Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture

Marek Nowicki

The Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture honors the memory of the late Marek Nowicki (1947-2003), an eminent international human rights activist and defender. The two annual lectures, one held in Budapest and one in Warsaw, are funded by the Open Society Institute.

Appointed an expert on human rights by the Polish parliament, Nowicki co-authored the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and helped shape the Polish Constitution. Nowicki wrote extensively on the history and the philosophy of human rights, he co-created documentaries and educational programs, and he spoke passionately on rights and freedoms, thus contributing his expertise to numerous international organizations. He was instigator and supporter of human rights movements in authoritarian countries and new democracies—especially Poland and the other post-Soviet states. Until the end of his life, Nowicki continued to give lectures to audiences all over Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, where his character and charisma made him a trusted leader, and a symbol in the non-violent fight for individual rights and dignity.

Marek Nowicki studied nuclear physics in the 1960s, while passionately helping to popularize mountaineering among student groups in Poland. In the years 1972–'81, Nowicki worked for the Mathematics and Physics Department of Warsaw University. In 1980 and '81, he was active in the “Mazowsze” chapter of the NSZZ Solidarność movement. During martial law, Nowicki was detained by the Polish authorities. In December of 1982, Nowicki co-founded the underground Helsinki Committee of Poland. After the fall of Communism, the members of the Committee, under Nowicki's leadership, established the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. The Foundation has flourished into one of the most active and experienced non-governmental organizations in Europe today. Nowicki presided over the organization until his premature death in 2003.


9th Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture

  "Tackling Race Discrimination Effectively"

by Lord Anthony Lester

The lecture is delivered on November 13, 2013. Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC is a practising member of Blackstone Chambers, and a Liberal Democrat Peer.  He specialises in public law and European human rights law.  He was Special Adviser to the Home Secretary (Roy Jenkins) from 1974-76 with responsibility for policy advice on human rights, notably in relation to anti-discrimination legislation.  He introduced two Private Members’ Bills in the Lords to incorporate the European Human Rights Convention into UK law.  He has argued many leading cases (including cases on free speech and on discrimination) not only before English courts, but also before both European courts and Commonwealth courts.

Lord Lester is President of INTERIGHTS (the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights), and has published numerous books and articles on constitutional law and human rights.

He is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, and has introduced Private Member’s Bills on civil partnerships, forced marriages, equality and, most recently, defamation.


8th Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture

  "Constitutional Doubles: The Interplay Between Ombudsmen and Constitutional Courts in the Protection of Human Rights"

by Ewa Letowska

The lecture was delivered on September 11, 2012. Ewa Letowska graduated from the Faculty of Law, Warsaw University in 1962. She received her doctoral degree in 1968, habilitated in civil law in 1975, and has been a full professor since 1986. Letowska has held numerous prominent academic and professional positions in Poland and abroad. She was the head of the Legal Studies Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences (1977-1987), and served as the Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights (1987 to 1992). Since 1999, Letowska has held judicial office—first as a judge of the Supreme Administrative Court (1999- 2002), then as a justice of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal (2002-2011). She is a full member of Polish Academy of Sciences, a correspondent member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Arts, a member of the Académie de Droit Comparé in Paris, a doctor h.c. Gdansk University and Pedagogical Academy, Warsaw, and a member of the Helsinki Committee. Letowska served as an expert of the Standards Application Committee of the International Labour Organization (1993-2003).

Letowska has received many awards for her educational activity in the field of law. She was nominated for the Woman of the Year award in Poland (1993), awarded the Friedrich Ebert Foundation prize (1995), and has been twice awarded the Commander’s Cross and Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Ewa Letowska is the author of over twenty books on civil and constitutional law, two books on opera, and of over 350 papers, articles, and editorials.

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7th Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture


"Toward a European Justice" by Robert Badinter 

The lecture was delivered on November 10, 2011. Robert Badinter has been a senator in the French Senate from 1995 until 2011. During his distinguished career, he has also been President of the Constitutional Council (1986-1995), President of the Arbitration Commission for former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), a member of the Brussels Convention for the European Constitution 2003 of the High Level Panel appointed by S.G. Kofi Annan (2003-2004), and Minister of Justice (1981-1986). Robert Badinter has been a long-time activist for the abolition of the death penalty and among the numerous achievements of his period as Minister of Justice was the abolition of the death penalty in France.

Badinter holds the highest degrees from the Sorbonne, Paris School of Law and an M.A. from Columbia University, and was appointed Professor of Law at the Sorbonne in 1965 (Emeritus since 1996). He is the author of eleven books: Against Death Penalty (2006); The Execution (1973); Freedom, Freedoms (1975); Condorcet, in collaboration with Elisabeth Badinter (1988); Free and Equals... (1989); The Penitentiary system of the Republic 1871-1914 (1992); An ordinary anti-Semitism (1997); The Abolition (2000); An European Constitution (2002); The greater good . . . (2004); and The birth of the Civil Code of 1804, Les épines et les roses (2011).

