Kateřina Šimáčková: Smile at everyone

22. 5. 2024

Judge Kateřina Šimáčková of the European Court of Human Rights has a strong sense of justice. Service to others is her driving force in life and hope is the certainty that her efforts are worthwhile.


What makes your life better?
"I have found that the best cure for negative emotions is when you think more about others than yourself. This doesn't mean to sacrifice and suffer at it; it is possible to live your life as a service and be useful while feeling true contentment. I like a Buddhist rule: Sentient beings are innumerable; we vow to save them all. This is for me the ideal of humanity and the practical challenge of life."


Where do you draw strength for your work?
"I draw strength from this life's work - serving others. In addition, I find my work, in which I see an important purpose - to preserve a functioning social order while thinking about each individual - incredibly fun and interesting, and it is a guarantee that you will never burn out. I like the idea that hope is not the belief that something will turn out well, but the certainty that my efforts are worthwhile - no matter how it turns out."


What kind of women in your environment do you admire? Which ones are an inspiration to you?
"I admire the life story, character and courage of Anna Šabatová and Eliska Wagner; their dedication to the protection of human rights and their deep knowledge in this field. They have also inspired me to work closely with young people. Anna Šabatová has nurtured a strong generation of female lawyers in the Office of the Ombudsman, and Eliska Wagner has influenced many of her younger colleagues at the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. We older ones should learn from those whose future we are deciding today. I am inspired by women lawyers who are younger than I am, but who are great in their work, their other activities and their lives; to name but a few, Barbara Havelková, Veronika Bílková, Pavla Špondrová, Eva Petrova, Zuzana Vikarska, Hana Lupačová, Barbara Antonovičová, Vera Honusková and the whole community formed around Men's Law."


You are primarily concerned with women's equality. What specifically is the most pressing issue right now? And what do you feel hopeful about?
"I'm currently working on the second volume of the book Men's Law, which is a group work that shows through individual situations and stories how social rules and stereotypes from the patriarchy influence the creation of law that does not take into account the needs of women, children, vulnerable people, but also men who do not want to conform to patriarchal models and expectations in their lives. The most important thing is to talk about their concerns and problems, to seek creative solutions, to try to understand each other. Just as on climate protection issues, I trust the rising generations. I feel that they are acknowledging their own vulnerability and their real needs and, as a result, have a greater understanding of others and their wishes."


What do you think is an essential characteristic of justice? It's a big word, but can it always be found?
"For me, justice is more of an ideal that we are working towards and is not fully achievable through law. Is it just that one child is born into a loving family living in a peaceful and wealthy part of the world, and another child is an abandoned orphan in a poor, war-torn country? The law is limited in its ability to bring about real social justice, but the daily task of every lawyer should be to prevent injustice.
It's like the truth - you help the truth most by not lying and exposing lies."


How would you describe Janja's work?
"I first noticed Janja's work in 2012 when she created a collection of fox jewellery. I appreciated her ability to capture the animal form, to connect their strength and vulnerability, and to make people aware that we have a responsibility for foxes, other animals and nature. For me, Janja's jewelry carries the message of this human responsibility; they are talismans that give us the power of nature and remind us of our mission."

What are you doing right now that gives you unadulterated joy?
"I'm a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, I spend my days doing what I've actually been preparing for all my life, and I'm surrounded by wonderful people who have the protection of human rights as a central theme in their lives as I do. I also appreciate that I inspire many women in their efforts. Moreover, my work has brought me to France, and so I am learning from the French the everyday joys of life. To buy good fruits and vegetables at the market and cook them yourself, to smile at every person you meet, to watch the storks nest, the bushes bloom and the swans swim in the Orangerie park. It's a few minutes that create a completely different atmosphere of the day."