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Candidates for next Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner are being floated

28.1.2022 13:37
Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková (right) and Taťána Gregor Brzobohatá (left) (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons, collage: Romea.cz)
Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková (right) and Taťána Gregor Brzobohatá (left) (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons, collage: Romea.cz)

On Wednesday, the Czech Government approved the removal of Helena Válková, a member of the ANO movement now in opposition, from the Government Human Rights Commissioner position. She will end in that post on 31 January. 

The change can be inferred from the cabinet's deliberations. The Government did not have a proposal on its weekly program to consider the appointment of a new such representative, but according to information from those in the corridors of power, there are several candidates. 

A big favorite is special needs educator Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, but names like the former Miss Czech Republic Taťána Gregor Brzobohatá or NGO director Šimon Pánek have also been mentioned. Shortly after the inauguration of the Government of Petr Fiala (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) last December, Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) told the Czech News Agency that the cabinet would reconsider its commissioner positions in the coming weeks. 

News server Seznam Zprávy then reported that Válková would end as commissioner at the end of the month. Válková told them she had agreed with Prime Minister Fiala that she could not hold the office as a member of the opposition ANO party. 

Válková sent a letter of resignation saying she wanted to leave by the end of January. A spokesperson for the Office of the Government, Václav Smolka, told the Deník N news server that political negotiations were underway about the new appointments.

"According to my information, there is a shortlist of candidates from which a new Human Rights Commissioner will emerge," Smolka said. In an interview for news server Novinky.cz, the outgoing Human Rights Commissioner said: "According to my unofficial information, this agenda was entrusted to the Pirates and they had more than one person interested. In the end, the candidate they generated is Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková. As far as I got to know her, she is a very good chair of the Government's Committee on the Rights of the Child," adding that some members of the ODS oppose the choice.

Deník N specifically mentioned Czech MP Marek Benda (ODS), who is said to be bothered by Laurenčíková's support for inclusion. She has confirmed to Deník N that she is among the candidates. 

"I know my name is among those discussed," Laurenčíková said, adding that she has noted support for her appointment from the nonprofit sector. Brzobohatá, a model, has been mentioned as the favorite candidate of ODS.

Government officials also approached Šimon Pánek, the director of People in Need, but he declined the offer. In May 2019, the ANO and Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) administration of Czech PM Babiš appointed Válková as the Government Human Rights Commissioner with the support of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. 

That appointment provoked sharp reactions, with critics calling Válková a "normalization-era communist". She faced calls for resignation later in her term for having co-authored an academic paper that was published in the 1970s with former Czechoslovak procurator Josef Urválek (1910-1979). 

That official was responsible for the judicial murder of politician Milada Horáková in 1950. The academic paper defended what was called protective surveillance, a measure that was being abused by the communist regime to bully dissidents; Válková said she did not know at the time that the measure was being exploited in that way.

She refused to resign from her post as Government Human Rights Commissioner but decided not to throw her hat into the ring for the post of Public Defender of Rights. Válková explained her decision not to seek that job as due to her former Communist Party membership, though, not to her co-authorship with Urválek.

Válková has been the Deputy Chair of several Government advisory bodies, for example, the Human Rights Council, the National Minorities Council, the Romani Minority Affairs Council and the Senior Citizens' Council. In her role as an MP she contributed, for example, to the adoption of the law on compensation to victims of illegal sterilizations

During her tenure, the previous cabinet adopted 10-year strategies on balancing opportunities for women and men and on the equality, inclusion and participation of Romani people. Válková was re-elected to the Czech Chamber of Deputies as an ANO member last year but has moved from the Government to the opposition benches. 

Currently she chairs the Committee on Immunity and Mandates in the Czech Chamber of Deputies. Prior to serving as Government Human Rights Commissioner she was the Justice Minister in the administration of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD). 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Government of the Czech Republic, human rights, inclusive education



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