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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