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11th international conference in honour of the laureate of the 2023 Václav Havel Human Prize 

Held under the auspices of the wife of the Czech president, Eva Pavlová 

I regard as a true hero somebody who overcomes their fear because they know it’s the correct thing to do. A person who listens to their conscience, which tells them it would be right to do something. Even though reason tells them that it may be dangerous for them. (Václav Havel, 1995) 

Conference Programme 

13.30 Registration  

14.00 Welcome

  • Lejla Abbasová, conference moderator  
  • Vocal performance by Ukrainian children aged 8–15, Kroky Dobra charity organisation 

14.10 Conference Opening

  • Gabriel Eichler, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Václav Havel Library

14.20 Interview with the 2023 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize laureate 

  • The laureate will be announced at a ceremony held at the beginning of the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on October 9, 2023. 
  • Chair: Barbora Kroužková – Journalist and presenter, Czech Television   
  • Vocal performance by Ukrainian children aged 8-15, Kroky Dobra charity organisation 

14.40 Panel I: Discussion with 2023 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize finalists   

  • Osman Kavala – Businessman, human rights defender, philanthropist and political prisoner convicted to an aggrevated life sentence (Turkey). Mr. Kavala will be represented at the conference by Jakub Szántó.

  • Justyna Wydrzyńska – Abortion doula and activist fighting for women's rights (Poland)

  • Yevhen Zakharov – Human rights defender and the founder of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Ukraine)

  • Chair: Barbora Kroužková – Journalist and presenter, Czech Television   

15.25–15.50 Coffee Break 

15.50 Panel Keynote

  • Petra Procházková, Journalist, humanitarian worker and war correspondent from conflict areas of the former Soviet Union

16.00 Panel II: Face to Face with Evil 

  • Ivana Krejčová – mother of Taylor, a Czech medic and founder of the Phoenix Project who died in May 2023; the organisation’s members teach combat medicine to Ukrainian soldiers and help transport and treat the wounded on the front line (Czech Republic) 
  • Julienne Lusenge – human rights activist recognised for her advocacy for victims of sexual violence in war (Congo) 
  • Moderator:  Maryana Drach Director, Ukrainian Service, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

17.10–17.30 Coffee Break 

17.30 Panel Keynote

  • Guzel Shamilyevna Yakhina, Russian author and screenwriter

17.40 Panel III: Rising from the Ashes 

  • Janina Hřebíčková – ambassador, diplomat, ex-peace negotiator and director of strategic communications on United Nations peacekeeping teams, KFOR and the International Organization for Migration (UN), former head of OSCE missions to the Western Balkans and the Middle East (Czech Republic) 
  • Vedrana Pribačić – director and journalist, screenwriter and director of the documentary Bigger Than Trauma, mapping the traumatic stories of women in the war in the former Yugoslavia (Croatia)  
  • Fatima Rahimi – Journalist and psychotherapist focused mainly on issues related to migration, social inequality and the political and social situation in Afghanistan and Iran (Czech Republic, Afghanistan)
  • Chair: Una Čilić – Digital Broadcast Editor, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Balkan Service (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

18.50 Acknowledgments

  • Karolína Stránská – acting director of the Václav Havel Library 
  • Jolana Voldánová – director of Nadace Charty 77 

* The discussions will be held in Czech and English with a simultaneous translation from/into both languages. 

A Word about the Conference

Women in war. An association that has been with us forever but still completely new, different. Before it denoted Amazonians, although more often vivandières or women as the spoils of war. For some time this has been an inadequate outlook. There is no difference between women and men in war. Women figure as soldiers, commanders, pilots, reporters, doctors, politicians, leaders and peace negotiators, as well as mothers sending their children into battle, or homeless refugees. It would be wrong not to mention that during wars women, like men, also turn into tyrants, cruel kapos or propagandists.

Ukraine’s struggle against its Russian occupiers, which we have witnessed at close quarters over the past two years, has taken many different forms. However they have one thing in common: women play an important role. Some we meet on the streets, others we watch with bated breath on social media or in television reports, in shelters, carrying weapons on the front line or looking after destroyed farms.

