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2019 M.C. Bassiouni Justice Award winner

Wolfgang Kaleck painted by Roberto Caruso.


Wolfgang Kaleck

Mr. Wolfgang Kaleck has been granted the 2019 M.C. Bassiouni Justice Award in recognition of (a) his courageous and vocal objection to double standards or selectivity in the application of international criminal and human rights law, consistently arguing that wealthy states and corporations must be held to the same international legal standards as less powerful violators when the evidence so warrants; b) his development of the notion and practice of ‘strategic human rights litigation’ before courts, recognizing the fundamental importance of enforcement of international human rights standards by independent courts; c) his commitment to the principle and use of universal jurisdiction for core international crimes, most recently in connection with alleged violations in the Syrian armed conflicts being investigated and prosecuted in European jurisdictions; d) his founding and development of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), through which he has set an example for how a global public-interest organization can be established and excel within a few years, even taking the lead internationally through some of its high-quality programmes; e) his willingness to use the ECCHR as a platform for capacity-sharing, giving other civil-society actors access to its methodologies so that local organizations (in particular in materially less resourceful countries) can grow rather than the ECCHR seeking to establish regional offices; and f) his compassion for the plight of victims of core international crimes, and the clear-eyed humaneness which permeates his service.

Mr. Kaleck was born on 13 August 1960 in Neuendettelsau in Bavaria, Germany. He obtained his law degree (Erstes Staatsexamen) from Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Germany. Mr. Kaleck founded the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) together with other internationally renowned lawyers in Berlin in 2007. He has served as General Secretary and Legal Director of the organization since its foundation. Previously, he co-founded the law firm Hummel Kaleck Rechtsanwälte in 1991 (in the legendary Haus der Demokratie in Friedrichstraße 165 in Berlin, the then centre of the East-German citizen movement), where he worked as a criminal law attorney. He remains an attorney in the successor firm dka Rechtsanwälte Fachanwälte in Berlin. Since 1998, he has been an advocate for the Koalition gegen Straflosigkeit (Coalition against Impunity) which seeks to hold Argentinian military officials accountable for the murder and disappearance of German citizens during the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983). Between 2004 and 2008, he worked with the New York Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to pursue criminal proceedings against members of Western armed forces. Kaleck is the author, inter alia, of the monographs Double Standards: International Criminal Law and the West (Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher) and Law Versus Power: Our Global Fight for Human Rights (OR Books). Through the ECCHR, he has initiated a number of lawsuits against German and other Western corporations for human rights violations.

The 2019 Award Committee consisted of Professors LING Yan (China University of Political Science and Law), William A. Schabas (Middlesex University London), Assistant Professor CHEAH Wui Ling (National University of Singapore), Mr. Arne Willy Dahl (former Judge Advocate General, Norway), Mr. Alf Butenschøn Skre (Secretary), and CILRAP Director Morten Bergsmo (Chair). The decision was made by consensus.

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