Danielle Mitterrand

1999 ICT Light of Truth: Danielle Mitterrand, Riki Hyde-Chambers (on behalf of Hugh Richardson), Richard Blum (back) with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Danielle Mitterrand died today in Paris at the age of 87. Mme. Mitterrand was the widow of François Mitterrand (President of France from 1981-1995) and well known for her human rights work. She was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth Award in 1999 “for unwavering support for populations under duress and for promoting democratic principles and other initiatives for a more peaceful world”.

Danielle Mitterand was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and was decorated for heroism. She believed that the French had a special role in promoting human rights on the world stage. Although she separated her advocacy from her husband’s official role, she used her standing to draw attention to Tibet and to encourage the Chinese government to respect the human rights of the Tibetan people.

“Madame Mitterrand was a strong and persistent force when France was finding its voice for Tibet. Such a clear voice must continue to be heard if her legacy is to be truly honored,” said Vincent Metten, ICT Policy Director in Brussels.

In 1986, Mme. Mitterand founded France Libertés, an organization devoted to advancing the cause of human rights in an international framework. In 1989, France Libertés presented its first Prix de la Memoire to the Dalai Lama, which he said was a “clear recognition of the value attached to non-violence by the international community.”

In her final public message to supporters of France Libertés, she wrote: “The red carpets I walked on during presidential trips did not lead me astray, nor did I let the bright lights dazzle me. I saw dictatorships collapse, others being set up with the protection and sometimes the support of the most powerful people on this planet. I saw communism collapse like a house of cards, overturned by people who could no longer bear their leaders contempt.”

Mme. Mitterrand had kept a steady gaze on the situation in Tibet. Speaking in 2004 to reporters in Agen, southern France, she warned that Tibet was poised to become a major international flashpoint as neighboring countries find themselves drawn into unwanted disputes over ever shrinking transboundary river systems.

The Tibetan Parliament in exile issued a statement today saying, in part: “In her passing away the Tibetan people have lost a firm friend.” (www.tibet.net)