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U.S. Helsinki Commission Leaders Mourn Passing of Vaclav Havel

WASHINGTON —Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) mourned the passing of former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

“Vaclav Havel was a true hero of the human rights movement,” observed Chairman Smith.  “As a founding member and first spokesman for the Charter 77 movement, whose reports the Helsinki Commission published, he demanded his government implement the Helsinki Final Act and other human rights commitments it had freely undertaken. He remained constant to his ideals – prison and persecution notwithstanding. As a dissident, he exemplified the ‘power of the powerless,’ as he called it, the ability of ordinary people to live for truth and by doing so face down a regime built on lies.” 

Senator Cardin added, “Even after becoming president, Vaclav Havel continued to serve as the conscience of the continent, warning presciently in 1993 that the treatment of Roma was ‘a litmus test’ for post-communist civil society. He remained a tireless defender of the unjustly persecuted whether they were Czech, Cuban, or Tibetan. And, in 2009, as a committed transAtlanticist, he joined other statesmen and women from Central Europe in calling for a renewal of that relationship. Vaclav Havel’s leadership and integrity will be sorely missed.”

“It is testimony to his enduring devotion to human rights that one of his last public messages was an expression of solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. Our thoughts and prayers today are with the people of the Czech Republic, his friends and family, and all those inspired by his ideals and the life he led,” concluded Chairman Smith.

Chairman Smith and Co-Chairman Cardin met with Havel in 2007 and commemorated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Charter 77 human rights movement.

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