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Václav Havel Human Rights Prize launched in Prague

Strasbourg, 25.03.2013 – The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which aims to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond, was launched today at a ceremony in Prague (Czech Republic).

To be awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, the Prize is open to nominations from any individual, non-governmental organisation or institution working to defend human rights, and will be worth €60 000.

PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon, the Director of the Václav Havel Library Marta Smolíková and the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Charta 77 Foundation Frantisek Janouch, together with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, took part in today’s launch ceremony.

“We all need our human rights to be better protected, but collective advances flow from enormous personal commitment and sometimes personal sacrifice,” said the President of the Assembly. “The work achieved by civil society deserves more publicity and recognition; that is what this Prize is all about.”

The selection panel is made up of the President of PACE and six independent figures known for their high moral standing and expertise in the field of human rights. The Prize will be awarded at a ceremony during the autumn PACE plenary session in October in Strasbourg. The Václav Havel Library will then organise an international conference in Prague in honour of the prizewinner's contribution to promoting human rights.

The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, playwright, opponent of totalitarianism, architect of the velvet revolution of 1989, President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, and an enduring symbol of opposition to despotism.

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize replaces the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Human Rights Prize, which was created in 2009 and awarded every two years, first to “British Irish Human Rights Watch” and then, in 2011, to the Russian NGO “Committee against Torture”.