White Crows for courage awarded

White Crow awards are given to those rare people who change society for the better while showing courage, a better-than-average sense of justice and public good, and a persistent faith in personal principles. On November 17 at the Concert for the Aware held in Bratislava’s PKO cultural, the White Crow awards for 2009 were given to Judge Jana Dubovcová and several of her colleagues who have challenged suppression of independence in the judiciary, to psychiatrist Jozef Hašto and lawyer Roman Kvasnica, and to foresters-environmentalists from the Low Tatras National Park. The White Crow award program was initiated by the Fair-Play Alliance and the Centre for the Citizens Rights, Via Iuris, two NGOs, and this is the second time awards have been given.

The Concert for the AwareThe Concert for the Aware (Source: Sme, Peter Žákovič)

White Crow awards are given to those rare people who change society for the better while showing courage, a better-than-average sense of justice and public good, and a persistent faith in personal principles. On November 17 at the Concert for the Aware held in Bratislava’s PKO cultural, the White Crow awards for 2009 were given to Judge Jana Dubovcová and several of her colleagues who have challenged suppression of independence in the judiciary, to psychiatrist Jozef Hašto and lawyer Roman Kvasnica, and to foresters-environmentalists from the Low Tatras National Park. The White Crow award program was initiated by the Fair-Play Alliance and the Centre for the Citizens Rights, Via Iuris, two NGOs, and this is the second time awards have been given.

Jana Dubovcová received a White Crow award for her courage when she publicly requested then-Justice Minister Štefan Harabin to resign in 2008, thus threatening her career. She also has been demanding reform of the judicial system and has worked to unite pro-reform judges. Small award statues were also given to five judges who are members of this reform initiative.

Hašto and Kvasnica were awarded White Crows for their personal engagement and encouragement in the case of Hedviga Malinová in which they showed great courage and patience. Malinová was beaten in Nitra, allegedly because she made a phone call in Hungarian, but her assailants have not been prosecuted even after three years, and she was accused of having invented the whole story. “They were the persons who helped her to return to a normal life,” a member of the Evaluation Committee, Egon Gál, said.

It took also great courage for 18 members of the forestry administration to write an open letter to the management of the State Natural Protection agency in which they protested against toxic chemical spraying in the park after a windstorm in the Low Tatras destroyed a large area of forest. They were singled out for the awards for their courage and principled behaviour, as they risked professional problems, which did partially come after their protest against the spraying.

The White Crow laureates were chosen by an evaluation committee consisting of philosopher Egon Gál, priest Ján Krstiteľ Balázs, journalist Tina Čorná, psychologist Gustáv Matijek, law professor Alexandra Krsková as well as last year’s laureates: Judge Alexander Mojš and a representative of the citizens of Pezinok, Jaroslav Pavlovič.

The ceremony was preceded by a well-attended concert performed by The Plastic People of the Universe from Prague – a band that used to be an underground and dissident voice. The two organisations that have established the awards program are convinced that those who stick to their principles and show courage to step forth and fight for justice should be publicly named and honoured so that they can be an example for others.

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