18 October 2018
Last night at Human Rights First’s annual awards dinner in New York City, the organization honoured Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, with its 2018 William D. Zabel Human Rights Award. Ms Pardavi was presented the award in honour of her work fighting for the rights of refugees, migrants, and other marginalized groups in Hungary and across Europe.
Accepting the award she said: "First and foremost I would like to thank my wonderful colleagues, who despite the hardships and political attacks are committed to working for our clients and to defending human rights. Without them, I would not be here now. I would also like to thank Human Rights First for this honour, as this award encourages us, Hungarian human rights defenders to continue our work. We know that people in Hungary need us in these difficult times and we will do our utmost, with commitment and pride, to meet these expectations."
The award comes at a time when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is engaging in an unprecedented assault on human rights and the rule of law in Hungary, including through the recent passage of a law that criminalizes providing assistance to migrants and refugees.
“We’re thrilled to celebrate Márta Pardavi, who is standing up for refugees and the rights of all Hungarians at great personal risk,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Mike Breen. “At a time when the Hungarian government is peddling in hatred and xenophobia, Márta has shown the world what one brave woman can do in the face of authoritarianism.”
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.