The Václav Havel award for human rights has been established in Prague in memory of the late Czech president, dissident playwright and human rights advocate. The prize, which will reward activities in defence of human rights around the world, will be first handed out this autumn by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe along with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation.
The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Mignon, the head of the Václav Havel Library, Marta Smolíková, and chair of the Charter 77 Foundation František Janouch signed an agreement on founding the international Václav Havel award for human rights in Prague on Monday.
The prize will be awarded by a jury consisting of the president of the assembly and six independent personalities with expertise in human rights issues. The laureates – individuals or non-governmental organizations – will be chosen from around the world, says the assembly’s president, Jean-Claude Mignon.
“The candidates for the awards will be chosen from around the world, not just from the countries represented in the Council of Europe. Human rights have universal values and so the award will be universal as well and won’t be limited to the 47 member states of the Parliamentary Assembly.”
The Václav Havel award for human rights will be handed out at a session of the parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg each October. The head of the Václav Havel Library, Marta Smolíková, explains what role her institution will play in the process.
“We will organize the first session which will take place in the summer in Prague, and which will select three candidates for the award. After the winner is announced in Strasbourg, we will organize a conference in honour of the winner of the Václav Havel award to focus on the issues related to the human rights agenda.”
Václav Havel, who passed away in December 2011, spent nearly five years in prison for his opposition to Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, and his defence of human rights in the country. The idea to establish a human rights award in his memory came from František Janouch, the founder of the Sweden-based Charter 77 Foundation which helped Czech and Slovak dissidents. Mr Janouch believes the Václav Havel award could have a far-reaching impact.
“Václav Havel was one of the best-known personalities from Eastern Europe. He is known all over the world, and I think we can compare his reputation to that of Andrei Sacharov. Václav Havel was not only a fighter for human rights; he was also a playwright and the president of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic. So I think the award has this kind of potential.”
The Václav Havel prize for human rights replaces an existing biannual human rights award, established by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2007. The new award will consists of a diploma, an artwork, and 60,000 euros half of which will come from the assembly while the other half will be contributed by the Czech Foreign Ministry.