How to face evil? How to control fear and hopelessness? How to deal with the death of loved ones? How to maintain composure and faith in the future? How to provide help and comfort to children? When the conflict ends, how to continue living next to the aggressors, who may never find justice? How to achieve reconciliation? Women impacted by war ask themselves these tough questions, alongside their children and families, perhaps even more intensely than men.

This year’s conference for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize will present the stories of its laureate and finalists, along with the testimonies of a few women at least from the endless list of those affected by the terror of war at various ages, times and places. What unites them all is their courage – despite all kinds of danger – to persevere and not give up. It is a great honour for us to have the opportunity to be with them and listen to them.

Conference guests

Lejla Abbasová is a Czech moderator and founder of the Asante Kenya Foundation, which supports community projects in Kenya. She has been working with the remote Maasai community on the borders of Kenya and Tanzania for several years and has received a bronze medal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic for her humanitarian work. She started out as a presenter on Óčko TV and later appeared on TV Nova and Czech Television. In 2009–2010 she was press spokesperson and advisor to the minister for human rights. Abbasová is the patron of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, UN Sustainable Development Goals ambassador for the Czech Republic, patron of the oldest international award for social innovation, SozialMarie, for 2017 and is also involved in other non-profit projects. 

Una Čilić works as a digital broadcast editor for Radio Free Europe’s Balkan Service in Prague, where she runs a platform called Female Shadows, focused on gender-based violence in Western Balkan countries. She is in charge of podcast production and is also focused on multimedia storytelling, as well as on verification of user-generated content. She used to work for Mediacentar Sarajevo and its platforms focused on discrimination issues, minority rights and media. Her work has been published by Euronews, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa,, MC Online and other organisations. She is a trainer in the verification of user-generated content. Čilić holds a BA in Journalism, an MA in Political Science (both from University of Sarajevo) and an MSc in Media and Communication from Lund University. She was a Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellow. 

Maryana Drach is director of the Ukrainian Service at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She has overseen the Ukrainian Service’s award-winning coverage of the country’s 2013–2014 Maidan demonstrations, the Revolution of Dignity and subsequent developments. Under her watch, the service has launched the impactful anti-corruption reporting project Schemes: Corruption in Details, as well as multiple-media programming efforts for the residents of Russia-annexed Crimea (Crimea.Realities) and war-torn eastern Ukraine (Donbas.Realities). A native of Kyiv, Drach joined the service in 1996, specializing in international affairs. She earned an undergraduate degree in International Studies from Roosevelt University and holds a graduate degree in Public Administration from the Institute of Public Administration and Local Government in Ukraine. 

Gabriel Eichler has been Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Václav Havel Library since 2015. He studied economics and international relations at universities in the US and Canada and has held numerous management positions at leading banking houses and industrial companies in the US and Europe. He was Chief International Economist at Bank of America in San Francisco and served as a branch manager in Europe. Under his leadership, CEZ became the first company in post-communist Europe to be rated (investment grade) and was the first to enter the European markets and the U.S. and Japanese capital markets. He served as head of VSŽ (East Slovak Ironworks, now U.S. Steel) and was principal investor and executive chairman of the supervisory board of AVG Technologies, which he helped bring to the New York Stock Exchange as the first Central European company. Today he is the head of the Supervisory Board of Moneta Bank and runs his own investment company, Benson Oak; it is the oldest investment banking boutique in the Czech Republic and is now primarily focused on direct investments. 

Janina Hřebíčková is a former peace negotiator who has served in numerous senior international positions and was involved in the post-war reconstruction of the Western Balkans and the Middle East. She has served as head of the OSCE Mission in Montenegro, deputy permanent representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, director of strategic communications for the United Nations Peacekeeping Team under NATO's international peacekeeping operation in Kosovo (KFOR) and at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Hřebíčková has produced 300 short documentary films for Czech and international media on the work of peacekeepers and post-war institution building. She currently serves as Czech ambassador to Montenegro. 

