For Immediate Release: October 23, 2013
New York City – Tonight at Human Rights First’s annual awards dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York City, renowned Congolese gynecologist and activist Dr. Denis Mukwege will receive the organization’s Human Rights Award. Dr. Mukwege will be honored for his work to heal women traumatized by rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and his advocacy to end the violent conflict there and hold the perpetrators of these abuses accountable. In addition, the organization’s Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment will be presented by Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson, to the film 42: The Jackie Robinson Story. The film’s Academy Award-winning writer and director, Brian Helgeland, will accept the award. NBC’s Meredith Vieira will host this evening’s 35th Anniversary celebration.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, an often-named frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize, is a gynecologist and activist in the DRC, a place the United Nations has called “the rape capital of the world.” Dr. Mukwege has devoted the last 15 years to healing women who have been traumatized by rape and calling for those who commit this horrific crime to be brought to justice. Last September, Dr. Mukwege gave a speech at the United Nations condemning impunity for rape in his country and subsequently survived an assassination attempt during which his bodyguard was killed. Dr. Mukwege and his family were forced to flee the country. Despite continued threats, Dr. Mukwege returned to the DRC and has resumed his essential work at Panzi Hospital, where he and his colleagues bring hope and healing to thousands of women. Despite ongoing personal risk, Dr. Mukwege continues to speak out against the horrible crimes against the women of the DRC.
“Human Rights First is proud to honor Dr. Mukwege for his tireless work and incredible personal courage in the face of violence,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “His dedication to healing women victims of war and his outspoken condemnation of violence against women is an inspiration.”
The motion picture 42: The Jackie Robinson Story was selected to receive the organization’s 2013 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment for its compelling depiction of the personal courage required of individuals to face down violent prejudice. Human Rights First notes that the film evokes the plight of human rights activists all over the world.
“Popular culture has phenomenal power, not just to entertain, but to inform, advocate, and inspire. The feature film 42: The Jackie Robinson Story uses that power to help us understandthe personal courage necessary to confront discrimination, and the pathway towards respect and equality,” said Massimino. “We are proud to honor the film for its depiction of one of America’s most inspiring athletes whose life was an example of courage and perseverance.”
Tonight’s program will also recognize this year’s winners of the Marvin Frankel Award for extraordinary commitment to providing pro bono legal representation to individuals who have fled persecution and seek asylum in the United States. The honorees are: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP (NYC), Crowell & Moring (D.C.), and Steven J. Kolleeny (NYC), who is Special Counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Kolleeny is a longtime partner with Human Rights First in this work, having personally taken on many asylum cases as well as encouraging and supervising other Skadden Arps attorneys who take up this important work.
For more than 20 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. Last year the group honored blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, whose award was presented by Academy Award-winning actor Christian Bale. Former recipients of the Human Rights First award include: Basem Fathy of Egypt; Shehrbano Tasser of Pakistan; Julius Kaggwa of Uganda; Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary; Damos De Blanco (Ladies in White) of Cuba; Ludmilla Alexeeva of Russia; Helen Mack of Guatemala; Merenghiz Kar of Iran; Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt; Albie Sachs of South Africa; and Hina Jalani of Pakistan.
For more information about the dinner, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3323.