Czech Senate adopts resolution condemning the Public Defender of Rights for repeatedly making biased, xenophobic remarks
Today the Czech Senate adopted a resolution sharply condemning the xenophobic remarks of the Czech Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman), Stanislav Křeček, in addition to approving the "Summary Report on the Activities of the Public Defender of Rights for 2021". The Senate has therefore officially criticized Křeček for his remarks about minorities and refugees.
The upper house also called on Křeček to act consistently in accordance with his oath to impartially, independently perform the role of ombudsman. Ahead of the adoption of the resolution, Křeček criticized it and called it an attempt to limit his freedom of speech.
The decision passed with 25 votes from the 45 senators present, 17 abstentions and three votes against. "The Public Defender of Rights has, in public, long repeatedly made remarks that are biased and xenophobic that could, as a consequence, deter discrimination victims from seeking aid within the scope of the office of the Public Defender of Rights," the resolution reads.
"Numerous remarks by the Public Defender of Rights, as well as his behavior while executing his office, have become the subject of controversies among the public and of strong criticism by human rights defenders and institutions," the resolution further states. It was initiated by Czech Senator Adéla Šípová (Pirates) and today was read in the chamber by the chair of the club of the Pirates and Senator 21 party in the Senate, Václav Láska.
Senator Láska said that Křeček's opinions are incompatible and inconsistent with the mission of the authority of the ombudsman. "The Facebook page of the ombudsman is full of biased, hateful status updates, verging on racism, against minorities, be they sexual minorities or minority nationalities. The ombudsman is right that we each have the right to our own opinions. If he holds opinions of this kind, then he can present them, but he is also the representative of an authority. That involves some kind of responsibility. If he holds the kinds of opinions that are absolutely incompatible and inconsistent with the mission of that office, then he should at least have enough respect for the position to keep quiet about them. At least during his term in office," Senator Láska said.
Křeček's remarks have been criticized by the European Commission, which was contacted about them in February 2021 by 14 nonprofit organizations and several individuals. "Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček, through his repeated public remarks about minorities, especially about Romani women and men, deters potential victims of racial discrimination from filing official complaints with this body for equal treatment," wrote the organizations, adding that the fulfillment of the aims pursued by the EU's Anti-Racism Directive is endangered by this fact.
The European Commission agreed with civil society. "We share your opinion that the repeatedly discriminatory remarks by Stanislav Křeček spark quite serious concerns. For that reason, the Commission has decided to immediately respond and to discuss this matter with him/the newly-appointed relevant Czech authorities," representatives of the European Commission stated in their answer to the civil society letter at the beginning of 2022.
Despite this fact, Křeček alleged incorrectly during his remarks today in the Czech Senate that no complaint had ever been filed against him with the European Commission. He also asserted that "reality" cannot be ignored even if it is "shameful and unpleasant".
"If an independent Public Defender of Rights were to not have the opportunity to communicate what the citizens see around them on a daily basis withouth being criticized by the members of the legislature, then the level of our democracy would be even worse than many citizens believe," Křeček said. "Opinions can differ, but nobody can say I am not telling the truth."
Křeček rejected the concern that his remarks could deter discrimination victims from contacting the authority he runs. He said that along with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Audit Office, the Office of the Public Defender of Rights is one of the top three institutions trusted by more than half of the inhabitants of the country.
Senators criticized Křeček's statement from January, according to which some Romani people have problems with housing not just because of discrimination, but because they allegedly "destroy the housing stock and transform parts of communities into excluded localities." He also attracted attention for his reaction to remarks made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to whom Ukrainians will be dying because NATO is weak.
"We're aiding as we are able, to the detriment of our own citizens, but we're still supposed to allow ourselves to be insulted?" Křeček posted to social media. After being criticized for that comment, he deleted the post.
The ombudsman has been backed publicly just by Senator Petr Vícha (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who has argued in his favor by giving examples from his experiences as the mayor of Bohumín. On the other hand, the Vice-President of the Senate, Jitka Seitlová (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL), has been pointing out that the European Commission asked Křeček to explain his remarks about Romani people.
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