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Czech Interior Ministry registers civic association controversially named Domobrana (Militia)

Prague/Chomutov, 11.6.2012 19:16, (ROMEA)

The Czech Interior Ministry has decided to register a civic association called Domobrana (which means Militia). Vladimír Řepka, a spokesperson for the ministry, told the Czech daily Právo that three departments - security policy, crime prevention and general administration - researched whether to register the association because of its controversial name.

"We determined that its activities, as declared in its statutes, would not violate Czech law. There is no reason not to register the association," Řepka said.

The Mediafax agency reports the registration was confirmed in an e-mail sent by the ministry to the association's founders, Petr Kubaczka and Ivana Vosecká. "The statement from the security policy department has already arrived, along with the statement from the crime prevention department recommending we register, so I am registering the association," Vosecká said in an e-mail. "Before the Interior Ministry decided to register our association there was a rather long commenting period during which our statutes were researched by the security department for possible security risks," Kubaczka told Mediafax.

Kubaczka and Vosecká decided to establish the controversial association after their daughter was violently assaulted and robbed in Chomutov. The daughter claimed her assailants were Romani, and Kubaczka has said that when he used to work as a municipal police patrolman, he was also assaulted by drunken Romani people. Despite these experiences, he insists Domobrana is not aimed against Romani people and says he will be glad if "decent" Romani people join it.

"Domobrana is not a radical movement. It's an association of decent people who want to contribute as volunteers to activities that benefit the community, and one such activity is civil patrols, which contribute to safety on the streets," Kubaczka has told the media.

"We are aware, as everyone is, of the problematic nature of the local ethnic Romani community and its influence on crime here. Our grudge against members of this ethnicity is not because of racism, but because of our long-term, poor experiences with them. However, we are not permitted to judge people solely because of their skin color. Certainly, there are decent people among them as well, and if they were to be assaulted, we would stand up for them too. I would also welcome decent Romani people into our civic association. Furthermore, we want to assist people who are directly threatened by racism if, for example, their homes were to be threatened by fascist-oriented people. That's the real racism and I hate it," Kubaczka said in an interview for news server TÝDEN.cz.

Mediafax reports that town councilors in Chomutov view Kubaczka's activity positively. "Naturally we also like the fact that they want to arrange recreational activities for children. I think it won't be a problem in future for them to draw money from a wide variety of subsidy programs for their activities," Deputy Mayor of Chomutov Jan Řehák told Mediafax previously.

For his part, Mayor Jan Mareš is more cautious in evaluating the creation of the association. "I know of this initiative and we cannot prevent it from coming into being as long as it is formed on the basis of the legal norms by which it must abide. According to my information about Mr Kubaczka, with whom I have met, he is aware that militias have no legal basis here and involve too many risks both for the organizers and the volunteers. He has established a civic association called Domobrana (Militia), but its aim is not what the meaning of that word evokes for everyone. Rather, it is an effort to bring people of good will together to perform activities that benefit the community. The association declares that it will collaborate with the state administration, the municipality, and both kinds of police, whose work it does not intend to replace. They want to work against crime, disorder, and racism. If they function as patrols monitoring public order and call either the municipal or state police when needed, they are expanding the ranks of those whom we already call 'the eyes of the law'. In Chomutov there have already been civil patrols assisting the municipal police for several years, people who come from the ranks of the long-term unemployed and do this public service work. They monitor the situation, they are a public prevention element, but they cannot intervene, that is a police power only," Mayor Mareš announced on the town's website.

People on the streets will be able to recognize members of the association through their reflective vests marked "Domobrana, safety in the streets" and "Stop crime, disorder, racism". Kubaczka says the latter slogan will dissuade potential radicals from joining who might otherwise be interested.

"No such person or racist is going to put on a vest that reads 'Stop racism'. At the same time, it helps people understand we are not fighting against someone, but against something," he said. However, right-wing extremists have noticed the initiative and neo-Nazis linked to the Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládež - DM) have reported on the establishment of Domobrana on their websites.

Unlike the neo-Nazis, the police are not enthusiastic about Domobrana. "We are not very happy about it. Mr Kubaczka doesn't realize what kind of danger he might be risking," Zbyněk Dvořák, director of the Chomutov Police, told news server iDNES.cz. Dvořák said it would be very easy for civic patrols to overreach and commit a crime themselves. "They don't realize they are intervening against criminals. These people are not trained for that," Dvořák said.

The members of the patrols will not have any other powers than those enjoyed by ordinary citizens. "Our intention is primarily to help. It's an obligation to help in places where ordinary citizens might flee, to protect people who have been physically assaulted, with an emphasis on upholding the norms established by law," Kubaczka said in an interview for news server TÝDEN.cz.

A very controversial point of Domobrana's work is that its members will be armed. Kubaczka told news server Novinky.cz that members will work with dogs and devices for personal defense such as collapsible nightsticks or pepper spray. In an interview for news server TÝDEN.cz, however, he was more careful: "The civil patrols will be gradually equipped with the most necessary self-defense devices, which will not be visible at first glance."

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, iDNES.cz, TÝDEN.cz, Novinky.cz , translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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