Amnesty International declares former president Vaclav Havel as Ambassador of Conscience

14-11-2003

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel was awarded the first ever Ambassador of Conscience award by the human rights organization Amnesty International in the Irish capital, Dublin on Thursday night. The title for the award was inspired by a poem written by the Irish Nobel Literature Laureate Seamus Heaney to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Amnesty International in 1986.

The Ambassador of Conscience Award was inspired by a poem written by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. It aims to promote the work of Amnesty International, a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights. The Ambassador of Conscience Award praises exceptional individual leadership with the life, work and example of its 'Ambassadors' in the fight to protect universal human rights. The award in effect recognises Mr Havel's successful transition from being prisoner to president.

Vaclav Havel emerged as a significant playwright with his "Theatre of the Absurd" influenced plays in Czechoslovakia in the early 1960s. The sense of the absurd appealed to Mr Havel, who became well known for his vivid plays about the de-humanizing and repressive bureaucracy of communist regimes. In 1975, after his production of "The Beggar's Opera" even the members of his theatre audiences became targets of police harassment.

In 1977, he co-founded and co-authored Charter 77, a manifesto signed by hundreds of artists and intellectuals protesting the government's refusal to abide by the Helsinki Agreement on Civil and Political Rights. For his continuing courage, he was jailed numerous times, and spent a total of five years in prison. Mr Havel also showed great leadership and calm during the Velvet Revolution when he became first president of the new free Czechoslovakia.

Regarding the prestigious award, Vaclav Havel - who is visiting Ireland with his wife Dagmar - told the daily Lidove Noviny that he valued the Amnesty award and that he valued the work of the organisation, which had helped him and many others. The fact that the award was presented to him by other artists increased its significance, said the former president.

14-11-2003