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Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

Václav Havel

“Without dreaming of a better Europe we shall never build a better Europe.”
Václav Havel, before the Parliamentary Assembly.
Strasbourg, May 1990

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.The prize’s laureate is selected, on the basis of nomination, by a seven-member international jury headed by the president of the Parliamentary Assembly. The rules for nomination are here.

The first meeting of the jury took place at the Václav Havel Library on 28 August, where the jury have selected and announced the names of the three finalists. The laureate of the 2018 prize will be selected at the jury’s second meeting, which will take place in Strasbourg. The winner’s name will then be announced at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 8 October.

On Wednesday 10 October 2018 an international conference in honour of the laureate of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize will take place at the Prague Crossroads. This year’s conference is entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Evil. Alongside the three finalists it will be attended by numerous other interesting guests. 

The conference is followed by the gala concert held in connection of the Václav Havel Prize is also an expression of respect to those who have faced or are today forced to face injustice of any kind. The works of Bohuslav Martinů, Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein and other composers persecuted by the Nazi or communist regimes will be performed by leading interpreters. During part of the concert the stage and audience in Prague will be connected to Bratislava via high-speed internet. 

The concert will take place in cooperation with the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and the CESNET association. 

More information and a provisional programme can be found here.

Previous Laureates of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

  • 2017 Murat Arslan (Turkey), in detention since 2016, is a well-known and reputed judge. President of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), he has always been a supporter of the independence of the judiciary. 
  • 2016 Nadia Murad (Iraq) A young, brave Yazidi woman, who managed to flee ISIS in northern Iraq. Today a human rights activist, she brings the plight of the Yazidi community, in particular the forced sexual enslavement and human trafficking of women and children captured by ISIS, to the forefront of international attention.   
  • 2015 Lyudmila Aexeyeva (Russia) is a veteran human rights defender in her native Russia. In her youth, she gave up a promising academic career to join the Soviet dissident movement, going on to become a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Forced to emigrate to the US in 1977, she returned to Russia in 1989 to continue her work, becoming President of the International Helsinki Foundation and later joining the Russian President’s Commission on Human Rights. She has worked relentlessly for the protection and promotion of the rule of law.
  • 2014 Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan) is a renowned Azerbaijani human rights defender who has made a marked contribution to the respect of human rights and free elections in his region. He is founder and chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), which since 2001 has monitored votes in Azerbaijan. In December 2013, Anar Mammadli was charged with “abuse of office” and in May 2014 was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. 
  • 2013 Ales Bialiatski (Belarus) From the start of the 1980s, Ales Bialiatski, a young Belarusian writer and graduate of the Gomel University Faculty of History and Philology, joined the national democratic movement. While the world was still divided by the Iron Curtain, he became a founding member of the Belarusian Popular Front. Helping to create a young writers’ association that he chaired for several years, Ales went on to join the Belarusian Writers’ Union. Later, he organised the first demonstrations against totalitarianism.This commitment led to his imprisonment in 1988, marking the start of a long series of arrests and harassment. In 1996, in the face of the increasing repression of the Lukachenko regime, Ales Bialiatski created the Human Rights Centre Viasna. In 2007, just three years after joining International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Ales Bialiatski was elected its Vice-President, the first representative of the former Soviet countries to be elected to the FIDH International Board.

Archive of the Prize

Diary entry for 22. April 2005, To the Castle and Back

„To tell you the truth, it’s not just Americans and other foreigners who think of me as a kind of fairy-tale prince or at least as the main character in a fairy tale; I too am often aware of something utterly unbelievable in my own destiny. And I’m less and less able to understand that destiny; at times I even see myself as a minor freak of history.“

Václav Havel:
Diary entry for 22. April 2005, To the Castle and Back, 2006

The unbearable lightness of evilVáclav Havel’s Prague