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The Calouste Gulbenkian 2017 Prize is awarded to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee

The Calouste Gulbenkian 2017 Prize, with the sum of 100,000 euros, is ex-aequo awarded to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and to Professor Jane McAdam, an influential Australian researcher in the field of law.

Dedicated this year to recognising worthy actions in defence of refugees, the Calouste Gulbenkian 2017 Prize distinguishes the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for the “unique and exemplary” character of this organisation that provides regular and free legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in Hungary. Founded in 1989 with the mission to defend human dignity, this organisation, according to the Prize jury, has served as the “voice of refugees”, as well as the “loudest critical voice of the illegal and inhuman policies” put into practice in Hungary. Assisting refugees, detainees and victims of police violence “in a profoundly adverse panorama”, this organisation represents an “incentive for resistance by the civil society of that country”.

The work of this organisation led to the opening of two infraction processes by the European Commission against Hungary for violating EU legislation on asylum related issues as well as various extremely critical declarations from the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

In 2004, with the support of academic specialists, this organisation launched the “Refugee Law Reader”, the only existing online database with complex tools for supporting the teaching of refugee law and which provides access to the specialist literature on international refugee law as well as program models and methodological support tools for teachers and educators.

“The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is profoundly honoured to be awarded the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian Prize in Human Rights” said Marta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. She added: “For us, the prize is an important encouragement to continue our 25-year old tradition of being a leading voice for the right to seek asylum and human rights protection in Hungary, even in an increasingly xenophobic environment and growing political pressure on independent civil society. Where those whose duty is to offer protection willfully turn their back on human rights and on people fleeing war and terror, human rights defenders must courageously stand up for these fundamental values and for the most vulnerable. The prize will enable us our strengthen our long-term capacities to continue our work for upholding human rights and refugee rights in Hungary and beyond”.

Chaired by Jorge Sampaio, the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize jury is made up of the following national and international dignitaries; Emílio Rui Vilar, José Ramos Horta, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Michel Sidibé, Jody Williams and Asma Jahangir.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Prize was awarded for the very first time in 2012 to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the formation led by Daniel Barenboim, having in the following years gone respectively to the Alexandria Library (2013), the Community of Sant’Egidio (2014), Denis Mukwege (2015), the Congolese doctor who has dedicated his life to tending to victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sustainable Amazonas Foundation (2016).

The prizes are to be awarded at a ceremony presided over by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on 20 July.



(Marta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee)


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Hungarian Helsinki Committee