Martin Krejčí, who was known as Taylor, was a graduate of Brno's University of Technology. He completed a course as a military medic and was assigned to the active reserves of the Czech Army. In the initial days of the Russian aggression he spontaneously founded the Phoenix Project, which focuses on organizing and providing humanitarian aid and medical and tactical assistance to Ukrainian military forces. Thanks to his work on Ukrainian territory, thousands of lives, both military and civilian, have been saved. Martin Krejčí himself actively participated in many operations. During one of them, in March 2023, he was hit by shrapnel on the front. Two months later he died of his wounds in Prague. He was 38.

Barbora Kroužková has been working in the media for 30 years. She joined Czechoslovak Radio in the autumn of 1992 as a high school graduate, before later graduating from Charles University with a Master's degree in Political Science and spending a year in Australia and France. She worked at Czech Radio and (with brief stints at TV Prima and Frekvence 1) and Czech Television, where she remains a presenter on shows such as Události, Události, komentáře and Interview ČT24. Her career – from editing to reporting, from anchoring to presenting – has been focused on broadcast journalism. She is a long-time contributor to the Donors' Forum, for which she hosts the podcast Forum: A Place to be Heard. 

Julienne Lusenge is a tireless advocate for justice, peace and gender equality who has been threatened for her work on several occasions. She was instrumental in obtaining the conviction by the ICC of two criminals for enlisting child soldiers and for collected evidence of sexual slavery, as well as for the conviction of hundreds of perpetrators of sexual violence against women at national level. She is the co-founder and president of Women’s Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development and formed the Fund for Congolese Women, which supports women’s empowerment and political leadership, conflict transformation, sexual and reproductive health/HIV/AIDS, climate justice and environmental protection, as well as sexual and gender-based violence. Ms. Lusenge was one of the finalists for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize in 2020 and in the same year was recognized by the United Nations as the first of 20 “women to watch” for her advocacy work. She is a laureate and nominee of numerous international human rights and leadership awards.  

Vedrana Pribačić is a Croatian director, journalist and screenwriter. Pribačić holds a Master’s degree in political science, worked as a TV reporter and has reported for many Croatian and international media outlets (Nova TV, RTL, CNN). Since 2016 she has been a member of Croatian Guild of Filmmakers. Her first documentary film The Factory is Ours! (2017) received the Audience Award and a Jury Special Mention at the Liburnia Film Festival. Her first feature-length documentary film, Bigger Than Trauma (2022), has received numerous awards: a Jury Special Mention and an audience award at Zagreb Dox film festival and the Heart of Sarajevo for Human Rights award following the world premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival. In 2023 it also won the Golden Arena for best film at the Pula Film Festival, which was first time in 70 years of the festival that a documentary won the prize. Bigger Than Trauma is this year's Croatian nominee (the first ever) for Spain’s Goya Awards. 

Fatima Rahimi  is an Afghan-Czech journalist. She writes for Deník Referendum and produces and hosts a religious issues programme for Radio Wave called Hergot!, which is targeted at younger audiences. Rahimi was born in Herat, a city in north-western Afghanistan. In the late 1990s, she and her family had to flee the Taliban. She has lived in the Czech Republic since the end of 2000. She studied European Spiritual and Cultural History at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University and is currently training to be a psychotherapist at the Faculty of Social Studies at the University of Ostrava, where she studies social work and criminology. 

Jakub Szántó began working as a television reporter in 1999, starting out on TV Nova before moving to Czech Television in 2006. Between 2013 and 2018 he was the station’s first permanent reporter in the Middle East, a region he has been focused on throughout his career. He received the Novinářská cena journalism award in 2014 for his coverage of the Maidan revolution in Ukraine; three years later he won the Ferdinand Peroutka Prize, the most prestigious Czech journalism award. In 2019 he received the Magnesia Litera prize for his first book Za oponou války (Behind the Curtain of War) (Argo, 2018), describing his experiences of conflicts and revolutions. Szántó graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Prague’s Charles University and also studied history at the Central European University in Budapest. He completed his studies with a doctorate in modern history from Charles University.