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Czech Human Rights Minister completing amendment to enhance ombud powers

Brno/Prague, 17.7.2014 17:17, (ROMEA)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) will be submitting a draft amendment to enhance the powers of the ombud within the next few weeks. The change would grant the ombud authority to request the Constitutional Court to abolish dubious laws and the authority to file anti-discrimination suits.

Dienstbier announced the plan to journalists today after visiting with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD). The PM has been gradually evaluating the work of his cabinet members for the past six months.

Ombud Anna Šabatová welcomed the drafting of the amendment. "We want to propose expanding the powers of the ombud to include the option to file motions for the abolition of laws with the Constitutional Court should the ombud consider them unconstitutional," Dienstbier said. 

The minister believes the ombud should also have the option of filing anti-discrimination suits "when a certain case of discrimination concerns a larger circle of people." Šabatová recently informed the lower house of the options for expanding the powers of the ombud.

"I consider both of these powers to be very important. They will increase the ombud's options for assisting people, especially in cases where the problems concern not just individuals, but society-wide or structural problems," the ombud said.

Currently those who may turn to the Constitutional Court regarding legislation include the President or a group of either 41 lower house MPs or 17 senators. Under certain conditions the Government, a Regional Authority, or an individual with a problem may also turn to the court with an issue.

Minister Dienstbier had previously said that the change would enhance human rights protections, as reportedly there is not always the political will to address legislative contradictions. He plans to submit the amendment in the next few weeks.

According to the Government's legislative plan the amendment should be ready now, by the end of July. Dienstbier said that during the next two years the Czech Republic should also prepare "a system to ensure the right to housing". 

The minister is participating in designing a law on social housing. This year he also wants to give the Government a law on the financing of political parties, as he believes such a norm should be part of anti-corruption measures.

By the end of August, the cabinet should also receive a law on a general referendum from the minister. Sobotka said he believes the Government will review that legislation at the start of September.

The PM said such a norm has a chance at adoption given the current composition of the lower house. He also said the decision to establish the post of Minister for Human Rights and Legislation  had been a rational and useful one.

Sobotka expressed appreciation for the fact that Dienstbier has been engaged in the fight against poverty and in solving the problems of excluded localities. He said the minister should complete the law on social housing and also tackle establishing rules for collections proceedings.

The PM also said the amendment to the Service Act now being reviewed by the lower house had been prepared by Dienstbier in such a short amount of time as to set a record. He noted that he came to his meeting with the minister today after a "short break" from a meeting of the Council of the EU.  

That meeting lasted long after midnight. The PM and the Human Rights Minister met at 7:30 AM.

čon, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Anna Šabatová, Jiří Dienstbier, Ombud, Diskriminace



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