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June 22, 2021

 

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Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner tells ROMEA TV ombudsman is wrong to say Roma not involved with Strategy, removal of his deputy from councils makes no sense

22.1.2021 10:05
Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková (left), Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (center) and Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková (right) (Collage: Romea.cz)
Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková (left), Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (center) and Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková (right) (Collage: Romea.cz)

Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková (ANO) has said it was a very unpleasant surprise to hear of the approach taken by Czech Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman) Stanislav Křeček toward criticizing the Government's draft Roma Strategy and that the ombudsman's reproach that Romani representatives were allegedly uninvolved in drafting the document are untrue. The ombudsman's decision to remove Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková from representing the office at the advisory bodies to the Government on human rights is also a decision that the Government Human Rights Commissioner does not understand.

Válková gave her opinions in an exclusive interview with ROMEA TV. "I perceived with great dislike and unpleasant surprise the way in which Stanislav Křeček has proceeded with respect to his critique of a material that is not final and is undergoing a commenting procedure," she told ROMEA TV, adding that she had expected the ombudsman would call her by phone to directly communicate any reservations instead of communicating them through the media.

In the Commissioner's view, the ombudsman has made untruthful statements in his official comments, because nonprofit organizations and Romani people themselves have collaborated on drafting the Roma Strategy as never before. "I had two [Romani] advisors, Edita Stejskalová and Dr Kaleja," she told ROMEA TV.

"Members of RomanoNet and others who wanted to be involved also worked on the Strategy. It is not at all true that they did not participate in it," said the Commissioner.

"Maybe their participation is exactly why this material seems so revolutionary and vigorous to some ministries, and obviously to the Public Defender of Rights as well," she said. It is one week since Křeček posted to the website of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights that the draft Roma Strategy is "unfeasible and was put together without any knowledge of the subject matter".

In his official comments the ombudsman also made the allegation, among other matters, that some Romani people have problems securing housing not because they are being discriminated against, but because "they destroy housing stock and transform parts of municipalities into excluded localities". He also said the Strategy does not involve Romani people in solving anything.

Deputy Public Defender of Rights Šimůnková has since informed the Czech News Agency that when she expressed her own disagreement with the ombudsman's official comments directly to him, he removed her from representing the institution on three advisory bodies to the Government. "[The removal of Šimůnková] evokes the strange sense of having been done as revenge for her having expressed her opinions," the Government Human Rights Commissioner told ROMEA TV. 

"That certainly should not be normal behavior, standard behavior, among representatives of these defenders of human rights, who are each independently elected by the Chamber of Deputies. They should be setting an example," she said.   

Commissioner Válková did point out, however, that the ombudsman does hve the right to choose who will represent the office; she said Šimůnková had always come to meetings of the advisory bodies well-prepared. "In any event I don't understand it," Válková said of the ombudsman having dismissed his deputy from the three councils.

Šimůnková announced she has been dismissed from the Government Council for Human Rights, the Government Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, and the Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. According to the statutes of both the Government Council for Human Rights and the Government Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, the Public Defender of Rights is expressly meant to be an institutional member of those advisory bodies.

Křeček's name is in fact listed among the members of the Government Council for Human Rights on the Government's website. Šimůnková's name is listed among the institutional members of the Government Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, however.

According to the statutes for the Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, the Office of the Public Defender of Rights appoints a representative to be an institutional member of that advisory body. The chair of the Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs is currently Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), who appoints or dismisses that institutional member based on the ombudsman's recommendation. 
 

ryz, sam, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Helena Válková, Monika Šimůnková, Ombud, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny



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