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Czech Deputy Ombudsman: We cannot treat people as individuals

12.1.2017 7:44
Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (PHOTO: David Sedlecký. Wikimedia Commons)
Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (PHOTO: David Sedlecký. Wikimedia Commons)

"Human rights and security are communicating vessels. A person who is not secure is not free. The degree of danger that is now being felt in Europe must have an influence on how human rights are conceived of," the lawyer and Deputy Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček has said in an interview for the Czech magazine RESPEKT.

The Deputy Ombudsman said he believes European society is getting into a situation that requires the reassessment of many previously-adopted laws that are no longer appropriate:  "For example, the laws defining the Schengen Area were adopted at a time when there was no risk of danger in Europe." How far restrictions on human rights should go to benefit security is one of the key questions facing Europe, the Deputy Ombudsman believes.

"Now we have human rights without responsibilities. It will be necessary to link them to responsibilities," he asserted in the interview.

Křeček also reviewed today's concept of freedom of speech in the interview, saying he believes it is being understood differently than we imagined it would be 20 years ago: "We have freedom, but it is losing its significance," the Deputy Ombudsman alleged. 

He also mused over whether freedom of speech or the right to assembly still determine how the world is run. In his view, the world is now run by economic influences and ratings firms.

"In Aleppo nobody's freedom of speech is being restricted, or their freedom of assembly, but what good does it do them?" he asked. The Deputy Ombudsman's other musings involve an imaginary Chinese peasant whom Křeček speculates would not be interested in freedom of speech, but in whether he will be paid for his labor or access an education.

Freedom for demagogues and racists

When Patrik Banga, the blog administrator at the country's most-read daily,, recently removed a blog post by Lucie Provazníková for its openly racist content, the Deputy Ombudsman called that decision "exceptionally shameful and almost scandalous". When asked why, he responded:  "Racism is the notion that one race is more valuable than another. Today absolutely everything is considered racism."

When asked whether a phrase from Provazníková's blog such as "He shot out of there like a Gypsy fleeing a supermarket" was racist, the Deputy Ombudsman refused to comment: "I won't say anything more about it. That was one sentence on Facebook."

The interview also touches on the question of the Czech media outlets that have been called pro-Kremlin, including "Parlamentní listy" (PL), the output of which the Deputy Ombudsman frequently shares on Facebook himself, although he did not mention in the RESPEKT interview whether he believes that the dissemination of disinformation by such tabloid news servers poses a danger to society. The Political Science Department at Masaryk University subjected 2 660 articles posted to various news servers to analysis last year and concluded that PL disseminates pro-Kremlin propaganda (the report says PL only references sources 40 % of the time.) 

Křeček said in the interview that he saw no reason to consider PL an untrustworthy information source. Despite his legal education and his frequent claims that he likes to base his views on expert analyses and publications, the Deputy Ombudsman rejected the academic media analysis and the accusations that PL disseminates pro-Kremlin propaganda .

The Deputy Ombudsma asserted that he is doing his best to preserve the greatest degree of freedom of speech:  "I am just musing about what kind of limits we must arrive at. However, I do not want freedom of speech to be limited, and certainly not under false pretexts such as combating Putin's websites, xenophobia, etc. That would be very dangerous."

Czechs aren't racists, but...

The Deputy Ombudsman said he does not consider his fellow Czechs to be a xenophobic nation that rejects the reception of refugees. He attempted to back up that opinion with reference to historical events:  "Prior to the [Second World] War we received Jews, after the war Greeks, later the Vietnamese."

Křeček said he considers Czech coexistence with the Vietnamese community in particular to be seamless and said it demonstrates that Czechs do not have a problem living with members of other nations and generalized charges of racism and xenophobia against them are unfair. When the interviewer noted that the Deputy Ombudsman himelf has issued generalized warnings against Muslims, he responded:  "That's becase Muslims do not recognize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They reject it and have their own, in which human rights are subordinate to sharia law."

"I thought we treat people as individuals", the interviewer pushed back, to which Křeček responded:  "No, that we cannot do. If somebody is an orthodox Muslim and governed by the Muslim religion, he rejects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights... Muslims have a Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. If somebody stops being a believing Muslim, stops respecting sharia law, wants to become a Czech or a German, to be governed by Czech or German law, then everything is ok."

The Deputy Ombudsman said in the interview that he believes any Muslim will have a different relationship to the law than a non-Muslim, because according to sharia law, women have particular obligations and are not equal to me. However, he also added:  "If an asylum-seeker is Muslim that is naturally not a reason for rejection."

Křeček disagreed with the interviewer's assertion that Muslims are immigrating to the Czech Republic in order to become citizens. "They are coming here because they want to replace us, not because they want to live with us," he alleged.

When asked how he could know such a thing, the Deputy Ombudsman answered that "Muslim authorities" have made that claim. In his view it is not possible to view people as individuals and it is not important what most of the ordinary Muslims seeking asylum in Europe say:  "It doesn't matter what the majority are like, what is important is how the active minority behaves. Many Nazis were decent people, but the Gestapo existed nevertheless."

The Deputy Ombudsman said he believes "You must judge a nation by how its active minority behaves, not by how the majority behaves." He also said he believes it is not currently possible to research which refugees in particular are fleeing from that radical minority because the volume of people fleeing is currently too great.

ken, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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