Polish lawyer Adam Bodnar has won the Rafto Prize for his defense of judicial independence and minority rights. Poland’s government has been widely criticized for undermining the independence of the judicial system.
Adam Bodnar, the Polish commissioner for human rights, and the civil society group he heads were awarded the $20,000 (€17,000) Rafto Prize by the Rafto Human Rights Foundation on Thursday.
"Adam Bodnar has highlighted the crucial role played by independent ombudsman institutions in safeguarding human rights in Poland – and other countries – where such actors and institutions increasingly have come under attack," the foundation said in a statement.
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As a civil servant Bodnar cannot accept the prize money, so it will be donated to civic rights groups in Poland after the award ceremony on November 4 in Bergen, Norway.
In a statement from the foundation, Bodnar said the prize showed recognition for Poland's civil institutions and human rights.
"The award is not just an award to my work and the institution, but mostly a support from your community given to Polish civil society, academia, judges and lawyers fighting for rule of law, juridical independence, pluralism and protection of minorities in Poland," he said.
Bodnar has challenged moves by Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to push through reforms to reduce the independence of the courts since it came to power in 2015. Its decision to lower the retirement age of Supreme Court judges triggered an EU lawsuit on Monday.
The award was created in 1986 in memory of Thorolf Rafto, a Norwegian human rights activist. Four past Rafto laureates – including Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi – later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the winner of which will be announced on October 5 in Oslo.
jbh/kms (dpa, Reuters)