Appendix D: Manifesto of Charter 77 -- Czechoslovakia
[The following manifesto first appeared in Western Europe in
early January 1977. Within a few days Charter 77--as its
anonymous authors called the document and the movement
responsible for its appearance--had been translated into most
major languages and had received attention throughout the world.
Charter 77 soon became well known within Czechoslovakia as a
result of Western radiobroadcasts. Charter 77 indicts the
government for violations of human rights provisions in the
nation's 1960 Constitution and in various treaties and covenants
of which Czechoslovakia is a signatory. The translation presented
here appeared in The Times of London on January 7, 1977,
bearing a notation that it was an "authorized" translation. The
notation indicated neither who had made nor who had authorized
IN THE CZECHOSLOVAK Register of Laws No. 120 of October 13,
1976, texts were published of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, and of the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which were signed on behalf
of our republic in 1968, reiterated at Helsinki in 1975 and came
into force in our country on March 23, 1976. From that date our
citizens have enjoyed the rights, and our state the duties,
ensuing from them.
The human rights and freedoms underwritten by these covenants
constitute features of civilized life for which many progressive
movements have striven throughout history and whose codification
could greatly assist humane developments in our society.
We accordingly welcome the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic's
accession to those agreements.
Their publication, however, serves as a powerful reminder of
the extent to which basic human rights in our country exist,
regrettably, on paper alone.
The right to freedom of expression, for example, guaranteed
by Article 19 of the first-mentioned covenant, is in our case
purely illusory. Tens of thousands of our citizens are prevented
from working in their own fields for the sole reason that they
hold views differing from official ones, and are discriminated
against and harassed in all kinds of ways by the authorities and
public organizations. Deprived as they are of any means to defend
themselves, they become victims of a virtual apartheid.
Hundreds of thousands of other citizens are denied that
"freedom from fear" mentioned in the preamble to the first
covenant, being condemned to the constant risk of unemployment or
other penalties if they voice their own opinions.
In violation of Article 13 of the second-mentioned covenant,
guaranteeing everyone the right to education, countless young
people are prevented from studying because of their own views or
even their parents'. Innumerable citizens live in fear of their
own, or their children's right to education being withdrawn if
they should ever speak up in accordance with their convictions.
Any exercise of the right to "seek, receive and impart
information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers,
either orally, in writing or in print" or "in the form of art"
specified in Article 19, Clause 2 of the first covenant is
followed by extra-judicial and even judicial sanctions, often in
the form of criminal charges, as in the recent trial of young
Freedom of public expression is inhibited by the centralized
control of all the communication media and of publishing and
cultural institutions. No philosophical, political or scientific
view or artistic activity that departs ever so slightly from the
narrow bounds of official ideology or aesthetics is allowed to be
published; no open criticism can be made of abnormal social
phenomena; no public defense is possible against false and
insulting charges made in official propaganda--the legal
protection against "attacks on honor and reputation" clearly
guaranteed by Article 17 of the first covenant is in practice
non-existent: false accusations cannot be rebutted, and any
attempt to secure compensation or correction through the courts
is futile; no open debate is allowed in the domain of thought and
Many scholars, writers, artists and others are penalized for
having legally published or expressed, years ago, opinions which
are condemned by those who hold political power today.
Freedom of religious confession, emphatically guaranteed by
Article 18 of the first covenant, is continually curtailed by
arbitrary official action; by interference with the activity of
churchmen, who are constantly threatened by the refusal of the
state to permit them the exercise of their functions, or by the
withdrawal of such permission; by financial or other transactions
against those who express their religious faith in word or
action; by constraints on religious training and so forth.
One instrument for the curtailment or in many cases complete
elimination of many civic rights is the system by which all
national institutions and organizations are in effect subject to
political directives from the machinery of the ruling party and
to decisions made by powerful individuals.
The constitution of the republic, its laws and legal norms do
not regulate the form or content, the issuing or application of
such decisions; they are often only given out verbally, unknown
to the public at large and beyond its powers to check; their
originators are responsible to no one but themselves and their
own hierarchy; yet they have a decisive impact on the decision-
making and executive organs of government, justice, trade unions,
interest groups and all other organizations, of the other
political parties, enterprises, factories, institutions, offices
and so on, for whom these instructions have precedence even
before the law.
Where organizations or individuals, in the interpretation of
their rights and duties, come into conflict with such directives,
they cannot have recourse to any non-party authority, since none
such exists. This constitutes, of course, a serious limitation of
the right ensuing from Articles 21 and 22 of the first-mentioned
covenant, which provides for freedom of association and forbids
any restriction on its exercise, from Article 25 on the right to
take part in the conduct of public affairs, and from Article 26
stipulating equal protection by the law without discrimination.
