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May 27, 2022



Czech NGO director tells ombudsman he should resign for refusing to acknowledge discrimination against Roma

22.2.2021 6:44
Marta Smolíková (PHOTO: Mezipatra)
Marta Smolíková (PHOTO: Mezipatra)

According to the director of the Open Society (Otevřená společnost) organization, Marta Smolíková, the Czech Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman), Stanislav Křeček, should resign for refusing to acknowledge the existence of discrimination against Romani people. She told him so on a program broadcast by the Proglas 13+ radio station. 

An open letter signed by representatives of organizations that promote human rights, people facing adversity and the Romani minority called on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and members of the lower house to distance themselves from the anti-Romani remarks made by the ombudsman and was raised as a topic of discussion. "During the 30 years that we have been doing the integration of Roma, nothing has changed. The situation keeps getting worse - more Romani children dropping out of school, many not preparing themselves for future employment, unemployment growing, excluded localities increasing. However, when I critically mention that we must not continue this, that we have to change the situation, it's considered an anti-Romani attack. That is an example of where the discourse on the integration of Romani people finds itself at this time," the ombudsman said when asked to comment on the open letter.   

"The ombudsman is denying the causes that lead some Romani people into difficult situations. Those include their poor access to education, poor access to housing, poor access to health care services - which is associated with the stereotypes about Romani people wrecking apartments, being lazy, not wanting to learn. If those are perpetuated, then even a person who has no personal experience of Romani people will see them through that lens," Smolíková argued.    

During the excited discussion, the director of the Open Society organization called on the ombudsman to resign. "If you refuse to acknowledge even the existence of discrimination agains Romani people, if you think that is not what is happening in this country, then I believe you have no business being in office and you should resign, because your opinions do not align with the mission of that office, it's like the director of a firm saying he would never use his own products because they're bad," she said. 

Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková has also said she disagrees with the opinion recently expressed by the ombudsman of the Government's draft Roma Strategy. A month ago she announced that the ombudsman had removed her from three Government councils where she had been representing the office.  

Křeček responded by saying that he had never removed his deputy from the councils because she had never been assigned to them and that by law he is a member of them. News server then published documentation showing that is not true, at least with respect to the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, where the strategy is being drafted.

lav, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Diskriminace, Ombud, Otevřená společnost, Romani people


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