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April 1, 2020
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Outgoing Czech Public Defender of Rights says her former deputy is not a good choice to succeed her

16.1.2020 8:09
Anna Šabatová, Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic (2018). (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)
Anna Šabatová, Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic (2018). (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

Czech Public Defender of Rights Anna Šabatová does not consider the possible candidacy of 81-year-old Stanislav Křeček for the ombudsman role to be a good idea. She considers the other two candidates nominated by the Senate, the attorney Jan Matys and Vít Alexander Schorm, who currently represents the Czech Government before the European Court of Human Rights, to be both equally appropriate for the job.

Šabatová gave her assessment to journalists after the close of a press conference yesterday. Her time in office ends next month.

"This year the unusual situation has arisen of the candidacy for one nominee being withdrawn, but I do consider the other aspirants to be possible contenders, I do not have any information about their being associated with any political party or that there would be anything in their pasts that would disqualify them from performing this job," she said. Křeček, who has aspired to the ombudsman role since 2014, will be nominated by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

The speaker of the Czech Senate, Jaroslav Kubera (Civic Democratic Party - ODS), announced that news on Tuesday after meeting with Zeman. "I do not consider that a good choice," Šabatová said when asked for her opinion.

The ombudswoman said she would not be commenting further on her former deputy's candidacy. Křeček served in that role until last year and the two of them repeatedly disagreed about various issues.

In 2014, in the much-covered case of a student told by a school that she was not allowed to wear her hijab while on the premises, Křeček disagreed with the ombudswoman's official stance. While Šabatová said the school had indirectly discriminated against the girl because wearing a head scarf was a display of her religion, Křeček said he believed the school had the right to determine the appearance of pupils during instruction.

The President and the Senate are each allowed to nominate two candidates for the Public Defender of Rights job. Zeman had so far just nominated Czech MP Helena Válková, who is also the current Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner and a former Justice Minister.

Válková declined the nomination after it came to light that in the late 1970s she had co-authored a criminological journal article with former communist prosecutor Josef Urválek, who prosecuted the show trials of Milada Horáková and Rudolf Slánský in the 1950s, both of whom were subsequently executed. In December the President sent a letter to the lower house explaining that his choice of a second candidate had declined the nomination.

The Senate has nominated the attorney Jan Matys and Vít Alexander Schorm, who currently represents the Czech Government before the European Court of Human Rights, as its candidates for the Public Defender of Rights job. According to Kubera's statement on Tuesday, their candidacies remain valid.

MPs with the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), which is in the coalition Government, will be meeting to discuss which candidate to support for the Public Defender of Rights position. They will definitively decide after meeting with each candidate, which is likely to happen soon.

Jan Hamáček, chair of the Social Democrats, informed the Czech News Agency (ČTK) that the party had decided to take that approach. He also said he respected the nomination of Křeček.

"He will be one of the candidates about whom the Chamber of Deputies will be voting," the Social Democratic chair said. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) responded to a ČTK question about that candidate by stating that Zeman has the right to nominate Křeček.

Šabatová's term ends on 18 February. The lower house will vote on the new Public Defender of Rights by 12 February at the earliest, according to the chair of the commission on such votes by the Chamber of Deputies, Czech MP Martin Kolovratník (ANO).

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Ombudsman, Poslanecká sněmovna, Senát, Zeman



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