September 29, 2017 – Worldwide – Last night, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was awarded the 2017 Allard Prize for International Integrity. Ismayilova writes about high-level corruption and misuse of power in Azerbaijan for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Radio Free Europe’s Azerbaijani service.
Ismayilova was presented with the 2017 Allard Prize for International Integrity at a ceremony at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada on September 28, 2017. Created and funded by Peter A. Allard, Q.C., the C$100,000 biennial prize is one of the largest awards in the world recognizing efforts to combat corruption and promote human rights.
“My hope is that one day we will have a strong enough society to demand justice in all corruption cases, including for those in the highest positions of the hierarchy,” Ismayilova said. “Writing and exposing corruption is not enough - we need to engage local and international legal mechanisms to make our exposures more meaningful. The Allard Prize will help me to continue this kind of work.”
In 2010, Ismayilova exposed hidden offshore assets held by Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev and his family. This included tens of millions of dollars in real estate holdings registered to Aliyev’s son, 2.5 billion dollars worth of gold and silver at Azerbaijan’s Chovdar mine, and various business interests in communications, banking, construction, and transportation. In 2013, Ismayilova received private video footage of herself in her home from an anonymous source, with a note warning her to behave. She was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges that many saw as retaliation for her reports. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan released Ismayilova on probation but forbade her to travel abroad for five years without official permission.
"We are honoured to present the 2017 Allard Prize to Khadija Ismayilova in recognition of her extraordinary efforts to combat corruption in Azerbaijan," said Peter Allard. “Demonstrating exemplary leadership and courage, she has made considerable personal sacrifices - and accepted risks to her own safety and that of her family and friends - to uphold transparency, accountability and the Rule of Law. Her dedication to exposing corruption is deeply aligned with the values of the Allard Prize.”
Currently Ismayilova is working on a project about the Azerbaijani Laundromat. The Azerbaijani Laundromat is a complex money-laundering operation and slush fund that handled $2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies registered in the UK. This project is working to reveal where government money is being spent.
“Receiving the Allard Prize is a testament to the struggle journalists and activists in Azerbaijan carry out day by day to expose corruption,” Ismayilova said. “It is with great honor that I accept this award.”
In addition to announcing the winner, the Allard Prize honoured two finalists with C$10,000 honourable mention awards for their efforts in fighting corruption and protecting human rights. Those honourees are:
- Azza Soliman: A renowned women’s rights lawyer, Azza Soliman is the co-founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA). She has dedicated her life to fighting corruption and injustice faced by Egyptian girls and women in both the private sphere and the judicial system, fighting for girls’ and womens’ rights to divorce, to equal child custody and to inherit equally to boys and men.
- Car Wash Task Force (Força Tarefa da Lava Jato): A Brazilian anti-corruption prosecution task force working to prosecute some of the most powerful Brazilian economic and political elites. “Operation Car Wash” began as a local money laundering investigation and has grown into the largest probe to date uncovering cases of state capture and grand corruption in Brazil. The Task Force has recovered billions of dollars in bribes and is changing Brazil’s prior culture of impunity.
The Allard Prize for International Integrity was first awarded in 2013 to Anna Hazare for his work in leading successful movements across India to enhance government transparency and investigate and prosecute official corruption. The 2015 Allard Prize went to John Githongo and Rafael Marques de Morais, two African journalists who exposed corruption in their respective countries of Kenya and Angola.
Watch the video of the finalists
About the Allard Prize for International Integrity
Established in October 2012 and funded by Peter A. Allard, Q.C., the Allard Prize for International Integrity is awarded biennially to an individual, movement or organization that has shown exceptional courage and leadership in combating corruption and promoting human rights, especially through promoting transparency, accountability and the Rule of Law. After a comprehensive nomination and selection process, this year’s three finalists were selected from 244 nominations from 70 countries around the world.
The Allard Prize is steered by the Allard Prize Committee, composed of representatives of both the Allard Prize Foundation and the Allard School of Law. The Committee consults with the Allard Prize Advisory Board, composed of members of the anti-corruption and human rights communities worldwide. Learn more: www.allardprize.org.
Allard Prize Photography Competition
The Allard Prize Committee also oversees the semi-annual Allard Prize Photography Competition, which recognizes photographic excellence reflecting the ideals of the Allard Prize. Each winning entrant receives a C$1,000 cash prize and is featured on the Allard Prize website for six months. Up to six photographs are selected every six months. Learn more.
Peter A. Allard, Q.C.
The Allard Prize for International Integrity was created by Peter A. Allard, Q.C. as part of his 2011 gift of $11.86 million to the University of British Columbia. This gift also supported the creation of the Faculty’s new home, Allard Hall. On January 22, 2015, UBC announced an additional transformational $30 million gift from Mr. Allard. Mr. Allard's gift is the largest ever to a Canadian law school. In recognition of this gift, which enables the Faculty to build on its reputation for championing human rights, the university named the law school the Peter A. Allard School of Law.
Throughout his career as a lawyer and businessman, Mr. Allard has assumed leadership roles in human rights, environmental advocacy and other philanthropic work. Mr. Allard graduated from UBC with a B.A. in History in 1968, and a LL.B. in 1971. After graduation, Mr. Allard practiced law and participated in various business enterprises. In 1993, he established the Highbury Foundation, which has assisted medical communities in B.C. and Alberta with support for research and the purchase of medical equipment. The Highbury Foundation has also made significant donations to colleges and universities across Western Canada for scholarships and building needs.
Peter A. Allard School of Law
The Peter A. Allard School of Law is committed to excellence in legal education and research. As part of an outstanding public university, situated on traditional ancestral and unceded Musqueam lands in one of the most open, diverse and beautiful places in the world, it offers an inspiring environment that combines rigorous professional legal education with an awareness of the role of law in society and a commitment to the rule of law and access to justice. Learn more.