The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sharon Singh,, 202-509-8194

Vaclav Havel's Human Rights Legacy an Inspiration, Says Amnesty International Prior to his Funeral

Human rights organization named Havel its first Ambassador of Conscience; created inspiring video paying tribute to his work


Amnesty International paid tribute today to the inspiring legacy of Vaclav Havel, human rights defender, last President of Czechoslovakia, and the first Czech President, ahead of his funeral on Friday.

Havel passed away on December 18, at the age of 75. Originally a playwright, he led the former Czechoslovakia's dissident human rights movement Charter 77. He was repeatedly jailed by the Communist government and adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

He was a key leader in the country's anti-government 'Velvet Revolution' of November and December 1989, and became Czechoslovakia's democratically elected president soon after.

"Havel leaves behind an outstanding moral and intellectual legacy," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "He has been one of the most emblematic figures of the 20th century and his work as advocate for human rights, democracy and freedom is an inspiration for all of us. The world will miss him terribly and he cannot and will not be forgotten."

Havel was a member of the first Amnesty International group set up in Prague, and was a strong supporter of the organization.

On Amnesty International's 50th anniversary this year, Havel said: "It's up to all of us to try - and those that say that individuals are not capable of changing anything are only looking for excuses."

Amnesty International named Vaclav Havel its inaugural Ambassador of Conscience in 2003. He continued to play an important role in speaking up for human rights around the world up until his death.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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