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Czech President Havel to receive Law School's Ralston Prize

STANFORD -- Vaclav Havel, president of the new Czech Republic and former dissident playwright who was imprisoned under Communist rule, is scheduled to receive the Stanford Law School's Ralston Prize Sept. 29.

The Jackson H. Ralston Prize in International Law recognizes original and distinguished contributions to the development of the role of law and the establishment of peace and justice. Winners are recommended by the dean of the Law School to a selection panel that includes the president of Stanford, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court and the secretary general of the United Nations.

Previous recipients have been former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada (1990), President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica (1989), former President Jimmy Carter (1987), Ambassador Tommy T.B. Koh of Singapore (1985) and Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden (1977).

Nelson Mandela, the president of the African National Congress, had been scheduled to come to Stanford to receive the award in November 1992 but had to postpone his visit because of developments in South Africa.

Havel was born in Prague in 1936 and educated in that city's Academy of Dramatic Art. He began his career in theater as a stagehand, then became resident writer for the Prague "Theatre on the Balustrade" from 1960 to 1969.

The Communist government of Czechoslovakia judged his work to be subversive, and he was imprisoned in 1979 for four years. Until Communism fell in Czechoslovakia, Havel's works were performed only abroad.

Those works include Zahradni Slavnost (The Garden Party, 1963), Spiklenci (The Conspirators, 1970) and Temptation (1987).

Havel was imprisoned again in 1989 but later that year played a leading role in the "Velvet Revolution," during which the former Soviet satellite made the transition from Communism to democracy. In December of that year he was elected president of the Czecho-Slovak Republic by direct popular vote.

Havel failed in his July 1992 bid for re-election. He became president of the Czech Republic on Jan. 26, 1993, after the Czecho-Slovak Republic had split into two independent nations. Havel had campaigned against the division of the country.

Details of Havel's visit to Stanford are still in the planning stages. He is expected to receive the prize during afternoon ceremonies presided over by Paul Brest, dean of the Law School.


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