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October 25, 2020

 

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Volunteer civil society member of Czech Govt Council on Roma Affairs resigns over Human Rights Commissioner affair

20.1.2020 18:39
Renata Köttnerová (PHOTO: Repro Youtube.com)
Renata Köttnerová (PHOTO: Repro Youtube.com)

Renata Köttnerová, the longtime Olomouc Regional Coordinator for National Minorities and Romani Affairs, has resigned from the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs (RVZRM). Last week news server Romea.cz asked all the civil society members there what their view was of Helena Válková remaining in office as the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner.

Today news server Romea.cz received Köttnerová's standpoint and the information that she is resigning because of Válková. News sever Romea.cz is publishing her statement here in full.

Statement of Renata Köttnerová on Helena Válková

I apologize for not answering sooner, but I first had to clarify for myself why I am unable to continue to serve as a civil society member on the RVZRM.

I have been influenced less by the articles in the media and more by Professor Válková's statement about her nomination for the position of Public Defender of Rights, in which she said she considered it to have been an error to have joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) and hoped the President would not be angry if she recused herself from that nomination.

She and I are very close in age, and I can comprehend that some people who were highly motivated to succeed joined the KSČ. Her loss of memory [Translator's Note: Válková said she had not been aware in the late 1970s that a co-author of an article of hers had been a prosecutor who oversaw show trials resulting in executions in the 1950s] seemed rather childish to me. We were high school students at the same time, and in the year 1968 the 1950s were being much reviewed by the public, including the political show trials, and the small book by Artur London, Doznání ("The Confession", published in English as On Trial) came out and everybody was sharing it with each other.

I have been a caseworker with adults since 1977, and I had the opportunity to follow how protective surveillance [Translator's Note: The topic of the article co-authored with the former prosecutor] was conducted, just as I have memories of the research and studies on the "cikánský population", although I do not, naturally, recall the name of Ms Válková. On the other hand, I had the opportunity as of 1978 to frequently meet with Ms Milena Hübschmannová, and for that reason I did not one-sidedly accept the conclusions of different scientific essays, and I also reflected on the historical context of all this.

What is essential to deciding why Professor Válková is not, in my view, a good choice for Human Rights Commissioner are the following points:

1. The Human Rights Commissioner has repeatedly emphasized that she has always taken an interest in human rights, but on the other hand has said the position of Human Rights Commissioner seemed unnecessary to her: "All ministries supervise compliance with human rights. As minister I frequently saw that this is an absolutely useless function," she told Czech Radio. I hope that her words were not taken out of context or distorted somehow, and if they were, then I apologize.

2. Her justification for her decision not to strip MP Rozner of immunity [Translator's Note: for his remarks calling a concentration camp for Romani people a "pseudo-concentration camp"], in which she assessed his possible criminal prosecution as an abuse of legal means for political purposes.

I am convinced that the position of Human Rights Commissioner requires a high degree of sensitivity to human rights, maybe even a higher degree than the role of the Public Defender of Rights, which is anchored in legislation and has clearly defined competences.

On a human level, I greatly regret that Professor Válková has to live through this difficult time. Nevertheless, I am unable to comprehend why she is clinging to these other posts so tenaciously when she is able to apply her expert knowledge as an MP and when teaching students.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Helena Válková, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny, Výroky



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