Tech & Rights

The Régine Orfinger-Karlin Prize 2014 - Part 1

Every other year since 1996, the League of Human Rights has given the Régine Orfinger-Karlin Prize to an individual or group working in the field of human rights. There are three nominees for this year's award, including the mayor of Brussels.

by Belgian League of Human Rights

In presenting the Régine Orfinger-Karlin Prize every two years, the League of Human Rights (LDH) recognizes an individual or an organization working for the protection and assistance of vulnerable groups (such as children, foreigners, benefit recipients or the mentally ill) that has distinguished itself by highlighting the necessity of resistance to human rights abuses. LDH is committed to providing to the winner a significant amount of money to support an ongoing action or project that was initiated in 2013 or 2014.

The association Hart Boven Hart, the group Les Morts de la Rue and the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, were the three nominees for the 2014 award.

We will present, in five sections, the origins of this Award and the three nominees for this year's award.

Régine Orfinger-Karlin

Régine Orfinger-Karlin was born in the 1910. After studying law, she became the second woman to be admitted to the Antwerp Bar. Expelled from the Bar just before World War II because she was Jewish, she joined the resistance to engage more actively after the denunciation that led to the execution of her husband.

After the war, she raised her two children and participated in the rebuilding of the Belgian League of Human Rights. She became a member of the Central Committee of the Belgian League and of the board of directors of the League of Human Rights until 1996, when she was elected honorary president.

This active resistance fighter, feminist and anti-racist devoted her legal talents to the implementation and organization of lobbying groups like Equal Work, Equal Pay and the Committee for the Decriminalization of Abortion in the '70s, as well as the establishment of many progressive lawyer associations.

Régine Orfinger-Karlin died December 29, 2002 at the age of 91. She was and will remain the woman in all the battles.

Exceptional actions for human rights

The General Assembly of the League of Human Rights decided in 1996 to create an award on behalf of one of its "historical leaders." Thus was born the Régine Orfinger-Karlin Award, taking the name of this iconic figure.

Every two years since 1996, the League of Human Rights awards an individual or an association that has distinguished itself by its activism to promote human rights. The specifications of the Régina Orfinger-Karlin Prize are the following:

1. The award aims to encourage the promotion and defence of human rights, especially regarding vulnerable groups, either in favor of the better equality of men and women or in favor of rights of foreigners.

2. The award aims to recognize and reward a person, regardless of age, or a group or association that works to highlight the need for resistance to human rights abuses.

3. The award rewards only the projects coming from the French community of Belgium.

The winners

During the first edition in 1996, a group of lawyers presented the candidacy of Nabela Benaissa, who won the prize.

In 1998, the prize was awarded jointly to the Collectif contre les expulsions and to the Fula community sponsored by the association The Other "place", home for people with mental health disorders.

The 2000 edition saw the award go to the collective Action Birmanie (students of the Université Catholique de Louvain who campaign against the Total Fina activities in Burma).

The 2002 edition rewarded a documentary film project on rehabilitation for people leaving prison.

The 2004 edition was a bit special for the Régine Orfinger-Karlin Award. Indeed, the League of Human Rights used this gathering both to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Belgium's liberation and to pay tribute to Régine Orfinger-Karlin, who died in December 2002.

On this double occasion, the award ceremony was accompanied by the screening of the documentary "To My Father Resistant, the Mourning and the Secrecy," in which Régine Orfinger-Karlin revisits her participation in the resistance movement during the war.

That evening was also an opportunity for some people to recognize the exemplary career of this militant lawyer, who worked tirelessly for the rights of women and marginalized people.

The 2004 edition ended with the awarding of a prize to the association Vent Sauvage ("Wild Wind”) for its project to fight against violence against women.

The 2008 edition corresponded with the 60-year anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The award was presented December 10 to the Committee of the District Midi, a committee of people living in that district who fight for the right to housing.

In 2010, it is the association Les Catacombes that was given the award. Les Catacombes is a Basic Community, member of a network P.A.V.E.S, which brings together Chrétiens réformateurs (Reform Christians) promoting freedoms and human rights. Its members work on the difficulties that people confront when they come out from prison and they organize a community house that welcomes isolated people in search of accommodation when they leave prison or after release.

In 2012, the League of Human Rights gave the award to the association Intact for its support to female victims of "traditional" violence, particularly female genital mutilation.