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28 May 2013
Kader Asmal Human Rights Award Launched at UWC

Kader Asmal Human Rights Award Launched at UWC

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) launched the Kader Asmal Human Rights Awards at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Tuesday 28 May 2013.

The awards are in  honour of the late Kader Asmal, UWC’s Extraordinary Professor of Human Rights and South African politician, and serve to recognise and salute individuals who continue to contribute to human rights and civil liberties in this country. In attendance were Professor Asmal’s wife, Louise Asmal, and son, Adam Asmal, along with top-ranking officials from the Embassy of Ireland and other close friends of the Asmal family.

The chairperson of CASAC, Sipho Pityana, explained that the awards are being named after Kader Asmal because of his devotion to secure, protect and advance human rights globally.

Pityana added that the awards would have two main components. These components would include the Scholarship Award and the Award for Service to Civil Liberties, which will be presented to an individual, organisation or community that has made extraordinary contributions towards advancing civil liberties.

The keynote speaker, retired Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs, said the recipients of these awards should exhibit the characteristics of the international human rights activist that Asmal was. “Kader had respect for international law. He never saw politics as a means for wealth accumulation,” said Sachs.

He recalled many instances where Asmal had displayed his character as a human rights champion, and referred to the role played by late African National Congress (ANC) leaders, such as Oliver Tambo and Chief Albert Luthuli, who had influenced Kader Asmal’s pursuit of liberty.

“Kader was hands on. He was a freedom fighter and he loved knowledge,” said Sachs.

Explaining the two components of the award, Pityana said the Scholarship Award would be open to undergraduate students, who would be required to write and submit essays on issues relating to constitutionalism, human rights and the rule of law, within the context of CASAC’s work.

“We want them [students] to look beyond the obvious line of vision and write essays that contribute to the construction of thought processes and consciousness relating to human rights and civil liberties,” Pityana said.

Pityana added that the prize would be a scholarship to undertake a Master’s course in Human Rights at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where Professor Asmal was once a Dean of Law. This scholarship would be presented in partnership with the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust and the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa.

For the Award for Service to Civil Liberties, Pityana continued,  prize money to the sum of R250 000 will be awarded, which the award recipient can use to further promote their cause.

“CASAC will form an evaluation committee to manage the adjudication and selection process. Members of this committee will include members of CASAC’s Advisory Council as well as external persons,” Pityana said.

It is as yet undetermined when the first award ceremony will be hosted, but the announcement of the award excited many people.