This state of affairs likewise prevents workers and others
from exercising the unrestricted right to establish trade unions
and other organizations to protect their economic and social
interests, and from freely enjoying the right to strike provided
for in Clause 1 of Article 8 in the second-mentioned covenant.
Further civic rights, including the explicit prohibition of
"arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or
correspondence" (Article 17 of the first covenant), are seriously
vitiated by the various forms of interference in the private life
of citizens exercised by the Ministry of the Interior, for
example by bugging telephones and houses, opening mail, following
personal movements, searching homes, setting up networks of
neighborhood informers (often recruited by illicit threats or
promises) and in other ways.
The ministry frequently interferes in employers' decisions,
instigates acts of discrimination by authorities and
organizations, brings weight to bear on the organs of justice and
even orchestrates propaganda campaigns in the media. This
activity is governed by no law and, being clandestine, affords
the citizen no chance to defend himself.
In cases of prosecution on political grounds the
investigative and judicial organs violate the rights of those
charged and those defending them, as guaranteed by Article 14 of
the first covenant and indeed by Czechoslovak law. The prison
treatment of those sentenced in such cases is an affront to their
human dignity and a menace to their health, being aimed at
breaking their morale.
Clause 2, Article 12 of the first covenant, guaranteeing
every citizen the right to leave the country, is consistently
violated, or under the pretense of "defense of national security"
is subjected to various unjustifiable conditions (Clause 3). The
granting of entry visas to foreigners is also treated
arbitrarily, and many are unable to visit Czechoslovakia merely
because of professional or personal contacts with those of our
citizens who are subject to discrimination.
Some of our people--either in private, at their places of
work or by the only feasible public channel, the foreign media--
have drawn attention to the systematic violation of human rights
and democratic freedoms and demanded amends in specific cases.
But their pleas have remained largely ignored or been made
grounds for police investigation.
Responsibility for the maintenance of rights in our country
naturally devolves in the first place on the political and state
authorities. Yet not only on them: everyone bears his share of
responsibility for the conditions that prevail and accordingly
also for the observance of legally enshrined agreements, binding
upon all individuals as well as upon governments.
It is this sense of co-responsibility, our belief in the
importance of its conscious public acceptance and the general
need to give it new and more effective expression that led us to
the idea of creating Charter 77, whose inception we today
Charter 77 is a loose, informal and open association of
people of various shades of opinion, faiths and professions
united by the will to strive individually and collectively for
the respecting of civic and human rights in our own country and
throughout the world--rights accorded to all men by the two
mentioned international covenants, by the Final Act of the
Helsinki conference and by numerous other international documents
opposing war, violence and social or spiritual oppression, and
which are comprehensively laid down in the UN Universal Charter
of Human Rights.
Charter 77 springs from a background of friendship and
solidarity among people who share our concern for those ideals
that have inspired, and continue to inspire, their lives and
Charter 77 is not an organization; it has no rules, permanent
bodies or formal membership. It embraces everyone who agrees with
its ideas and participates in its work. It does not form the
basis for any oppositional political activity. Like many similar
citizen initiatives in various countries, West and East, it seeks
to promote the general public interest.
It does not aim, then, to set out its own platform of
political or social reform or change, but within its own field of
impact to conduct a constructive dialogue with the political and
state authorities, particularly by drawing attention to
individual cases where human and civic frights are violated, to
document such grievances and suggest remedies, to make proposals
of a more general character calculated to reinforce such rights
and machinery for protecting them, to act as an intermediary in
situations of conflict which may lead to violations of rights,
and so forth.
By its symbolic name Charter 77 denotes that it has come into
being at the start of a year proclaimed as Political Prisoners'
Year--a year in which a conference in Belgrade is due to review
the implementation of the obligations assumed at Helsinki.
As signatories, we hereby authorize Professor Dr. Jan
Patocka, Dr. Vaclav Havel and Professor Dr. Jiri Hajek to act as
the spokesmen for the Charter. These spokesmen are endowed with
full authority to represent it vis-a-vis state and other bodies,
and the public at home and abroad, and their signatures attest to
the authenticity of documents issued by the Charter. They will
have us and others who join us as their colleagues taking part in
any needful negotiations, shouldering particular tasks and
sharing every responsibility.
We believe that Charter 77 will help to enable all citizens of
Czechoslovakia to work and live as free human beings.