10 August 2007, Friday

The American Bar Association will today award Elena Ezhova, the director of the Russian Justice Initiative Moscow office, its 2007 International Human Rights Award, Russian Justice Initiative said. The award is a recognition of Ezhova's efforts to provide legal assistance to victims of grave human rights abuse in Chechnya.

Since 2001 Elena Ezhova, a Russian lawyer living in Moscow, has served as a senior lawyer and director of the Moscow office of the Russian Justice Initiative, a Dutch organization providing legal assistance to victims of grave human rights abuse in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

"This award is very well deserved," said Jan ter Laak, chairman of the board of Russian Justice Initiative. "Elena's tireless work for many years has provided people in the North Caucasus with access to justice that they otherwise would not have had. We are very glad for the American Bar Association's recognition of this contribution."

As senior lawyer, Ezhova has led the Russian Justice Initiative's groundbreaking efforts to provide victims in Chechnya with legal assistance in both domestic and international proceedings. Ezhova has been instrumental in developing the organization's legal strategy and she has filed more than 30 cases with the European Court of Human Rights concerning illegal detention, extra-judicial execution, torture and disappearances in Chechnya.

In December 2006, Ezhova was one of several lawyers from Russian Justice Initiative to present arguments before a panel of seven judges at the European Court of Human Rights in the case Bazorkina v. Russia, the first case that the European Court decided concerning disappearances in Chechnya.

Ezhova has acted as lead- or co-counsel in several other precedent-setting cases at the European Court, including Estamirov and Others v. Russia, Imakayeva v. Russia and Chitayev and Chitayev v. Russia, the first case that the European Court of Human Rights decided concerning torture in Chechnya.

In a ceremony on 10 August 2007, during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, USA, Ezhova will be awarded the ABA 2007 International Human Rights Award. The International Human Rights Award is intended to honor and give public recognition to an individual who has made a special contribution in the area of human rights outside the United States.

With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.

The International Human Rights Award is administered by the ABA Section of Litigation. The ABA Section of Litigation with more than 77,000 members, includes trial lawyers, judges, and others involved in all aspects of litigation and the dispute resolution process. The section is dedicated to promoting justice both domestically and internationally and enhancing public understanding of and respect for the legal profession.

Ezhova graduated with a law degree from the Moscow State Social University in 2001. She has founded the organization Vibor, an organization providing legal assistance to prisoners and detainees awaiting trial. She has worked as an intern for Human Rights Watch in Moscow, as a legal advisor for ANNA, an anti-domestic violence organization and as a hotline operator for Syostri, a center for survivors of sexual abuse.

The Dutch-registered organization Russian Justice Initiative has, together with its implementing partner, the Ingushetia-based organization Pravovaia Initsiativa, provided legal assistance to victims of grave human rights abuse in Chechnya and the North Caucasus through the Chechnya Justice Project since 2001. The Chechnya Justice Project has established itself as one of the leading litigation projects in Chechnya and currently represents more than 900 clients in 135 cases before the European Court of Human Rights.

For more information:

In San Francisco:

Elena Ezhova, +7 916 601 1327

Ole Solvang, +7 905 527 5978

In Utrecht, Netherlands:

Jan ter Laak, +31 622 975 179

For the American Bar Association:

ABA 2007 San Francisco Annual Meeting Press Room

+1-415-348-4558, Aug. 9 - 14

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