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Czech Govt cleaning house at Human Rights Section before new commissioner even starts

Prague, 23.2.2011 14:56, (ROMEA)
ilustrační foto

Exactly one week ago on Wednesday 16 February, the Czech Government appointed a new Human Rights Commissioner, Monika Šimůnková. One hour after that news was announced at a press conference, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Section at the Office of the Czech Government, Czeslaw Walek, was removed from his position. News server Romea.cz interviewed the former director and asked him how he explains the rapidity of his removal:

Q: On Wednesday afternoon you reported your sudden departure from the Office of the Government on Facebook. This happened on the same day that Ms Šimůnková was appointed to the post of Human Rights Commissioner, but she obviously could not have been familiarized with the agenda of your office in enough detail to have been able to address any personnel questions. How do you explain such a sudden step? It gives the impression that this sequence of events was decided in advance and that you were just waiting for the commissioner's post to be filled.

A: Yes, my removal had been decided long before them. I continue to believe that this was not the new commissioner's decision, but that it was the decision of the management of the Office of the Government. There were options for doing this in other ways that would have been less painful for all involved, but the manager decided to do this disruptively. That is his right.

Q: Why were you removed? Do you consider your removal justified?

A: Technically there was no other option. In November there were organizational changes at the Office of the Government which combined the post of the Human Rights Commissioner with that of Section Director. I knew I would be removed from the post of Section Director and I expected to be removed. What surprised me was:a) The rapidity with which this took place - the commissioner was appointed at 10:00, at 13:00 this fact was announced at a press conference, and at 14:00 I was handed my removal notice and told to get everything out of my office by that evening.b) The fact that they are leaving the incoming commissioner without any assistance. She has become not only the commissioner, but a high official as well. That is really a great deal of work - it is essentially the combined work of two people. She has not been familiarized with the office, and the management has not even given her the opportunity to decide how she will take up the agenda.

Q: How will the handover take place then?

A: Since Thursday, I have formally been barred from service, which means I should not go to work or be tasked with anything. Madame Commissioner and I have agreed that I will hand the agenda over to her, with all it entails, during her first days in office. She even offered me a certain solution which would have made it possible for me to stay at the office for some time, but it was not beneficial to me, so I did not accept it. We have agreed to communicate informally.

Q: Have you been offered another position by the Office of the Government or any other state body?

A: The Office of the Government had to offer me a position that was free and corresponded to my qualifications and experience. I did not accept their offers. I am not counting on working for this administration in the near term.

Q: What are the plans for your former position? Will the position of Executive Director of the Human Rights Section of the Office of the Czech Government be preserved or eliminated?

A: That position has been combined with the commissioner position.

Gwendolyn Albert, Radka Steklá, Zdeněk Ryšavý, Radka Steklá, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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