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Czech organization Million Moments for Democracy calls on Public Defender of Rights to resign

Czech public defender of rights Stanislav Křeček on June 24, 2022 in the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Senát PČR)

The “Million Moments for Democracy” movement in the Czech Republic (Milion chvilek pro demokracii), as well as other non-profit movements and organisations, called on Stanislav Křeček to resign from his position as Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman). In an open letter published yesterday, the movement writes that through his actions and speech, Křeček has repeatedly shown himself unable to ensure equal treatment of citizens before the law in practice and does not even attempt actively to do so.

The open letter was sent to the Czech News Agency (ČTK) together with a press release. The mediator made a statement to ČTK saying that he has not yet read the appeal for his resignation, that he does not think it is useful to specifically address his criticisms and that similar appeals only unnecessarily divide society.

“You have long publicly downplayed discrimination based on ethnicity, expressed yourself in xenophobic terms, relativized human rights and thus denied the purpose of the authority you lead. After a very short term, you have also demonstrated that you prioritize your personal impressions over a thorough investigation of the cases, which has caused dissatisfaction with representatives of the legal community in particular,” the movement said in an open letter signed by representatives of the organizations. Zivot 90 (Life 90), Sdružení pro integraci a migraci (Association for Integration and Migration), Nesehnuti (Independent Social and Environmental Movement), Liga lidských práv (League of Human Rights), the Denik Referendum media, and the Prague Pride Festival and the LGBT+ Community Center.

Křeček’s actions both as a Public Defender of Rights and previously as a Deputy Public Defender of Rights were met with criticism from part of the public and many human rights-oriented experts. Křeček refuses to acknowledge the criticism.

His statement in January 2021 that some Roma have problems finding housing not because of discrimination, but because “they are destroying the housing stock and turning these parts of municipalities into excluded localities” was criticized. The Czech Senate also criticized him recently, passing a resolution condemning his remarks towards minorities and refugees and calling them harmful and xenophobic, which narrowly passed with the votes of 25 of the 45 lawmakers present.

The Senate also asked Křeček to always do his job in accordance with his oath to serve as an impartial and independent mediator. The European Commission has also asked him to explain himself.

“It is impossible to equate the work of the ombudsman exclusively with the field of equal treatment. Most often, people turn to me for protection against the behavior of authorities and other institutions. I would like to emphasize that the Public Defender of Rights, in our country, does not fulfill the role of a human rights institution at the national level, although many people mistakenly believe that it does,” said the ombudsman .

Křeček also pointed out that the Czech Republic has not yet established an institution for the general protection and promotion of human rights (a national human rights institution), just as it does not has not yet set up an ombudsman for children. The authors of the Million Moments open letter also mentioned the ongoing dispute between Křeček and Deputy Public Rights Defender Monika Šimůnková, that he stopped working on the agenda previously assigned to him, an issue that has been examined by the Committee on Petitions in the Chamber of Deputies.

The committee, however, chose not to take sides in this dispute. “The height of your unacceptable behavior was to remove the entire work schedule of Deputy Public Defender of Rights and former Commissioner for Human Rights Monika Šimůnková. You did this after the Senate asked you to stop making public, racist and xenophobic remarks and to respect the position of the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, who was independently elected by the Chamber of Deputies,” the movement said in its open letter.

“Given the results of the committee’s deliberations, it is clear that the legislators consider the information I provided to be serious and that they do not question my decision after my explanation. The fact that I do not wish addressing the internal affairs of the office in public or even in the media does not mean that the change in the organization of the agenda was just an arbitrary decision,” the ombudsman has since said.

Call for the resignation of mediator Stanislav Křeček

Ombudsman Křeček,

Over the past few days, you have once again demonstrated to us citizens that you do not represent the Office of the Public Defender of Rights with dignity and suitability. By your actions and speeches, you have repeatedly shown yourself incapable of ensuring equal treatment of citizens before the law and you are not even actively trying to do so. You do not tolerate different opinions and therefore you are not an impartial public defender of rights.

Why do we think this? You have long publicly belittled discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, expressed yourself in xenophobic terms, relativized human rights and thus denied the purpose of the authority you lead. After a very short tenure, you have also demonstrated that you prioritize your personal impressions over a thorough investigation of cases, which has caused discontent among representatives of the legal community in particular. Your election as Public Defender of Rights two years ago was strongly criticized by civil society and various organisations.

We are of the opinion that a person who repeatedly shows that he is not an impartial defender of the human rights of all, regardless of differences, cannot in principle represent this authority whose purpose is to assure the public that equal rights are respected in practice and to help those who cannot help themselves. The height of your unacceptable behavior was to suppress the entire work agenda of Deputy Public Defender of Rights and former Commissioner for Human Rights Monika Šimůnková. You did this after the Senate asked you to stop making your public racist and xenophobic remarks and to respect the position of the deputy public defender of rights, elected independently by the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, according to Monika Šimůnková, you have behaved towards her disrespectfully, almost brutally, for more than two years now. By removing the Deputy Public Defender of Rights from the agenda after having entrusted it, you have broken a 22-year-old tradition that governed the way in which these two officials divided the authority of this function.

Through your activities, you have demonstrated for a long time that your attitudes and behaviors are absolutely incompatible with the exercise of the function of public defender of rights. For all these reasons, we ask you to resign.

The Office of the Public Defender of Rights is essential in upholding the principles of the democratic rule of law. As representatives of civil society, we can no longer watch you continue to discredit this office for the next four years. We need an ombudsman who will carry out his duties in a dignified, empathetic, non-discriminatory and appropriate manner.

Hana Strašáková, Spokesperson, Million shvilek, zs
Jaroslav Lorman, director, Zivot 90
Magda Faltová, director, Sdružení pro integraci a migraci, ops

Nezávislé sociálně ekologické hnutí – NESEHNUTÍ
Msgr. Anna Štefanidesová, legal representative, Liga lidských práv
Tom Bílý, Director, Prague Pride Festival and LGBT+ Community Center
Jakub Patočka, editor-in-chief, Denik Referendum
Zuzana Vlasata, President, Centrum pro media, ekologii a demokracii
Michal Pitoňák, President, Queer Geography, zs
Radek Kubala, member of the organization Reset: platforma pro sociálně-ekologickou transformaci