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Home / Press Release / Hungarian Human Rights Defender to Receive 2018 William D. Zabel Human Rights Award
October 01, 2018

Hungarian Human Rights Defender to Receive 2018 William D. Zabel Human Rights Award

New York City – Human Rights First announced today that it will honor Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, with its 2018 William D. Zabel Human Rights Award in honor of her work fighting for the rights of refugees, migrants, and other marginalized groups in Hungary and across Europe. The award comes in the wake of an unprecedented assault on human rights and the rule of law in Hungary, including the recent passage of a law that criminalizes providing assistance to migrants and refugees. Human Rights First will present the William D. Zabel Award at its annual gala on October 17 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

“At a time when civil and political rights are under threat and refugees are being vilified around the world, we couldn’t be more inspired by Márta and the staff of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for their courageous work fighting for the fundamental freedoms of all peoples,” said Rob Berschinski, Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy. “Márta and her team work tirelessly to monitor and report on threats to the rule of law in a country moving away from democratic governance. Despite being vilified in state-friendly media and threatened with criminal penalties, Márta and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee have bravely vowed to continue their life-saving work.”

Founded in 1989, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee seeks to protect human dignity and the rule of law through legal and public action. By providing pro-bono representation to refugees, detainees, and victims of human rights violations, the Committee is on the front lines of the fight for marginalized peoples, and exists as the only organization providing legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in Hungary. A lawyer by training, Pardavi leads the organization's work in the field of refugee protection, spearheading their efforts to challenge the Hungarian government’s policies of arbitrary detention, reporting on human rights violations against refugees, and winning critical safeguards for particularly vulnerable refugees and their families.

For 40 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual award, recently renamed the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award, to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom and dignity. Previous recipients include: Friar Tomás González of Mexico; Iraqi human rights activists Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan; European activists Jane Braden-Golay, Siavosh Derakhti, and Niddal El-Jabri; Ryan Boyette of the United States and South Sudan; Dennis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Chen Guangcheng of China; 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 contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.