Czech Human Rights Commissioner accused of defending the persecution of dissidents during communism, she calls it a smear campaign
News server Info.cz has accused Czech Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) of having defended laws that were misused against dissidents at the close of the 1970s and start of the 1980s in communist Czechoslovakia. Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has responded to the news by saying he anticipated she would make a statement about the allegations.
Hamáček claimed to be disturbed by the affair. He remarked on it to journalists after lunching today with Czech President Miloš Zeman, who nominated Válková in mid-December for the position of Public Defender of Rights (the ombudswoman), whom the Chamber of Deputies elects.
Válková responded to the daily Deník N by rejecting the information, which she called an attempt to damage her reputation. News server Info.cz has posted photographs of an article co-authored by Válková and says it describes the need to re-socialize opponents of the communist regime.
According to historian Petr Blažek of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, in the co-authored article Válková defends the use of protective surveillance, which frequently served as a way to persecute political opponents of the regime. The other author of the article was communist prosecutor Josef Urválek, who among other things oversaw the prosecution of the lawyer and politician Milada Horáková that resulted in her execution in 1950.
"For me this is new information, I didn't know this, it wasn't publicly known when Ms Válková was Justice Minister. Now it's probably time for her to make a statement about it," the Interior Minister said.
"This is something that is disturbing to me, because the name of prosecutor Urválek is infamous from the show trials and certainly does not benefit the image of the office. However, I don't want to judge anybody without giving them a chance to explain the situation. I anticipate that Professor Válková will make a statement and after that we will be able to adopt a position on this," the Interior Minister said.
Válková has told the daily Deník N that protective surveillance was abused for political purposes during communism. She says she did not know at the time that the measure was being exploited to target dissidents.
"We researched what impact [protective surveillance] would have in the case of heavy recidivists. What's more, I did not at all suspect who Urválek was at the time. Yes, now after 1989, we all know," she told Deník N.
At the time she co-authored the article, Válková was working in the Criminological Research Institute of the Prosecutor-General of the Czech and Slovak Socialist Republic, and she added that many people worked with Urválek there. According to news server iRozhlas.cz, Válková is considering defending her reputation by taking legal action.
"I have to consider it, I have my own lawyer who is a specialist in these matters. I'm a political figure, so I have to put up with a few things, but I think such obvious disinformation and lies are not among them. This crosses the line. However, it may be that my lawyer will tell me that as a politician, anybody can write anything about me and I have to take it," she said in an interview for iRozhlas.cz.
"The fact that Helena Válková is the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner and announcing her candidacy for the post of Public Defender of Rights is scandalous in the light of the information about her actions before 1989. It is a mockery of all the opponents to and victims of the communist regime in our country. It is, at the same time, another extraordinary failure of the President and the Prime Minister who support her," Czech MP Miroslava Němcová (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) said in a press release.
"If it is confirmed that Helena Válková harassed dissidents and collaborated with the prosecutor who contributed to the murder of Milada Horáková, it is appropriate for her to be held accountable. Her candidacy for ombudswoman and her serving as Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner are a mockery of all decent people," tweeted the chair of TOP 09, Markéta Pekarová Adamová.
When Zeman wrote to the lower house to nominate Válková as a candidate for ombudswoman, his letter called her a generally known, respected figure. Critics at the time warned that she had refused to support the Senate's constitutional complaint against Zeman, calling it an attempt to continue the presidential election, and also recalled the remark she made that "not that much happened during the [Nazi] Protectorate", for which she later apologized.
The current ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, ends her six-year term next month. The Public Defender of Rights will be chosen by law by the Chamber of Deputies from among the candidates proposed by the President and the Senate.
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