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Previous Lectures

The 6th Marek Nowicki lecture, "TransitionalJustice, Peace and Prevention" by Juan E. Mendez was delivered on November 8, 2010. Juan E. Mendez is a special advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court. He is also Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Until May 2009 he was the President of the International Center for Transnational Justice (ICTJ) and in the summer of 2009 he was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Ford Foundation in New York. Concurrent with his duties at ICTJ, the Honorable Kofi Annan named Mr. Méndez his Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, a task he performed from 2004 to 2007. A native of Argentina, Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. As a result of his involvement in representing political prisoners, the Argentinean military dictatorship arrested him and subjected him to torture and administrative detention for more than a year. During this time, Amnesty International adopted him as a “Prisoner of Conscience.” After his expulsion from his country in 1977, Mr. Méndez moved to the United States. For 15 years, he worked with Human Rights Watch, concentrating his efforts on human rights issues in the western hemisphere. In 1994, he became general counsel of Human Rights Watch, with worldwide duties in support of the organization’s mission, including responsibility for litigation and standard-setting activities. From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Méndez was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica, and between October 1999 and May 2004 he was Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Between 2000 and 2003 he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and served as its President in 2002. He has taught International Human Rights Law at Georgetown Law School and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he teaches regularly at the Oxford Masters Program in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of several human rights awards: the Goler T. Butcher Medal from the American Society of International Law (2010); a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Quebec in Montreal (2006); the inaugural “Monsignor Oscar A. Romero Award for Leadership in Service to Human Rights,” by the University of Dayton (2000); and the “Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award” of the Heartland Alliance (2003). Mr. Méndez is a member of the bar of Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the District of Columbia, U.S., having earned a J.D. from Stella Maris University in Argentina and a certificate from the American University Washington College of Law.

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The 5th Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture entitled "Will Pakistan's Democracy Survive?" by Asma Jahangir was delivered on November 2, 2009. Asma Jahangir is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and has been twice elected as Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. From 1998 to 2004 she also served as Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, and currently she serves as Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She is also Co-Chair of South Asia for Human Rights since 2000, and the Director of the AGHS Legal Aid Cell, which provides free legal assistance to the needy. Ms. Jahangir was instrumental in the formation of the Punjab Women Lawyers Association in 1980 and the Women Action Forum in 1985. She was placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for participating in the movement to restore political and fundamental rights under the military regime in 1983. Due to her efforts to secure justice for disadvantaged groups, she has been frequently threatened by militant groups. Ms. Jahangir has authored two books and five papers. She has received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Queen's University, Canada, and Amherst College, USA. She has been the recipient of a number of international and national awards, among them the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995. She served as a leading figure in the campaign waged by the women activists against the promulgation of the controversial Hadood Ordinances and draft law on evidence. Moreover, she has defended cases of discrimination against religious minorities, women and children. Ms. Jahangir represented several clients who were denied their fundamental rights. Notable amongst them are the cases she fought for brick kiln workers, who are mostly bonded labourers in Pakistan, and tried in setting for them a legislation passed through the parliament in favour of bonded workers.

On November 27, 2008, CEU hosted the fourth Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture, delivered by the Honorable Judge Theodor Meron. Entitled " The Humanization of the Law of War", the event was organized by the Open Society Institute and the Department of Legal Studies, CEU. The laudatio was given by Yehuda Elkana, CEU President and Rector, with the introductory remarks delivered by Wiktor Osiatynski, CEU University Professor. Renáta Uitz (Department of Legal Studies) acted as chair. Judge Meron delivered his second lecture entitled "Human Rights Law Marches into New Territory: The Enforcement of International Human Rights in International Criminal Tribunals" in the framework of the lecture series in Warsaw on Nov. 28, 2008.

On May 30, 2007, CEU hosted a public lecture by Aharon Barak, Visiting Professor, Yale Law School, former President, Supreme Court of Israel, entitled "Human Rights and the Battle against Terror". The event was organized by the Open Society Institure, Budapest and Central European University in the framework of the third Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture and was attended by a large audience comprising both CEU community and external guests, including HE David Admon, Israel Ambassador to Hungary and HE Robert Hage, Canadian Ambassador to Hungary. Introductory remarks were delivered by András Sajó (Department of Legal Studies).

On November 23, 2006, the second Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture, presented by the Open Society Institute and Central European University, was given by the Norwegian-born political theorist, Jon Elster (Columbia University, US; Chaire du Rationalite et Sciences Sociales, France), on "The Making of the French Declaration of Human Rights". He held the second part of the lecture one week later in Warsaw. Stefan Messmann (Department of Legal Studies) served as chair of the event, and Wiktor Osiatynski (CEU University Professor) offered introductory words about Elster, as well as the background of the lecture series.

President Arthur Chaskalson of the South African Constitutional Court delivered the first Marek Nowicki Memorial Lecture on November 26, 2003, entitled "Human Rights and Transition to Democracy: The Experience of the Constitutional Court of South Africa". The lecture dedicated to the achievements of Marek Nowicki, the admired Polish human rights advocate, explored the decade-long efforts of South African constitution makers and human rights defenders in undoing the injustices of apartheid.