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Croatian Lawyer Vesna Alaburic And Sen. George Mitchell To Receive ABA Section Of Litigation International Human Rights Awards
CHICAGO, July 24-- Croatian lawyer Vesna Alaburic and former Sen. George Mitchell will receive the annual International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association Section of Litigation, during the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto next month.
ABA Section of Litigation Chair Gregory P. Joseph will present the awards during a noon luncheon on Tuesday, Aug.4, in the concert hall of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The keynote address will be delivered by Madam Justice Louise Arbour. Justice Arbour is a member of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, presently on leave from the court, having been appointed Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminals Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, by resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations. Also speaking at the awards presentation will be David Byrne, Attorney General of Ireland.
"Award recipients such as Vesna Alaburic have pursued the highest ideals of our profession in the face of extraordinary adversity," said Christopher Wall, chair of the nomination process. "Sen. Mitchell's efforts have brought Northern Ireland closer to peace, which is essential to the rule of law."
The Section of Litigation award annually recognizes lawyers and judges who have made extraordinary contributions in foreign countries to the causes of human rights, the rule of law, and promotion of access to justice.
"Vesna Alaburic should be commended for her tireless efforts, often undertaken on a pro bono basis, to defend independent newspapers, journalists and editors who face charges because they have published articles critical of the government. Sen. Mitchell's work in brokering the Northern Ireland peace agreement is an example of dispute resolution for all lawyers to admire. We are proud to honor both Vesna Alaburic and Sen. Mitchell for their dedication and commitment to promoting human rights and the rule of law," said Gregory P. Joseph, chair of the Section of Litigation.
In particular, the award recognizes the following contributions:
* Vesna Alaburic, a Croatian lawyer, has represented independent newspapers, journalists and editors in dozens of cases where the government has attacked them for publishing articles critical of the government. Croatia's independent newspapers today face more than 500 cases, including some 130 criminal libel cases, and more than $13 million fines. Croatia's criminal libel law, penalizing "spreading false information," is the first of its kind in Eastern Europe and is seen as a dangerous precedent for other countries in the region. Alaburic has been at the center of a campaign to reform Croatia's libel law. She has represented the Croatian Journalists Association in challenging government efforts to confiscate property of independent media. She has provided pro bono assistance to journalists, media and associations; established a legal assistance organization to pay the costs of defending independent media and journalists; and has organized a network of !lawyers to provide free legal assistance. Alaburic has also worked on a pro bono basis as a legal adviser for the International Federation of Journalists in Croatia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for which she was an observer of the election in Albania.
* Sen. George J. Mitchell, a former litigator and federal judge, is honored for his role in brokering the Northern Ireland peace accord. Senator Mitchell served as Chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership an historic accord, ending decades of conflict, was agreed to by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. In May, 1998, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by the voters of Ireland, North and South, in a referendum. He serves as Chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs. At the request of the British and Irish Governments, he served as Chairman of the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland.
The Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association includes approximately 60,000 trial lawyers, judges and others involved in all aspects of litigation and the dispute resolution process. The section, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is dedicated to promoting justice both domestically and internationally and enhancing public understanding of and respect for the legal profession.
Editor's Note: Members of the media are invited to cover the presentation of the Section of Litigation International Human Rights Award. Media in attendance must have ABA media credentials, which will be available in the ABA Press Room at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, beginning at noon on Thursday, July 30, telephone 416/585-3744.