Montreal, December 19 2011 – Today, Rights & Democracy joins the world in mourning the death of a champion of human rights and democratic ideals, former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, Mr. Vaclav Havel.
The Prague Spring and Charter 77 manifesto, in which President Havel played a central role, were historic expressions of humanity’s desire for universal human rights, dignity, and peace. The 1989 Velvet Revolution that followed solidified the resolve of rights defenders and ushered in an era of democratic renewal that would prove crucial to entrenching those very rights. As last president of Czechoslovakia and first of the Czech Republic, Mr. Havel brought a culture of rights to his country and oversaw a transition toward free elections, a multi-party state, and an end to politically-motivated arrests and detentions. After leaving office, he continued to speak out for and assist those fighting for human rights and democracy in countries such as Burma and Belarus, among many others.
Indeed, President Havel’s contributions as both a human rights activist and political leader were and continue to be an inspiration to us at Rights & Democracy, where linking the realization of human rights to democratic development is central to all that we do. As President Havel demonstrated through his leadership, rights and democracy must exist together, short of which they cannot be said to truly exist at all.
On behalf of Rights & Democracy, its management, and staff, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to President Havel’s family and to all those he inspired around the world. We pledge to continue, through our work, to honour the legacy of President Havel and his vision for a free, democratic and peaceful world.