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events 2010

The Embassy Presents the 2010 Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award

December 13, 2010
Chargé d'Affaires Joseph Pennington presents the 2010 Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award to Anna Šabatová for her dedication to promoting human rights in the Czech Republic. (Photo U.S. Embassy Prague)

Chargé d'Affaires Joseph Pennington presents the Award to Anna Šabatová.

Human Rights Day 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

U.S. Embassy Prague is proud to present the 2010 Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award to Anna Šabatová for her dedication to promoting human rights in the Czech Republic.

The Embassy established the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Award in 2004 to recognize persons and institutions in the Czech Republic who have made exceptional and continuing contributions to the advancement of human rights through courageous promotion of social justice, the defense of democratic liberties and an open civil society.

This year, the U.S. Embassy awards the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Award to Anna Šabatová for her lifelong courage to speak out against injustice, her dedication to the citizens of this country through her work at the Office of the Ombudsman, and her continued efforts to improve the lives of individuals throughout the Czech Republic and Europe.  Anna Šabatová, like Alice G. Masaryk, learned the importance of human rights from her family, was unjustly imprisoned for acting upon her beliefs, and has advanced the cause of human rights for every Czech citizen. 

Anna Šabatová was twenty years old when she was arrested along with her father and brother for the "subversive act" of declaring that voting was a right, not an obligation.  After spending two years in jail, she continued to fight for a democratic Czechoslovakia. Anna never tired in this work. During the next 18 years, Anna signed Charter 77 - later becoming its spokesperson - distributed Czech samizdat papers, smuggled Western writings into the country, helped create the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted and the East Europe Information Agency, hosted meetings for dissidents, and led the Velvet Revolution's press office.

After the Revolution, Anna returned to university to complete her studies. However, the drive to advance human rights never dimmed. In 2001 she was appointed Deputy Ombudsman. She worked for six years to address concerns of citizens throughout the country and helped to establish public trust in the new institution. Today, she continues to be a driving force for human rights in the Czech Republic and across Europe. She is the Chairwoman of the Czech Helsinki Commission and a member of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Through these organizations she continues to this day to act upon the fundamental beliefs she first championed as a twenty-year old handing out pamphlets articulating citizens' right to vote.

Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award

The award is named for Alice Garrigue Masaryk, a pre-eminent Czech-American and founder of the Czech Red Cross.  Alice G. Masaryk is among the great symbols of the interwoven history our two countries share.  Her courage while unjustly imprisoned by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, her determination to achieve equal rights for women, and her stand against the Communist takeover of the country served as inspiration for her countrymen. This award is a tribute to her personal courage in standing up for human rights. The award is also a symbol of the enduring, deep concern of Americans and Czechs for the promotion and protection of human rights on all fronts. 

Previous award winners include David Ondráčka, Igor Blaževič, Lucie Sládková, Kumar Sri Vishwanathan, Jiří Kopal, and the weekly “Respekt.” Award recipients have demonstrated the spirit of Alice Garrigue Masaryk through their own efforts to shed light on corruption, speak out about difficult issues and societal inequities, work as a community, and ensure that all elements of Czech society share the same fundamental rights and opportunities accorded to them by virtue of their humanity.

Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commemorates Human Rights Day by presenting the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award on December 10 to three American human rights defenders for their contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights both in the United States and abroad.

This year’s winners are: Sarah Cleto Rial, the program director for My Sister’s Keeper, an NGO that works to advance political, social and economic justice for women and girls in Sudan; Wade Henderson, president/CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and a posthumous award to Professor Louis Henkin, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Colombia University and widely considered to be the father of modern human rights law.

Human Rights Day is observed every December 10 and celebrates the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Declaration outlines the inalienable rights of all people and has since served as the benchmark for the extension and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"When Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the UN General Assembly, she proclaimed: 'We stand today at the threshold of a great event, both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind.' On December 10, 1948, the world moved to recognize and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all people, inspiring individuals around the globe to claim the rights that are our common heritage," said Hillary Rodham Clinton in her remarks on Human Rights Day 2010. Full Statement >