Rekosh Receives Human Rights Award from ABA

Founder of Public Interest Law Institute Honored for Work on Behalf of Victims of Human-Rights Abuse


New York, July 31, 2009Edwin Rekosh ’88, executive director and founder of the Public Interest Law Institute and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, is this year’s recipient of the International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association.
Rekosh is being recognized for his work on behalf of victims of human-rights abuses around the world. The award is to be presented Friday at the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago.
“Without the work of people like Edwin and his extraordinary contribution to access to justice and human rights throughout the world, many abuses of human rights and dignity would go unchallenged,” said Robert L. Rothman, chair of the ABA Section of Litigation, who is presenting the award.
Rekosh founded PILI in 1997, which works to advance human rights principles and promote the development of public interest law and clinical legal education throughout central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics and China.
“There’s been a paradigm shift in the world in the last 20 years and we’ve seen local actors taking action on rights,” Rekosh said. “They’re not waiting for the U.N. to make a resolution. They’re working on a local level on a constant basis.”
Beyond the more-prominent human rights campaigns, such as the crisis in Darfur, Rekosh said there are many other efforts run by thousands of non-governmental organizations that largely escape media attention but both need and deserve help.
“(PILI’s) role is to connect all these thousands of people to each other and define ways to leverage strategic resources so they can learn from each other and be more effective,” said Rekosh, who teaches human rights and law and development at the Law School as an adjunct professor.
Two Law School professors, Barbara Schatz, and Benjamin Liebman, director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, serve on the PILI board.
PILI had been associated with the Law School until 2007, when it became an independent non-profit organization. However, it continues to operate a human rights fellowship program at the Law School for 10 students annually.
The fellowship is part of an extensive human rights curriculum at the Law School overseen by its Human Rights Institute.
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