The Slovenia Times

President honours lawyer for human rights work

President Nataša Pirc Musar (right) honours lawyer Katarina Bervar Sternad (left) with a new award for human rights work. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Katarina Bervar Sternad, a lawyer known for her advocacy of democracy and human rights in Slovenia, is the recipient of the new presidential award for human rights work given out by President Nataša Pirc Musar.

The president's office said the lawyer's work is characterised by a commitment to co-creating a society that consistently respects human rights in "a tough marathon that she is braving with determination".

As the head of PIC, the legal centre for the protection of human rights and the environment, Bervar Sternad has direct contact with individuals from vulnerable groups, socially disadvantaged families and other victims of discrimination and human rights violations.

Working on concrete cases of human rights violations, she identifies systemic shortcomings, brings them to the attention of the relevant state institutions and works to remedy them, the office said.

Her experience and work were instrumental in the 2021 formation of the Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy, which played a major part in defending individuals and groups prosecuted under Covid-19 rules and provisions that were later declared unconstitutional.

Bervar Sternad is also one of the most prominent fighters against domestic violence and violence against women, and an initiator and member of the Network for Children's Rights

The president's office said it is hard to imagine a professional conversation on the human rights situation and the necessary systemic improvements without Bervar Sternad's input.

Pirc Musar presented the award for the first time on 11 December at a reception marking Human Rights Day, observed worldwide the day before.

In her address, the president described the new award as an important contribution in the efforts to "enhance society's awareness of the importance of protecting human rights, which are key to preserving and consolidating democracy, justice, stability, progress and peace in the world".

Bervar Sternad said she was accepting the award on behalf of all those who work in the non-governmental sector to promote respect for human rights in society, especially at a time of attempts to undermine the importance of their work.

While human rights defenders in Slovenia may not be subject to the same kind of perils as their colleagues abroad, the level of hostility against them is not insignificant, it is "a microcosm of violence and bodes ill for our future work if it is not countered from the very top", she warned.


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