PILnet Announces 2012 European Pro Bono Awards

Accolades to Filip Czernicki, the Peace Institute, Anton Lana, Andrea Saccucci at Forum Finale

14 November 2012

Closing the 2012 European Pro Bono Forum on an inspiring high note, PILnet announced the recipients of this year’s European Pro Bono Awards on 26 October in Madrid. Poland’s Filip Czernicki received PILnet’s European Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Development of Pro Bono Culture; and the Peace Institute (Slovenia) and the Italian attorneys Anton Giulio Lana and Andrea Saccucci won the European Award for Partnership in the Public Interest.

award czernickiFilip Czernicki received PILnet's European Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Development of Pro Bono CultureCzernicki’s recognition was met with long applause from the Forum audience, many of whom have worked closely with him for years. As one of the founders of Poland’s Centrum Pro Bono and president of the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation since 2002—even while holding down a demanding full-time position with the country’s airport authority—Czernicki was praised for exemplifying the spirit of pro bono in his life’s work.

For his part, Czernicki expressed gratitude to mentors and colleagues, insisting “this is not my personal achievement—it’s a collaborative award.” One of those collaborators, PILnet board member Łukasz Bojarski, bestowed the award, citing Czernicki’s broad-ranging commitment to furthering public interest law in Poland and his decisive leadership on behalf of pro bono and clinical legal education there.

The 2012 PILnet Award for Partnership in the Public Interest, shared by the Peace Institute, Lana and Saccucci, recognized the team’s exceptional efforts on behalf of the Izbrisani or “erased” people of Slovenia. When the European Court of Human Rights ruled in June 2012 that the country had violated the rights of the erased people and owed them compensation, “it was the most important human rights ruling in Slovenia since it became independent in 1991,” said Peace Institute director Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, who accepted the award along with Lana.

pbawards lana and peaceAnton Lana and Neža Kogovšek Šalamon of the Peace Institute accepted the European Award for Partnership in the Public Interest The roots of the case lay in a 1992 decision by Slovenia to withdraw permanent residency status from 25,000 ethnically diverse, predominantly working class people.  Suddenly neither citizens nor residents, they were restricted or denied access to schooling, work, healthcare, and travel. “It was an issue of becoming an illegal migrant overnight,” explained Kogovšek Šalamon.

“These people were treated as if they were empty packages, without rights or a soul,” said Lana, who, along with Saccucci, took on the case when no attorney in Slovenia would accept it on a pro bono basis.

The two lawyers, both with years of experience in human rights litigation, devoted hundreds of hours of free legal work over the course of six years, a collaboration that will continue as the three recipients of this year’s Partnership Award monitor Slovenia’s implementation of the court’s judgment.



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