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International conference in honour of the laureate of the 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize: Covid Dilemma

  • Where:Prague Crossroads, Zlatá 1, Prague
  • When: September 29, 2021
  • Organisers: Václav Havel Library, Charter 77 Foundation
  • Partner: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 
  • Video from the Conference

The Covid Dilemma: Rights against Responsibilities
(with a special event on the human rights crisis in Afghanistan)

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an unprecedented public health crisis, killing millions, infecting hundreds of millions, and affecting the whole of mankind. In parallel, it has brought into sharp relief the social dilemmas, inequalities and choices faced by mankind. Many of them relate to fundamental human rights that have constituted touchstones of modern liberal democracy. During the acute crisis, the rights of the individual increasingly came into conflict with the interests of society as a whole. The vast differences in access to effective vaccination between highly developed and developing countries threaten to exacerbate existing inequalities and lead to humanitarian crises in parts of the world. The resulting debate in the media and on social networks, which inevitably includes falsehoods, hoaxes, fake news and disinformation, raises new questions about possible limits to unbridled free expression and with it the specter of censorship. The above, and other, dilemmas illustrate the absence of a universally accepted framework for weighing our rights against our responsibilities. For some time, human rights and their definitions have evolved with scarce regard for the responsibilities involved. In Václav Havel, with his unassailable life-long record of fighting for human rights, we can also find a rigorous advocate of an inseparable relationship between rights and responsibilities. The Conference held on the occasion of the 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize will provide a forum for the discussion of these pressing questions.

While we are contemplating the human rights aspects of the Covid-19 pandemics, a full-scale human rights crisis that cannot be ignored, has been unfolding in Afghanistan. A special event reflecting as much as possible the situation on the ground at the time of the conference will be held with the participation of Czech and international experts.

Conference Programme

12.30 – 13.00 Registration 

13.00 – 13.10 Conference Opening

  • Michael Žantovský – Executive Director, Václav Havel Library 

13.10 – 13.20 Keynote Speech

  • Jared Genser – Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University; referred to by the New York Times as “The Extractor” for his work freeing political prisoners and for having founded Freedom Now (USA)

13.20 – 13.40 Interview with the 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize laureate

  • Tatsiana Khomich, sister of the Laureate: Maria Kalesnikava – one of the opposition leaders in Belarus and a member of the Coordination Council sentenced to 11 years in prison
  • Chair: Michael Žantovský – Václav Havel Library

13.40 – 14.30 Panel I: Discussion with 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize finalists 

  • Panelists:
  • Tatsiana Khomich, sister of Maria Kalesnikava – one of the opposition leaders in Belarus and a member of the Coordination Council sentenced to 11 years in prison
  • Pierre Haski, the leader of the Reporters without Borders  a leading international non-governmental organisation that safeguards the freedom of expression and information
  • Scholastique Rukuki, sister of Germain Rukuki, a human rights defender whose campaigning has been focused on torture and the death penalty
  • Chair: Tereza Engelová – Journalist and moderator

14.30  14.50 Coffee Break

14.50 – 16.00 Panel II: The Covid Dilemma: Rights and Responsibilities  

  • Panelists:
  • Jan Kysela – Constitutional lawyer, Faculty of Law, Charles University
  • Petr Mikeš – Supreme Administrative Court Judge
  • Danuše Nerudová – Economist and the Rector of Mendel University 
  • Marek Orko Vácha – Head of the Department of Medical Ethics and Humanities, Third Faculty of Medicine, Charles University
  • Chair: Lenka Zlámalová – Analyst and commentator, Týdeník Echo 

16.00  16.20 Coffee Break

16.20 – 17.30 Panel III: Special event on the human rights crisis in Afghanistan

  • Keynote: Fatima Rahimi, Afghan-Czech journalist and a psychotherapist in training (recording)
  • Panelists:
  • Václav Pecha – Head of the civilian part of the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team mission in Logar, Afghanistan, in 2008–2009
  • Jiří Přibáň – Professor of Law, Cardiff University (United Kingdom, Czech Republic)
  • Tomáš Vlach – Journalist and humanitarian worker, co-founder and long-term participant of the humanitarian mission of People In Need in Afghanistan
  • Chair: Jakub Szántó – Journalist and moderator, Czech Television  

17.15 – 17.20 Closing remarks

  • Karel Schwarzenberg – Politician, human rights defender 

17.20 – 17.25 Invitation to glass of wine and concert

  • Michael Žantovský, Václav Havel Library

Concert: Jakub Doležal Quartet

  • Jakub Doležal – saxophone, keyboards; Marek Leždík – bass; Jiří Šimek – guitar; Jakub Šindler – percussion