Leah Levin; a human rights defender of the first rank

October 7, 2013

This blog tends to prioritize news on human rights defenders who are in trouble. This makes one overlook perhaps too often the contribution made by those who are working for the cause in other ways. To rectify I want to pay tribute to a woman who made an enormous contribution to the creation and development of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders: Leah Levin. After 20 years she is leaving the Board of the Foundation today, 7 October, just before the ceremony on October.

Leah was there from the start; from the now ancient looking logo of the first yearsmealogo

to the current one:

When the MEA came into being in 1992, a year after Martin died, Leah was already an ‘old hand’ and a well-known name in the international human rights movement. She was one of Martin’s closest friends and felt very strongly motivated by the idea of making sure his legacy was honored and made useful.

bellagio may 1979

(one of the last pictures where Leah and Martin are seen together – 1979 Bellagio)

But Leah is more than the MEA. She has a OBE and is Hon. Doctor of the University of Essex. She served on the Boards of United Nations Association, Anti-Slavery and International Alert. Was Director of JUSTICE from 1982-1992 and is currently on Boards of Redress, Readers International and The International Journal of Human Rights. She is the author of UNESCO’s ‘Human Rights : Questions and Answers’, one the world’s widely disseminated books on human rights.

Twenty years of active Board membership in any enterprise is impressive; doing it on a voluntary basis without always getting the recognition deserved is outright admirable. We all owe her a lot.

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