Slovakia Rules Against Far-Right Patrols on Trains

Slovak parliament
Members of the Slovak Parliament in Bratislava, Slovakia, April 4, 2012. MPs voted to ban unofficial patrols on public transport after the far-right nationalist party began sending its own patrols. Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters

Slovakia has banned its far-right party from sending its own patrols on trains to target the Roma minority, German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has reported.

"No one can replace the police in this country, and no one should act like it either," Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska said, after members of parliament voted to ban the patrols.

The People's Party Our Slovakia (L'SNS) began sending self-styled patrols on trains after a 21-year-old woman was assaulted and robbed on a train in April. The L'SNS claimed that the crime was perpetrated by a Roma person, although this is unclear.

The parliamentary ruling Tuesday stated that only Slovak police and train operators are responsible "for public order and protection of rights, lives, property and the health of commuters."

L'SNS said it would continue policing the trains. MP Milan Mazurek, who is in charge of patrols, told fellow members of parliament that "people in eastern Slovakia are being terrorized by asocial parasites."

The far-right party said that their representatives have not used violence on trains and claimed that the visible presence of their patrolmen, dressed in the party's bright green, wards off potential criminals.

But politicians in other parties and rights activists are concerned by L'SNS's nationalist rhetoric which has demonized the Roma people as a criminal threat, referring to them as social "parasites" and "evildoers" in their 2016 manifesto.

L'SNS first entered Slovakia's parliament last March, winning more than 8 percent of the vote, with 14 seats.

Party leader Marian Kotleba admires Slovakia's wartime position as a Nazi puppet state, and used to wear a uniform modelled on that state's pro-Nazi militia, according to a BBC report.