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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/finish/human-rights-watch/press/reuter.040595g

Archive/File: fascism/germany reuter.040595g
Last-Modified: 1995/04/17

 Rights group says Germany too tough on neo-Nazis
    BONN, April 5 (Reuter) - A United States human rights group
 said on Wednesday that Germany had become too tough on neo-Nazis
 in its drive to eradicate race hatred.
    Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights
 Watch/Helsinki, welcomed Germany's increased efforts to counter
 racist violence but said laws banning the expression of racist
 and neo-Nazi ideas had gone too far.
    ``These kinds of restrictions on mere speech tend to be
 counterproductive and even dangerous,'' Roth told journalists
 while presenting his group's report called ``Germany for Germans
 - Xenophobia and Racist Violence in Germany.''
    ``If there are no avenues to express hateful ideas short of
 violence, it tends to drive people underground and to push them
 into the hands of violent extremists,'' he said.
    Roth made it clear his group abhorred neo-Nazi propaganda
 but believed governments should only limit free speech when it
 led to violence or a conspiracy to commit violent acts.
    The Bonn parliament, under pressure after a wave of racist
 attacks that started after German unification in 1990, last year
 tightened its laws to ban the so-called ``Auschwitz lie'' --
 denial of the Holocaust -- and the use of Nazi symbols.
    Anyone who publicly denies the Nazis murdered millions of
 Jews, brandishes a swastika flag or gives the straight-arm Nazi
 salute risks a jail sentence of up to five years.
    The group, successor to the Helsinki Watch group that used
 to monitor human rights in the former Soviet bloc, said German
 authorities had improved their performance in combatting
 xenophobia and racism.
    Roth said the number of recorded racist crimes had rocketed
 in the last year because police investigation techniques for
 tracking them had improved.
    Violent xenophobic crime such as the frequent firebombings
 of 1992-1993 was down while non-violent xenophobic offenses --
 such as distributing neo-Nazi propaganda -- had increased.
    ``We favour the prosecution of anything that leads to actual
 violence as well as a variety of forms of speech that are
 legitimately criminalised, such as conspiracy to commit violence
 or intimidation or harassment,'' Roth said.

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