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 18 December at the age of 75. Originally a playwright, he led the former Czechoslovakia’s dissident human rights movement Charter 77, 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. 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”, said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“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 organisation. On Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary this year, he 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.