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 Defending Human Rights

The founder of an organization that has pursued the cause of human rights in Egypt since 2002 will be the recipient of the 2014 Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law. The award honors top legal advocates who have used their careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity, often putting their own safety on the line. 

The Alexander Law Prize will be presented to Hossam Bahgat at a ceremony on March 20, at Santa Clara University’s Williman Room in Benson Center. A reception will be held at 5 p.m., with the presentation of the award and a discussion taking place at 6 p.m.

Hossam Bahgat is the founder and former executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a Cairo-based independent organization created in 2002 to defend human rights in Egypt (www.eipr.org/en).

Since 2002, the EIPR has used the power of research, advocacy, and litigation to promote and defend the rights to privacy, religious freedom, health, and bodily integrity.

“Hossam Bahgat is an outstanding model of bravely using one’s gifts and talents to pursue a larger good of religious and political freedom,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Lisa Kloppenberg. “We are proud to make this year’s award to him.”

After the 2011 revolution, EIPR expanded its scope of work to include transitional justice, the protection of civil liberties and political rights, promotion of economic and social justice, and reform of the criminal justice system.

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, calls Bahgat a Nobel Peace Prize-caliber advocate who is “passionate, strategic, visionary, and courageous.”

With training in political science and international human rights law, Bahgat is also board chair of the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), and a member of the board of directors of the Fund for Global Human Rights. In 2011, Bahgat received Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.

Human Rights Watch noted that after the Tahrir uprising began, the high-profile Bahgat and EIPR helped document violence against protesters and prisoners, and led a campaign against military trials of civilian protesters. After the ouster of President Mubarak, the group said, “Bahgat stepped up his efforts, seeking new laws and lasting institutional change to build a more rights-respecting Egypt.”

 

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