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Daily Court Reporter - News Awards to be presented at ABA annual meeting


Awards to be presented at ABA annual meeting

The American Bar Association will honor Sudanese lawyer Abdelrahman Al Gasim with its 2018 ABA International Human Rights Award in recognition of his long record of representing and expanding access to justice for victims of rights violations in Sudan. The award will be presented during the Distinguished Guest Award Dinner (International Law/BOG Program) at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Aug. 2, 6:30 to 11p.m. at the Saddle & Cycle Club, Ballroom, 900 W Foster Avenue.

The International Human Rights Award was established to honor and give public recognition to a lawyer, human rights luminary or international human rights organization, rights outside of the United States. The award is given on behalf of the ABA Center for Human Rights, Section of International Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Section of Litigation and Rule of Law Initiative.

Al Gasim, who is now living as a refugee in Uganda, played a pivotal role in co-founding the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), an institution that has lead the way in protecting human rights and civil liberties in Sudan. Al Gasim conducts trainings on regional human rights legal systems and has grown the DBA into an internationally recognized organization. He has facilitated the DBA’s participation at the Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Al Gasim has taken many risks as a human rights advocate. In September of 2010, he advocated for the extension of the United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Because of his advocacy, Al Gasim was arrested upon his return to Sudan and detained without due process. He was tortured for information and for his connections with human rights organizations, eventually being charged with “offenses against the state,” including but not limited to, the propagation of false news, criminal conspiracy, undermining the constitutional system and espionage. Charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Once the charges against Al Gasim were dropped, he fled to Uganda to live as a refugee due to the governmental harassment he faced after his arrest. While in exile, he regularly participates in the Ordinary Sessions of the ACHPR, where he speaks about human rights violations in Sudan.

“We honor Abdelrahman Al Gasim’s steadfast commitment to the protection of human rights and civil liberties for victims of rights violations in Sudan,” said ABA President Hilarie Bass. “His achievements are particularly extraordinary given the tremendous obstacles, intimidation and threats that he has faced.”

Al Gasim recently submitted a resolution on the human rights situation in Sudan during an ACHPR Ordinary Session. This resolution calls upon the government to cease all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to ensure all persons held in custody are granted a fair trial, and all forms of harassment against civil society and human rights defenders are stopped. The resolution also calls on ACHPR to urge the government to comply with its human rights obligations under the African Charter and international human rights treaties.

Since 2011, Al Gasim has played a crucial role in the partnership between DBA and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI). With Al Gasim’s facilitation, this long-term partnership led to the DBA filing a formal communication with the ACHPR in May of 2014, concerning the case of seven people sentenced to death that fell short of due process standards required by international law. The ACHPR then agreed to review the case and instructed the government of Sudan to not execute the prisoners until the final decision had been made.

Al Gasim has influenced many Sudanese lawyers, particularly those in marginalized areas, and his work has both directly and indirectly led to dozens of rights abuse cases being heard at domestic, regional and international levels.

Additionally, the American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor Eric H. Holder, Jr., former U.S. attorney general, with its Thurgood Marshall Award. The award, which recognizes members of the legal profession for their long-term contributions to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties and human rights in the United States, will be presented at the Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Holder, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, served as attorney general from February 2009 to April 2015 under President Barack Obama. He was the third-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history. He also was the first African-American to hold the position. As attorney general, he initiated much-needed reforms of the criminal justice system and re-invigorated enforcement of the civil rights laws.

“In his long career in public service, as a judge and then U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, as deputy attorney general and then as attorney general, Eric Holder has fought to protect civil rights and to promote the rule of law,” said Robert N. Weiner, chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. “At the Department of Justice, he communicated by word and deed the imperative of enforcing the law fairly, ethically, and with compassion. He demanded respect for the rights of every individual. He set very high standards for the Department, and, in retrospect, they are looking better and better.”

Holder served in the government for more than 30 years and was appointed to various positions that required a U.S. Senate confirmation by Presidents Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Holder earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Columbia University.

The keynote speaker for the awards presentation ceremony will be Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall. Ifill holds the same position that Marshall held.

The ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice provides leadership within the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties and social justice. Representing nearly 10,000 members with a wide range of professional interests, the section keeps its members abreast of complex civil rights and civil liberties issues and ensures that the protection of individual rights remains a focus of legal and policy discussion.

There is no charge for media covering this event. To register, please contact Betsy Adeboyejo at 202-662-1039 or

About the American Bar Association

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. To review our privacy statement, click here. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.

Date Published: July 27, 2018


American Bar Association


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