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Edwin Rekosh, Human Rights Lawyer, to Receive 2009 International Human Rights Award
Award to be presented at Chicago luncheon featuring keynote
address by Assistant Attorney General Tony West
CHICAGO, July 23, 2009 – Edwin Rekosh, a New York-based international human rights lawyer and founder and executive director of the Public Interest Law Institute, is this year’s recipient of the International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. Rekosh will receive the award for his work on behalf of victims of human rights abuse around the world during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, July 30- Aug. 4.
ABA Section of Litigation Chair Robert L. Rothman, Atlanta, Ga., will present the award at the International Human Rights Award and Passing of the Gavel Luncheon on Friday, July 31.The keynote speaker at the luncheon will be Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The luncheon is scheduled from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. and will be held in the Crystal Room, 3rd Level, Fairmont Hotel Chicago.
Since its inception in 1991, the International Human Rights Award has honored and recognized individuals who have made special contributions in the area of human rights in a foreign jurisdiction.
The award was created in response to the knowledge that in many countries with repressive regimes, the regime is less likely to take retaliatory action against a human rights advocate if the advocate has received international recognition. The recipients have often fought for basic human rights for others, even when it may not be in their personal self-interest, and have made extraordinary contributions to the cause of human rights, the rule of law, and the promotion of access to justice. The award builds awareness of the courageous work being done by lawyers and judges around the world in the face of adversity.
Rekosh founded the Public Interest Law Institute in 1997 based on his experience helping human rights groups develop in Romania and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s during the region’s transition from communism. He recognized that the law was still seen by many as a means of state control rather than an instrument for the common good and he set out to explore how public interest law could serve as a useful vehicle in building legal systems. In 2007, PILI became an independent nongovernmental organization and has developed a global network of programs with offices in Beijing, Belgrade, Budapest, Moscow and New York. Through PILI, Rekosh has worked tirelessly to demonstrate how legal systems can be used as a tool to serve the interests of broader society rather than those of a powerful few.
PILI helps develop institutions and leadership that will protect human rights over the long term. The organization builds the legal advocacy capacity of civil society organizations and the potential for innovative leadership among young public interest lawyers – it has provided more than 75 international fellowships to young lawyers from nearly 30 countries. It also collaborates closely with legal communities, universities, civil society groups and public officials in reforming legal aid systems and legal education. With its partners, PILI helped put legal aid on the reform agenda of the EU and created a network of dozens of clinical legal education programs across Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Among its most promising recent initiatives, PILI has begun to promote pro bono practice globally – it introduced pro bono in Central Europe and is working to build law firm pro bono networks in Russia and China as well.
Rekosh, a New York City resident, teaches human rights, law and development at Columbia Law School and has been a visiting professor at Central European University. For his full bio, visit http://www.abanet.org/litigation/committees/international/ihr_2009.html. For more information on PILI visit www.pili.org.
“This award recognizes those who have made their mark as leaders in the struggle for human rights around the world,” said Section Chair Rothman. “Edwin Rekosh exemplifies the ideals and sustained commitment to human rights that we seek to honor with the award. His work is a model for all who seek to contribute in this difficult area of the law, leading by example and demonstrating that you can effect change through an individual commitment to the rule of law. Without the work of people like Edwin and his extraordinary contribution to access to justice and human rights throughout the world many abuses of human rights and dignity would go unchallenged. We congratulate Edwin, and ask that lawyers take up the mantle to provide pro bono and public service to programs such as PILI that promote access to justice for victims of human rights abuse. In these challenging times, our commitment to these ideals is essential.”
At the conclusion of the luncheon, Rothman will pass the gavel to Lorna G. Schofield of New York who will serve as chair of the section for the 2009-10 year.
With more than 70,000 members, the ABA Section of Litigation includes trial lawyers, judges and others involved in all aspects of litigation and the dispute resolution process. The Section of Litigation is dedicated to promoting justice both domestically and internationally, as well as enhancing public understanding of and respect for the legal profession. For more information on the International Human Rights Award, visit the section web site at www.abanet.org/litigation/committees/international/ihr.html.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
Editor’s Note: For more information on the International Human Rights Award, contact Debbie Weixl, ABA Media Relations, at 312/988-6126 or visit the section web site at www.abanet.org/litigation. Reporters are invited to cover the luncheon and presentation and all other events at the ABA’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Chicago. For more information on the Annual Meeting, contact the ABA at 202/662-1090 or 312/988-6171 or visit www.abanews.org.
The on site press room for the Annual Meeting will be at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and will be open for media registration beginning at noon on July 30, and will remain open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will close one hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates on Aug. 4.