2007 Justice Cerda

Ms. Alyson O’Mahoney
(914) 241-0086 ext. 13
Bernetia Akin Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation
Online Newsroom: www.gruberprizes.org/news-media FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chilean Judge Carlos Cerda and Two Other Latin American Champions of Justice to Share $500K Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize

Cerda’s Commitment to Justice Prevailed Against Oppression and Intimidation by Dictatorial Regime

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To schedule one-on-one interviews with Gruber prize recipients, call (914)-241-0086 ext 13, or email aomahoney@robinleedyassociates.com.

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June 14, 2007, New York, NY - The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation today announced that Judge Carlos Cerda of Chile will share its 2007 Justice Prize with Justice Carmen Argibay of Argentina Mónica Feria of Peru in a ceremony to be held October 10, 2007, at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, where world justice leaders will gather to celebrate the achievements of the recipients.  The three laureates will share the $500,000 award.

Widely admired today as Chile’s leading legal scholar, Judge Carlos Cerda has led anything but a sheltered academic life.  The only judge in Chile to pursue cases of human rights abuse by the Pinochet regime while the general was in power, Judge Cerda issued indictments against members of the Chilean military and police, as well as civilian collaborators who engaged in kidnapping and murder.  An editorial at the time declared that “one judge demonstrated that it can be done” and “that it’s worth the effort.”

In exercising his judicial independence, Cerda ignored the complaints and threats of high-ranking secret police and military officials, and even contested a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to grant amnesty for crimes he was investigating. Cerda believed that not until the facts were exhaustively examined could amnesty be considered – an action that resulted in his temporary removal from the bench. By standing up to the Pinochet regime, Cerda risked his career and even the respect of some of his peers. He continues to this day to bring members of the Pinochet family to justice for corruption and tax evasion.  His principled stance against the Pinochet regime – an act of courage performed not for the sake of his own career, but for his country and its citizens – may explain why he was never appointed to Chile’s Supreme Court.

Throughout his judicial career, Cerda has been dedicated to teaching young lawyers and judges-in-training – based on his philosophy that “judges are guardians of the human condition when threatened by power, who pursue justice, inner peace, with prudence, without pride or concern over reward or personal security, and most importantly, with independence.”

While a visiting scholar at Harvard, the International and New York bar associations issued a statement calling Cerda “one of the most brilliant jurists in Chile today;” saying, “his rectitude, courage and honesty is unquestioned by even his opponents.”

According to Cerda, “Judges are guardians of the human condition when threatened by power.  We must safeguard essential rights of people faced with excessive exercise of executive and legislative authority, and by attacks from third parties which demand their protection.” Upon receipt of the Gruber Justice Prize, Cerda said the efforts of judges should be “undertaken with inner peace and prudence, without pride or concern over reward or personal security, and most importantly, with independence.  And it is the duty of each citizen to demand judges with these characteristics.  Judge Carlos Cerda’s brief biography is available at www.gruberprizes.org/GruberPrizes/Justice_LaureateProfile.php?id=13&awar…

The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Justice Prize is presented to individuals or organizations for contributions that have furthered the cause of justice as delivered through the legal system.  The award is intended to acknowledge individual efforts, as well as to encourage further advancements in the field and progress toward bringing about a fundamentally just world.

In addition to the cash award, prize recipients receive a medal of honor and citation, which says, “The 2007 Justice Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation is hereby proudly presented to Carmen Maria Argibay, Carlos José Cerda Fernández and Mónica Feria Tinta who overcame personal experiences of profound injustice to become outspoken champions of justice. Through their enormous personal courage and tenacious commitment to a just rule of law, they challenged the absence of rights in their respective worlds and, in so doing, brought justice to their own countries and inspiration to human rights advocates around the globe.”

“Each prize recipient has shown great resolve in fighting for democratic principles in the face of tyrannical regimes, often at great risk to personal security.  Collectively, they are a model for individual action aimed at achieving human equality and the resistance of tyranny around the world,” said Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, one of the members of the selection panel choosing Gruber International Justice Prize recipients.

“In every age and in every country, heroes appear.  Often they are reluctant heroes who choose to take a principled stand in difficult times.  I’m confident that the efforts of this year’s Justice Prize recipients – three courageous persons working within the justice systems of Latin America – will inspire people from all parts of the world to do the right thing at the right time,” said human rights advocate Martin Lee, Esq., a member of the Gruber Justice selection committee.

Members of the committee that selected the 2007 Justice Prize Recipients:

  • The Honorable Rosalie Silberman Abella, Justice, Supreme Court of Canada
  • Dennis Archer, Esq., Former President, American Bar Association, Former Mayor of Detroit, Former Member of the Supreme Court of Michigan
  • Giuseppe Bisconti, Esq., Chair, International Foundation for the Rule of Law and the Independence of Lawyers and Judges and Dormer President of the International Bar Association
  • The Honorable Arthur Chaskalson, Chief Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa, retired
  • Martin Lee, Esq., Founding chair of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong, human rights activist
  • The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice, Supreme Court of the United States of America, retired
  • Past honorees of the Gruber Foundation Justice Prize include:
  • 2006: Aharon Barak, retired President of the Supreme Court of Israel, renowned for championing an activist judiciary and the rule of law and democracy.
  • 2005: Malaysian attorney Dató Param Cumaraswamy who, at considerable risk to himself, stood up for the independence of the judiciary.
  • 2004: Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the first president of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, and Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa, an advocate and judge who helped establish South Africa’s Constitution as a model for modern democratic societies.
  • 2003: Canadian Supreme Court Justices judges Madame Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella and Madame Justice Bertha Wilson for their contributions to jurisprudence in Canada and beyond. Abella, who served on the Ontario Court of Appeal for 20 years before her appointment to the Supreme Court, is one of Canada’s leading advocate for women’s and human rights; Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, has forged a reputation as a champion of the underdog and a dedicated proponent of fair play.
  • 2002: Fali Sam Nariman, Member of the Parliament of India, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and President of the Bar Association of India. Nariman has played an important role in both establishing and enforcing the rule of law in India. He’s played an important role in establishing universal principles of human rights as a standard for India and other emerging democracies.
  • 2001: The Honorable Justice Anthony Roy Gubbay, former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, and the Law Society of Zimbabwe were the joint recipients of the inaugural Justice Prize in 2001, honored for upholding the independence of the judiciary and protecting the rights of the people of Zimbabwe.

The Peter and Patricia Gruber International Prize Program honors contemporary individuals in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Justice and Women’s Rights, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. The Selection Advisory Boards choose individuals whose contributions in their respective fields advance our knowledge, potentially have a profound impact on our lives, and, in the case of the Justice and Women’s Rights Prizes, demonstrate courage and commitment in the face of significant obstacles. 

The nomination form and additional information about nomination requirements and selection criteria may be found on the Foundation web site at www.gruberprizes.org/Nominations/Nominations.php

The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation honors and encourages educational excellence, social justice and scientific achievements that better the human condition.  For more information about Foundation guidelines and priorities, please go to: www.gruberprizes.org.

For more information on the Gruber Prizes email media@gruberprizes.org or  contact Bernetia Akin of the Gruber Foundation at 340-775-8035 or by mail 140 W 57th St Suite 10C New York, NY 10019.  Media materials and additional background information on the Gruber Prizes can be found at our online newsroom:  http://www.gruberprizes.org/news-media