Tomáš Ščuka: Czech ombudsman's opinions just confirm his incompetence
Most of us have certainly noticed some of the pearls of wisdom recently expressed by the Czech Public Defender of Rights, Stanislav Křeček. He already experienced loud disagreement from the public arena over his very selection for this position.
Doubts have predominated about Křeček's insufficient legal expertise in the area of human rights, as well as objections to his publicly-known, stereotyping opinions of Romani people. The defense of human rights generally should be a basic legal guarantee of any democratic state at this time, when our virtual social space can be used for discussion, for the exchange of opinions, or for launching massive hoaxes.
Significant differences on these questions are arising across the European Union, as the human rights approaches taken by the Member States are very different from one another. Currently, upholding the concept of equality in society functions best in the western countries.
However, there are also EU countries that still to this day have not dealt properly with the disorder created by their communist pasts. Unfortunately, I must include the Czech Republic among them, as in many respects some precepts and principles of law concerning human rights are still absolutely foreign here!
The Chamber of Deputies, as a top body of this democracy, is having difficulty explaining to the people its choice of Křeček to head the Office of the Public Defender of Rights. We have many erudite legal experts who enjoy public respect who could have been chosen instead.
Now we have at the head of this office a person whose opinions on human rights subjects degrade the institution itself. Mr Křeček, the work of the Public Defender of Rights does not concern just the Romani minority, whom you yourself, in your declarations, bring up and describe only as a problem!
The protection of citizens' rights by the Public Defender of Rights is part of the public image of our society. That goes especially for upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms flowing from the national and supranational documents guaranteeing the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of their differences.
Any tendencies to divide society are dangerous and have no business being part of the working agenda of the Public Defender of Rights. Mr Křeček, when you speak of the deteriorating situation of Romani people in all the countries of Europe where Roma live, that is an untrue claim.
The situation with Romani people remains the same just in those countries where the Government lacks the political will to actually change the status quo. Politicians' antigypsyist attitudes are much easier for them to exploit during their work than it is for them to display bravery and actively address the integration of Romani people as a problem of all of society!
Such cowardice is the main barrier and reason why progress is not being made in these matters. Many Romani people who emigrated away from these countries (where they experienced inequality) in the 1990s to the countries of Western Europe are leading decent lives there.
The children of these Romani emigrés are thriving in the schools in these countries, where they are included in mainstream education. That is why the ombudsman's generalization that Romani people are a "problem" anywhere they live is not just an untrue statement, it is also evidence of his incompetence.
Mr Křeček, your other public statements have also first prompt reactions of amusement, followed by sad astonishment. You recommend Romani people "address their affairs themselves", for example.
Does that mean we Roma are not lawful citizens of the Czech Republic? The Constitution, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, democratic institutions such as the guarantee of equal rights to all citizens - do these not apply to Romani people?
In the same vein, it is not possible to claim that the status quo is in order here just on the basis of the low number of complaints or motions filed about discrimination. Might not that low number of complaints also reflect citizens' deficient educations in citizenship and the law?
In recent days, information has been published about the growing discrimination against Romani people on the housing market. Prospective Romani tenants who meet all the [lawful] requirements of property owners and the real estate agents they hire are refused rentals just on the basis of their origin.
Will you, as the Public Defender of Rights, actively address this growing unequal treatment of this particular group of citizens? Or will you again publicly state your mistaken belief that a landlord has the right to choose whomever he or she wants as a tenant, even if that involves a rejection on the basis of ethnicity?
A passive approach to this matter just supports these rejected citizens continuing to live in undignified conditions, and the limits on them fulfilling their obligations, as you so frequently call on them to do, flow from their living in such circumstances. Let's not forget that there is no doubt that access to dignified housing is also one of their human rights.
First published in the newspaper Romano hangos.
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