A bitter dispute erupted last week between President Vaclav Klaus and the Senate, over the appointment of new members of the Constitutional Court. Three out of four candidates nominated by President Klaus were rejected by the Senate in voting on Wednesday, something that prompted severe criticism from the President's Office. Among the three unsuccessful candidates was the human rights lawyer Klara Vesela-Samkova, best known for her work defending members of the country's Roma minority. Rob Cameron has been speaking to Mrs Vesela-Samkova, and has this report.
Klara Vesela-Samkova is well known in the Czech Republic, thanks to her human rights advocacy and her outspoken views on the treatment of the Roma. For many people President Klaus's decision to nominate someone with such controversial opinions came as a surprise. That's not how she sees it.
"I do not agree with Mr Klaus 100 percent in his opinions, and of course vice versa. But what is - according to me, and I suppose according to him as well - most important, is that we're capable of discussing our opinions but aren't ready to change those opinions simply because someone wants us to. This stability of opinions, and I would say the consistency of personality, was the main reason why Mr President appointed me - or rather nominated me - to this function."
Klara Vesela-Samkova believes there are a number of reasons why the Senate chose not to reject her candidacy. She mentioned the deep personal animosity between some members of the Senate and the President, although she also believes President Klaus underestimated that mood of hostility when he submitted his nominations. But added to that, she says, many senators were swayed by what she said was a campaign against her in the media, and in particular criticism from the mayor of Usti nad Labem, who was said to be furious when she won almost a million crowns in compensation for a local Romany family at the European Court of Human Rights.
But whatever the reasons for the Senate's rejection of her nomination, Klara Vesela-Samkova says she's determined to fight on.
"Look, of course I was quite disappointed by the Senate's decision - or rather the reasons why the Senate voted the way they voted. On the other hand, I was very encouraged by the reaction of plenty of my clients, who were terribly happy not to lose their attorney! But as I said in my final speech [to the senators] - we shall see each other, for sure."
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