Czech winner of US Embassy human rights prize says tolerance for racism is rising
The Alice Garrigue Masaryk Prize, which is awarded annually by the American Embassy in Prague in the area of human rights, went to the director and founder of the In IUSTITIA association, Klára Kalibová, this year. She received the award from US Ambassador Andrew Schapiro on 9 December for providing legal aid to the victims of violent hate crimes.
"Klára helps these victims achieve justice and apply for compensation for the harms caused by violent hate crimes. Just like the award-winners in previous years, her work reminds us that human rights are not just an abstract concept, but a principle that sometimes demands action. Fulfilling human rights creates a more democratic, richer, safer world," Schapiro said when presenting the award.
The In IUSTITIA association is an organization of lawyers focused on violent hate crime. It provides legal aid to victims, helps protect communities at risk of neo-Nazis and racist violence, and strives to improve both legislation and the practice of the authorities investigating this criminal activity.
The prize is named after the oldest daughter of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak President; Alice Garrigue Masaryk founded the Czechoslovak Red Cross, and the prize has been awarded by the US Embassy since 2004. It is awarded to an individual or organization who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of human rights in the Czech Republic, and who, through supporting social justice and the defense of democratic freedoms, has contributed to the creation of an open civil society.
Previously the award has been given to, for example, the ROMEA association, human rights activist Anna Šabatová (currently the Czech ombud), the director of the Czech branch of Transparency International David Ondráčka, the founder of the "One World" film festival Igor Blaževič, and the RESPEKT weekly. Czech Radio station Radio Wave then invited Kalibová to speak on its "On Air" program so as to familiarize listeners with the issue of violent hate crime and rising tolerance for racism and xenophobia in society.
News server Rozhlas.cz has posted a link to a recording of that interview. "Just now we dealt with, for example, a case involving a relatively successful Romani high school student. He was the first person in his family to make it to high school. He was immediately attacked on Facebook by his fellow pupils, and it went so far that he has now left the education system, because the slights were on such a scale that he ultimately refused to go back to school," Kalibová said, adding that her organization has seen a growth in cyber-harassment in its work.
Kalibová said that those perpetrating crimes linked to racism and xenophobia have long since stopped being mainly people from the ultra-right subculture and that the number of culprits who are so-called ordinary people from mainstream society is rising. "Everyone can see this in those around them. Our co-workers, our fellow pupils, and our friends today are replicating claims more and more that would have been considered extreme 10 years ago. We have all probably encountered at some point that classic statement 'I'm not a racist, but...'. In my opinion, the number of people saying this is rising," Kalibová said.
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