Vaclav Havel


After the War everyone felt sure that nothing like it could happen, or be allowed to happen, ever again.

Yet it appears as if humankind will never learn.

There are still those who seek to divide people according to their ethnic affiliations and to revive the spirit of tribal wars.

There are still those who believe that atrocities perpetrated in wartime will go unpunished, and therefore provoke wars, ridiculing the international community.

And there are still democratic governments that believe aggressors can be stopped with concessions, with piecemeal manoeuvring, in a word, by giving in to evil.

As World War II becomes increasingly remote with the years, and especially now that Communism has collapsed, the vigilance of the democrats seems to have slackened.

Again, democracy seems to have been reduced to a mere routine, a mechanism for shaping political will.

Yet, if democracy is to remain vital the values on which it is founded must be constantly renewed.

Today again we need politicians who remember the ethical basis of democracy and who understand that one cannot rely on routine diplomacy when dealing with militant nationalists.

We need citizens who are able to recognize evil at its inception and stand up to it despite the personal risks, and then voice their position clearly, in the most resolute terms, to their political representatives.

Address on the occasion

of the conferment of

the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award

 upon Sergei Kovalev
* Commendation of the Laureate *

Nuremberg, Federal Republic of Germany, 17 September 1995



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