Jan Nolf and Michel Claise received 2016 Citizenship Award
The P&V Foundation gave out its 12th Citizenship Award on 23rd November 2016 to Jan Nolf, honorory magistrate, and Michel Claise, investigating magistrate specialised in financial crimes. The Citizenship Award is an annual award conferred to a person, initiative or organisation, of Belgian or international origin, whose activity has shown exemplary commitment to promoting an open, democratic, tolerant society.
TWO VOICES TO DEFEND JUSTICE IN BELGIUM
Since 2015, the Citizenship Award wants to highlight the fact that it is possible to be an exemplary citizen while working in social institutions. Every year, a social sector, in which people have contributed to creating a fair, tolerant and respectful society, is chosen. In 2016, the P&V Foundation chose to promote the public sector in the broad sense.
Because it is one of the cornerstones of a democratic country and because it is today under heavy pressure, justice is the public sector which was chosen for the Citizenship Award 2016. The Citizenship Award 2016 was given out to Jan Nolf and Michel Claise.
Even if these two magistrates are active in very different fields, they both strive for the protection of everyone's right to equality before the law and also defend the rights and obligation of each individual.
Through their actions and words in the medias, they defend the judicial system's independence against the power of money and strive for the protection of a democratic constitutional state.
Insensitive to pressure, they demonstrate how individual actors working within the justice sector can act to improve the judicial system, often poorly taken into consideration by the general public.
These two magistrates defend therefore very similar values, also conveyed by the P&V Foundation, for a more democratic, more open and more solidary society.
JAN NOLF, HONARARY JUSTICE OF THE PEACE AND CRITICAL OBSERVER
After having worked ten years as a lawyer in Bruges, Jan Nolf became justice of the peace in the canton of Roeselare in 1987. He was very close to people and did everything he could to reconcile parties in conflict and therefore to avoid trials. He has always been defending an open and democratic justice with a special focus on vulnerable population groups.
Since his early retirement in 2011 (as a sign of protest against the scaling up within the justice system), he has set himself up as a critical observer of justice, especially via his website www.justwatch.be. In his opinion, the main problem of the judicial system today is not a lack of financial means. "The judicial system simply has to change. Our rigid judicial system is wasteful. This is the message I want to put across. The judicial system is not doing what it should be doing. Due to the lack of dialogue and the growing number of trials, it has become wasteful". He is the author of several books including Kwestbaren in het nieuwe recht (Vulnerable people in the new legal system). His new book De kracht van de rechtvaardigheid (The strength of equity) was published at the end of November 2016. In this book, Jan Nolf recounts his 25-year career and offers a unique insight into the judicial system. Jan Nolf does not simply criticize but draws a picture of how a new legal system could look like. A justice for all of us. The book was published at the end of November 2016 by EPO.
MICHEL CLAISE, INVESTIGATING MAGISTRATE SPECIALISED IN FINANCIAL CRIME
Michel Claise was a lawyer specialised in financial law during twenty years. In 1999, he passed the examination for the magistracy. Then, he landed in the financial investigation service and has been now working there as a financial investigating magistrate for 16 years. In the halls of the Courthouse of Brussels, Michel Claise is called "Mister 100 million" because it would actually be the amount of money he brings back to the Belgian Treasury every year, thanks to his valuable investigative work. Combative, honest and insensitive to pressure, Magistrate Claise wants to highlight the fact that criminality is not taken seriously enough into consideration even if he sees an evolution: "There is a growing number of citizens thinking that this struggle has become useful for everyone because the extent of fiscal fraud in Belgium amounts 30 billion euros every year. Someone robbing an old lady on the street will be severely punished. Fraudsters hiding millions in tax havens will remain unpunished. There would probably be less criminality on the street if we tackled the problem of financial criminality truly and if we would not be forced to damage the pillars of democracy that are culture, education, healthcare and justice."
The Foundation presented a Johan Tahon sculpture to the award winners.