IBA Award winners 2017

The winners of the 2017 IBA Human Rights, Pro Bono and Outstanding Young Lawyer awards have been revealed. Congratulations to the winners, who received their awards during the Annual Conference 2017 week.


The 2017 Human Rights Award

Ramazan Demir

Ramazan Demir

The winner of this year’s Human Rights Award is Turkish human rights lawyer Ramazan Demir, who has been representing victims, journalists and lawyers in Turkey under extremely difficult conditions.

The members of the IBA judging panel were particularly impressed by Demir’s significant personal endeavours and for his high impact on defence work in extremely challenging and threatening circumstances. Lawyers for Lawyers, which nominated him, praise him for his “outstanding contribution to the protection, advancement and promotion of human rights”, in particular in the Kurdish south east of Turkey. “He has shown great dedication, determination and courage,” says a nominator, adding that at the age of only 33, he “stands out as a prominent and fearless defender of the rule of law”.

Among his most notable work, Demir has defended journalists, academics, politicians and lawyers being accused of terrorism. He has been one of a group of lawyers documenting human rights violations in southeast Turkey and has recently been defending 46 lawyers who have worked for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and are accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

In 2013, Demir advised on cases relating to police violence during the Gezi Park and May 1 demonstrations and in 2016 represented academics prosecuted for signing the Declaration of Peace. He has also been litigating on behalf of victims in the conflict between the PKK and Turkish forces and has brought cases before the European Court of Human Rights. As a result, he has twice been charged by the state. He most recently spent seven months in pre-trial detention charged with terrorist related activities, because of his work for TUAD (an association for relatives of prisoners in Southeast Turkey).

Despite the trial ongoing, Demir has taken up his work again.

The 2017 Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award

Malene Chagni Alleyne

This year’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award goes to Malene Chagni Alleyne. According to a nominator, Alleyne stands out “for her academic and professional achievements, excellence and commitment in serving those in need and her future aspirations to bring positive change to people across the world”.

Alleyne left her home country Jamaica in 2013 and spent three years as a human rights specialist at the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights in Washington DC, where she helped victims of human rights violations in countries across the Americas. She left the Commission in 2016 to pursue an LLM with a concentration in human rights at Harvard Law School. At Harvard, she was involved in the Student Government, Black Law Students Association, International Human Rights Clinic and Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and received the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership, which recognises graduates who contribute time and energy to improving the school community.

Alleyne worked with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, where she assisted on a request to the Commission for a hearing on the impact of the travel ban on human rights. In April 2017, she helped a woman and her son fleeing gang-based persecution in El Salvador win asylum in the US. More recently, she has worked on an application for a Brazilian woman to obtain protection under the Violence Against Women’s Act.

In recognition of William Reece Jr, the IBA Young Lawyers’ Committee presents this award to a young lawyer who has shown excellence in their work and great achievements in their career to date, as well as that extra mile of commitment to professional and ethical standards.

The 2017 Pro Bono Award

Balazs Sahin-Toth

The winner of this year’s Pro Bono Award is Balazs Sahin-Tóth. Sahin-Tóth is a corporate commercial lawyer who currently heads the restructuring and litigation practice of Allen & Overy’s Budapest office. According to all his nominators, over the last decade Sahin-Tóth has worked tirelessly to promote and institutionalise pro bono practices in Hungary.

The IBA panel of judges cites his wide range of activities. These include being a trustee for PILnet and a regular lecturer on its professional ethics courses hosted by ELTE School of Law. Most impressive has been his work for the Roma community, where he became the first lawyer in Hungary to take on a national pro bono case defending social inclusion of Roma children. After six years of litigation, the Supreme Court granted “moral damages” for a group of Roma children who had been segregated in a rural school. It is the first award of its kind in Hungary.

Sahin-Tóth is following this up with a similar case on behalf of 62 Roma children. The achievement is all the more impressive given the current environment for refugees in the name of security concerns. In 2015, Sahin-Tóth also advised a number of NGOs in response to investigations by state authorities.

The Pro Bono Award, established in 2010 by the namesake committee, honours a lawyer who has shown an outstanding commitment to pro bono work throughout their legal career. The prize includes free registration for the conference and a contribution towards travel costs, and a year’s free IBA membership.