José Zalaquett, professor of human rights at the University of Chile’s Law School, was awarded the 2009 Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America at a ceremony in Santiago on November 12.
Hailed as “a founder of the modern human rights movement worldwide,” Zalaquett helped to create and then lead Chile’s Vicaría de la Solidaridad, an organization sponsored by the Catholic Church that defended those detained by the Pinochet regime and filed habeus corpus documents on behalf of the missing. Exiled for ten years, he was appointed a member of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation in newly democratic Chile.
He has since served as a member and then president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and taken part in human rights efforts around the world. The recipient of a MacArthur Foundation award, among many others, Zalaquett holds an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame.
With funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America recognizes the efforts of visionary leaders to enhance the region’s welfare by strengthening democracy and improving life for its citizens. The award carries a $15,000 cash prize, with a matching amount donated to a charitable organization recommended by the laureate.