ResourcesPress Release

Soros and Mukwege Honored for Human Rights Work

For Immediate Release

The philanthropist and financier George Soros and Dr. Denis Mukwege, a champion in the fight against rape as a weapon of war, were honored Tuesday evening for their contributions to the global struggle for human rights at a gala dinner hosted by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

“Dr. Denis Mukwege and George Soros devote their lives to working on behalf of others and readily tackling the most difficult issues – advocating for the women of the Congo and improving the lives and advancing the human rights of oppressed people around the world,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Their tireless efforts and leadership inspire human rights defenders worldwide and build vital resistance to human rights violators.”

Soros, whose philanthropic leadership and dedication to the cause of human rights was honored with the 2015 Physicians for Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award, has been a PHR supporter since its inception in 1985. “George Soros grasped, early on, that doctors play a vital role in preserving human dignity, a core human rights principle,” said McKay. “His faith in our cause paved the way for other supporters and helped to ensure that health professionals have the opportunity to use their skills as a means towards justice.”

The 2015 Physicians for Human Rights Award was given to Dr. Mukwege, who for at least 13 years has coupled a selfless devotion to caring for survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with fearless advocacy to end the terror of rape in conflict. “Dr. Mukwege embodies the highest ideals of the medical profession,” said McKay. “In the face of horrific sexual violence used as a weapon of war, Dr. Mukwege’s medical care evolved into a struggle for justice that resonates beyond his native DRC to places like Syria, where sexual violence is a defining element of the conflict today.”

The event, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York, raised $900,000 for PHR’s work to ensure that mass atrocities and severe human rights violations are investigated and documented under the impartial lens of medical expertise and that perpetrators are brought to justice. Thanks to generous underwriting by an anonymous family foundation, 100 percent of the funds raised by the 2015 gala will support PHR’s programmatic work.

The approximately 350 distinguished guests included leaders from the philanthropic, public health, and medical communities. They were joined by Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky, media magnate Mortimer Zuckerman, author and LGBT activist Andrew Solomon, and playwright Lynn Nottage, among others. The event included an on-stage interview with George Soros by veteran journalist Charlie Rose.

The 2015 Physicians for Human Rights honorees are:

George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations

George Soros is an investor and founder of the Open Society Foundations. Soros came of age in Hungary at a time when it was a battleground in the decades-long struggle between fascism and communism. His personal experience of this conflict, as well as a fascination with philosophy, shaped his thinking in both finance and philanthropy. Soros’s commitment to the idea of an open society – where rights are respected, government is accountable, and no one has a monopoly on the truth – makes the Open Society Foundations unlike any other private philanthropic effort in history.

Dr. Kathleen Foley, founding medical director of the Open Society Foundations’ International Palliative Care Initiative, who presented Soros with the award, said: [George Soros] has redefined what it means to be a philanthropist, providing not just money, but intellectual power, imagination, business savvy, action. And he has done so quietly, with little fanfare, his only interest improving lives, not personal acclaim.

Denis Mukwege, MD, Founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital

Dr. Denis Mukwege, a world-renowned gynecological surgeon, is the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its founding in 1999, the hospital has treated more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence. Despite attacks against him and his family, Dr. Mukwege has been fearless in his calls for accountability for those responsible for sexual violence. His impassioned advocacy has brought international attention to rape in war, earning him repeated nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Presenting the PHR award to Dr. Mukwege, Stephen J. Rapp, ambassador-at-large for war crime issues, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. State Department, said: Remarkably, despite what brings most women and girls to Panzi Hospital, there is light in their faces, a light generated by trust and hope. Because these women know their doctor is not only providing them with medical and emotional care, he is demanding justice for what they experienced. This, Dr. Mukwege has said, is a main part of the remedy that will help his patients heal.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.