JRS Malta shortlisted for human rights prize

Václav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic (Photo: IRFS)

The Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta) has been named as one of three finalists shortlisted for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014, which rewards outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. The panel that selects the prize winner also nominated B'Tselem and Azerbaijani human rights activist Anar Mammadli.

B’Tselem is the leading Israeli organisation for the promotion of human rights in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, with Israeli and Palestinian members.

Anar Mammadli is a prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender who has made an extensive contribution towards defending the right to free elections. He was arrested in December 2013 accused of abuse of power and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

JRS Malta specialises in the field of legal assistance and social work services. These include providing healthcare and psychological support for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as raising awareness about issues in schools and offering spiritual support.

While its aim is to assist with immediate needs, JRS Malta also encourages self-sufficiency. Its team includes lawyers, social workers, a nurse, Jesuit priests and religious, cultural mediators, outreach workers and administrative staff, as well as a number of regular volunteers. Much of its work is focused on detention centres, where staff and volunteers identify the protection needs of individual detainees. It provides them with information about asylum and immigration procedures, assesses their social, psychosocial and medical needs and helps secure the release of children, pregnant women and vulnerable persons.

The Václav Havel Award for Human Rights is an international award established in 2013 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in memory of Václav Havel, the former President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. The jury consists of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and six independent personalities with expertise in human rights issues. Individuals, non-governmental organisations and institutions working to defend human rights can be nominated. The 2013 prize was awarded to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe awards the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize  each year in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation. It consists of a prize of €60 000, a trophy and a diploma.The winner will be announced on 29 September in the opening session of PACE.

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