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December 2, 2020

 

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Czech Social Democratic Party has new candidate for President to nominate as ombudswoman after his first choice declines due to pressure over her past

13.1.2020 19:20
Kateřina Valachová (left) and Helena Válková (right). (Collage: Romea.cz)
Kateřina Valachová (left) and Helena Válková (right). (Collage: Romea.cz)

Former Czech Justice Minister and current Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) has declined to be nominated for the position of ombudswoman (the Public Defender of Rights) after being criticized for an article she co-authored at the close of the 1970s with an infamous communist prosecutor, Josef Urválek. The chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), First Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček, has said he is prepared to recommend that Czech President Miloš Zeman nominate Czech MP Kateřina Valachová (ČSSD) as his candidate for ombudswoman instead.

Válková said she will decline to be nominated for the Public Defender of Rights post, but just because she was once a member of the Communist Party during totalitarianism. "That is the only thing that I acknowledge may have been a stain on my reputation, not my professional work," she said.

As for the criticized article co-authored with Urválek, who among other matters prosecuted the lawyer and politician Milada Horáková (who was then sentenced to death and executed in 1950), Válková said she stands by the professional work she did in the 1970s as a legal analyst. The current ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, will end her six-year term in office in February.

By law, the Public Defender of Rights is chosen by the Chamber of Deputies from among candidates proposed by the President and the Senate. The upper chamber of Parliament has nominated two candidates, the attorney Jan Matys and Vít Alexander Schorm, who currently represents the Czech Government before the European Court of Human Rights.

Zeman has said that he appreciates Válková's decision not accept the nomination for the ombudswoman post. In an interview for the tabloid news server Blesk.cz, the Czech President said he sees no reason to withdraw the nomination since Válková has herself declined it, so the Chamber of Deputies has nothing to vote on.

He did not want to comment on whether she should also be dismissed from the post of Human Rights Commissioner. Zeman also said that he could nominate Valachová for the ombudswoman post instead.

Valachová has said she considers the office very important to justice and law enforcement. "Among other matters, for that reason I believe it is necessary - also with respect to the Senate nominations - for the choice of nominees to be completed. In the event of an unsuccessful vote, I would consult my eventual candidacy for the post of ombudsman with the President," Valachová tweeted.

"I will tell the Prime Minister my opinion," the First Deputy Prime Minister (ČSSD) told the media. "If Ms Válková were to continue in this job, then from my perspective she would be dedicating more time to defending her actions than to running the office."

According to the First Deputy Prime Minister, that could complicate the operations of the entire agenda of the Human Rights Council. "Nevertheless, the ANO movement has the majority (in Government), so if the Prime Minister decides to keep Ms Válková in office, the Social Democrats do not have the votes to remove her," he added.

Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (ČSSD) told journalists when arriving for a cabinet session today that he would be debating attitudes towards Válková remaining Human Rights Commissioner with his colleagues. "It appears to me that the way Ms Válková has presented her arguments de facto disqualifies her from a political function," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček (for ANO) told journalists that to date nobody has been bothered by Válková serving as Human Rights Commissioner. "In other words, I do not see any absolute reason why she should step down at this moment," he said.

"If there will be a broader coalition consensus on removing her, or mainly, if she decides to resign on her own, then it will naturally be up to her," Havlíček said. The Chamber of Deputies will vote on a new Public Defender of Rights next month, by 12 February at the earliest.

Proposals for candidates theoretically could change between now and the close of January, the chair of the commission on such votes by the lower house, Czech MP Martin Kolovratník (ANO), said. The vote for the new ombudsman will happen in two rounds.

If there is a second round, that could happen in February, but it is more likely to happen during the Chamber of Deputies' March session. If neither candidate were to be chosen during the second round, it would be repeated.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Helena Válková, human rights, Miloš Zeman, officials



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