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Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, speaking after lower house committee session, wants human rights agenda reassigned to her, committee reconvening today

14.7.2022 8:14
Monika Šimůnková (PHOTO:  https://www.ochrance.cz/)
Monika Šimůnková (PHOTO: https://www.ochrance.cz/)

The Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, Monika Šimůnková, would be glad if Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman) Stanislav Křeček would return the agenda previously assigned to her and also apologize for explaining the decision to take it away from her as he has. She considers his decision unreasonable.

Šimůnková made her remarks to journalists yesterday. The dispute between Křeček and the Deputy Public Defender of Rights was reviewed at a closed session of the Committee on Petitions in the lower house, which heard Šimůnková's standpoint.  

According to the chair of the committee, Czech MP Tomio Okamura ("Freedom and Direct Democracy" - SPD), Křeček's justification for deciding to take the agenda away from the Deputy Public Defender of Rights was that the cases assigned to her have allegedly been delayed. Šimůnková has objected to that allegation.

According to the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Czech MP Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09), the dispute has to be resolved between the two officials, who must find a way to collaborate going forward. The Committee is convening again this morning to discuss the issue. 

Šimůnková was elected by the Chamber of Deputies to serve as Deputy Public Defender of Rights in November 2019 and Křeček was elected by that same body to serve as Public Defender of Rights in February 2020. Each is serving a six-year term.  

Křeček has been repeatedly criticized for his public remarks about Romani people. The Czech Senate has called those remarks prejudicial.

The European Commission also asked the ombudsman for an explanation of those remarks. The Public Defender of Rights and Deputy Public Defender of Rights have long held different opinions about various issues. 

The officials have previously clashed, for example, over the issue of the presence of fathers in hospital delivery rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic or over issues of children's rights. Two weeks ago, Křeček announced he was taking back the agenda assigned to the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, effective as of July. 

The ombudsman has never detailed why he made that decision. He presented his perspective to the Committee on Petitions last week.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies said after his presentation that the ombudsman had absolutely failed to explain his approach to lawmakers on that occasion. Okamura said after that same session that the ombudsman did not break the law by deciding not to assign the agenda to the Deputy Public Defender of Rights.

Šimůnková presented her standpoint yesterday to the committee in closed session. Speaking with journalists after the meeting, she said that during the two and a half years she has served in the position she has never heard any reproaches from the ombudsman about the job she was doing or about her professionalism.

The Deputy Public Defender of Rights considers it unprecedented and unreasonable that the agenda assigned to her has now been taken away. Okamura said the committee asked Křeček last week to document in writing his complaints about her alleged delays in dealing with cases. 

MPs received that material from the ombudsman yesterday. The committee chair said the list is "comparatively wide-ranging, dozens of cases taking many months" in which the ombudsman believes there have been delays.

"That was the reason the ombudsman took the agenda back," Okamura said. He reiterated that Křeček has proceeded in accordance with the law.

Šimůnková has emphatically objected to the complaint that cases have been delayed. She pointed out that on the contrary, she herself introduced the rule that investigative reports must be ready within six months of a case being accepted.

"I would be glad if the ombudsman would return the agenda to me on which have been doing a good job and for which I also have the support of many organizations, and I would be glad if he would apologize to me for publicly giving reasons for taking the agenda away that I had never before heard from him in all my life," Šimůnková said.

The Deputy Public Defender of Rights is considering taking legal steps against Křeček. According to the president of the lower house, if both parties are interested in resolving the matter, they will find a way forward.

"These two figures have to resolve this dispute. They must find a way to collaborate. They have basically been condemned to serve together," the president of the Chamber of Deputies said.  

Okamura expressed a similar opinion. "I would be glad if both actors, if possible, would sit down in an attempt to reach an agreement somehow. They were both elected by the Chamber of Deputies, neither can be removed, they are both there for years," he said. 

The committee chair mentioned the "different opinions on their visions of the world" held by the ombudsman and the Deputy Public Defender of Rights. "Sincerely, I believe there is no solution to this dispute," he said. 

The president of the lower house also said she believes the law on the Public Defender of Rights should be amended as a consequence of these events. Okamura said he does not believe there is anything wrong with the legislation.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Monika Šimůnková, Ombudsman, poslanec, Poslanecká sněmovna



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