Czech government approves legislation banning paramilitary groups

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The government has approved new legislation which would ban armed paramilitaries and vigilante groups pursuing a religious, nationalist or similar agenda. Those who break the law would pay a substantial fine. Meanwhile, unarmed communal groups aimed at strengthening local security, such as neighbourhood watches, will continue to be legal and state security forces members will have greater freedom to use their weapons.

Photo illustrative: Jabbacake,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License
What seems to be an organised gang of thieves is currently on the loose in the outer areas of Prague.

Since September, some sixty break-ins have been registered in the east of Prague and a special police team is currently looking into potential patterns recognisable in the individual burglaries.

Meanwhile, some villagers have begun organising themselves into a so-called “domobrana“, a catch-all term for citizens coming together to ensure their security and catch the culprits. Pavel Smutný, the mayor of a small town to the west of Prague called Jesenice, says this is the case in one of the district’s villages.

“To strengthen their feeling of safety the locals are paying an ex-military man to patrol the neighbourhood at night with a companion. A WhatsApp group has also been setup where people share information, for example to check when an alarm goes off. Local police are involved in this as well.”

His colleague, Deputy Mayor Martin Kuruc, told the news site that the group has also set up thermal detection cameras and photo traps.

Such action may remain legal if a new legislation proposal on the “domobrana” phenomenon, approved by the government on Monday, passes through Parliament.

What the new law amendment seeks to ban however, is for such groups to attain a para-military, vigilante character, Minister of Interior Jan Hamáček told Czech Television.

“To stand with a flag on some border is of course fine. However, it is not ok for such an organised group to operate with arms and, for example, inspect passengers on a train, or replace the role of the police forces in some sort of way.“

Jan Hamáček,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
Such practices of home defence groups checking train passengers have been registered in neighbouring Slovakia.

Last year, the news site Neovlivní.cz wrote that some Slovak paramilitaries have also been taking part in joint exercises with a controversial Czech anti-migrant group called National Guard, Národní Domobrana in Czech, which was set up during the migrant crisis.

The new legislation would ban paramilitary groups, their arming and membership within them with a fine of up to CZK 200,000 for offenders.

Meanwhile, the amendment will also make it possible for members of the armed services and policemen to use their weapons, or organise shooting practice for gun license owners, when not on duty, Environment Minister Richard Brabec told Czech Television.