, and warned that any officer found not acting on evidence of racism or the promotion of neo-Nazism would face "radical measures".
The commission includes non-governmental racism activists such as People against Racism, Zebra, the Open Society Foundation and Citizen and Democracy; it also involves police officials from the chief investigator's office and regular police ranks, and two representatives from the monitoring centre for racially motivated crime. They will meet every two and a half months.
For its next meeting, scheduled February 26, 2002, the commission has agreed to work on 15 tasks including analysing racial crimes and fascist activities, and scripting a long-term plan to fight neo-Nazi groups.
Minister Šimko warned after the meeting that although neo-Nazi groups were not a mass phenomena in Slovakia yet, "if we don't start dealing with it now, neo-Nazism could become a terrifying reality."
17. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová