December 30, 2020

ABA Center for Human Rights presents Eleanor Roosevelt Prizes to Fauci, King and Sotoudeh

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2020 – The American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights presented its third annual Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for Global Human Rights Advancement this month. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Billie Jean King and Nasrin Sotoudeh were honored in a virtual ceremony.

The ceremony, which included interviews with the honorees and presented by the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, can be seen here.

With the blessing of the Roosevelt family, the center in 2018 established the Eleanor Roosevelt Prize to celebrate persons and organizations having an enduring, positive impact in advancing the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt championed.

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo opened the virtual ceremony with remarks honoring the awardees. “Eleanor Roosevelt, of course, was not a lawyer herself,” Refo said. “Yet her work was central to shaping the foundation of modern international human rights law. Her leadership brought together brilliant minds representing divergent perspectives, opinions, cultures and personalities. Our 2020 Roosevelt honorees are similarly brilliant and have made extraordinary contributions in their respective fields, all to humanity’s betterment.”

The award recipients:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is honored for his work in advancing the human right to health in the United States and around the globe, beginning with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, through the Ebola crisis and, today, the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from his extraordinary scientific expertise, a chief characteristic of these accomplishments has been his ability to work collaboratively with disparate populations and advocates who have been directly and intimately affected by these pandemics, appreciating the deeply human dimensions of their experience.

    “Since health, at least in my mind, is a human right – the right to a healthy life – that when you have that right to something, often you need advocates to help you exercise that right,” Fauci said. “And that’s where lawyers who are dedicated to that come in. So, if this is something that interests you, come on in. We need you.”
  • Billie Jean King is celebrated in this centennial year of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for her accomplishments in advancing women’s empowerment in pursuit of true equality for all human beings. Among the driving characteristics of these accomplishments has been her conviction in the righteousness of the cause; her willingness to confront entrenched, formidable and defiant power; and her ability to work collaboratively with disparate interests to achieve greater justice.

    “I feel like the law is always catching up … because things happen so fast,” King said about advocating for rights. “But it really helps when there’s a case that can take us forward and that the lawyers make it happen, and the people are willing to suck it up and fight for it as well no matter what. And that’s what you need. You need the people and the lawyers working together. I just always hope that lawyers keep helping enforce the laws if they’re there, and also to improve the laws.”
  • Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer who was recently sentenced to more than 38 years’ imprisonment and 148 lashes because of her work defending women’s rights and protesting Iran’s forced veiling laws, is recognized for her stalwart courage and effectiveness in pursuit of a just rule of law in Iran. Her bold and unwavering work to strengthen human rights adherence in Iran has not only served her fellow Iranians well but also remains an inspiration to human rights defenders around the world. The sacrifices she and her family have endured in defense of human rights have been abominable, yet she carries on firmly in solemn conviction that what she seeks is just and that human dignity is paramount.

    Sotoudeh said she was honored that her colleagues on the other side of the world are paying attention to the condition of lawyers in Iran. “This professional solidarity which transcends our governments advances a brighter outlook for civil society and the true meaning of rights and justice,” she said.

Past honorees include former Nuremberg War Crimes Trials prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2018. The 2019 honorees were Chai Feldblum, the ACLU and Lambda Legal, celebrating their contributions to advancing the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons, in the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Uprisings.

The Center for Human Rights is the ABA’s focal point for core human rights concerns globally. Its work includes supporting human rights defenders around the world; strengthening international criminal justice; advancing public health law; promoting human rights due diligence by business; and emphasizing dignity rights as elemental to a just rule of law.

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