Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner stepping down by the end of January
Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková will be stepping down by the end of this month; Václav Smolka, spokesperson for the Office of the Government, has confirmed the decision to the Seznam Zprávy news server. Válková has written in to the editors there to say she had agreed with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) that she cannot continue in the role because she is an MP for the ANO party, the most powerful in the opposition.
She was appointed the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner in May 2019, a choice that sparked criticism; she also faced calls to resign. "Helena Válková, the Commissioner for Human Rights, will end her position as of 31 January 2022 as per agreement," Smolka told Seznam Zprávy.
Válková said she is taking the initiative to leave the post. "I cannot perform the job of Commissioner any longer because I am an MP for the opposition party that is the most powerful one," she wrote to Seznam Zprávy.
"We agreed, in the interest of the proper handover of the agenda, that it will happen by the close of January 2022 at the very latest," she added. During her tenure, the previous cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) adopted, for example, 10-year strategies on equalizing opportunities for women and men and on Romani inclusion.
Válková also contributed to adopting the law to compensate the victims of illegal sterilizations. In a letter to Prime Minister Fiala, according to Seznam Zprávy, she has written that she is proud of her work.
"I think a great deal managed to be accomplished," she noted. She faced calls for resignation as Government Human Rights Commissioner because of an article she co-authored with a former Czechoslovak communist-era procurator Josef Urválek (1910-1979) in the 1970s.
That 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 after the scandal, she 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. As a procurator, Urválek sent the politician Milada Horáková to her death in 1950, among other matters.
Prior to serving as the Government Human Rights Commissioner, Válková, who is a lawyer, also served as Justice Minister in the Government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD). Currently she chairs the Committee on Immunity and Mandates in the Czech Chamber of Deputies.
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