Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC), formerly Czechoslovak Helsinki Committee (CsHC), was founded in 1988 to monitor compliance with and violations of human rights in the former Czechoslovakia, alongside the already active civil initiative Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS).
Its foundation was initiated by the International Helsinki Federation and put to practice by 30 critically thinking oppositional citizens (headed by prof. Dr . Jiri Hajek), who, despite the threat of persecution, started to publish their views on the former rule of law and its inconsistency with international human rights principles, following in Charter 77’s footsteps, whose agenda of course had already grown to cover a wider area of issues by that time.
Members of the CsHC mainly focused on discrepancies between Czechoslovak laws and basic human rights principles, as articulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN, 1966), which were based upon of the well-known Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948).
Similarly to Charter 77, CsHC kept reminding Czechoslovak authorities and officials about the need to start the democratization process which would ensure compliance with international human rights standards. CsHC also brought attention to many individual cases of lawlessness, especially the use of brutal force against anti-regime protesters in the late 1980s (e.g. during the Palach week in January 1989 and more particularly during the November public gatherings that were attended by hundreds of thousands of people).
Czechoslovak Helsinki Committee, which became a member of the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) soon after its foundation, welcomed the calm revolution and the demise of communist regimes that took place in November 1989 and continued its defence of human and civil rights through settling various cases of injustice against both individual citizens and disadvantaged groups such as children, foreigners, refugees, minorities, prisoners, etc.
When at the end of 1992 Czechoslovakia was split into two states – the Czech Republic and Slovakia, CsHC was accordingly divided into the Slovak Helsinki Committee and the Czech Helsinki Committee. Both remained members of the IHF .
The range of activities of the Czech Helsinki Committee has continued to grow. Alongside monitoring legislation and legal and social practices, we also continue to mitigate individual cases of human and civil rights violation, offer consulting services and provide human rights education in schools and in various professional groups. CHC has also participated in several international projects focused on education of activists and lawyers of non-governmental organizations in cooperation with IHF and other committees.