Archive for the 'awards' Category

3 Women human rights defenders shortlisted for Václav Havel human rights award

January 11, 2021

Vaclav Havel banner above National Museum Prague, VitVit via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Vaclav Havel banner above National Museum Prague, VitVit via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

This year’s Václav Havel Human Rights Award has shortlisted three female finalists, The panel nominated Saudi women’s rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul, a group of young Buddhist nuns from a monastery in Nepal and Julienne Lusenge, who documents cases of wartime sexual violence in the Congo.

The winner will be announced at the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 19. For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D.

Al-Hathloul heads the opposition to the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. She has been imprisoned since 2018. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/29/loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-over-5-years-prison-by-saudi-terror-court/]

The nuns from the monastery called Amitabha Drukpa constitute a group who promotes gender equality, environmental sustainability, and intercultural tolerance in the Himalayan villages. They gained fame by transporting material help to outlying villages after an earthquake near Kathmandu in 2015. They also teach women’s self-defense and they have biked over 20,000 kilometers in protest against trading in women and girls.

Lusenge is a human rights activist who documents cases of sexual abuse and violence against women in Congo. She has contributed to the conviction of hundreds of perpetrators of acts of sexual violence against women nationwide. She was often threatened for her work.

Michael Žantovský, director of the Václav Havel Library, said: “Last year, we dedicated the autumn Prague conference, which usually takes place on the occasion of the Václav Havel Prize, to women’s rights. We are glad that the jury followed a similar point.”.

https://www.expats.cz/czech-news/article/vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-to-celebrate-international-female-activists

Ugandan Human rights defender Nicholas Opiyo arrested like a criminal

December 23, 2020

Colin Stewart posted on December 22, 2020 in 76Crimes.com the story of how on 22 December the Ugandan police seized highly respected human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo from a restaurant where he was eating, forced him into a van and drove away with him. He was recently released on bail: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/uganda-leading-rights-lawyer-released-on-bail/2093856

Nicholas Opiyo is confronted outside a magistrate court in 2018 after attempting to prosecute Uganda’s chief of police. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Opiyo)

In a message on its Facebook page, the Uganda Police Force stated that Opiyo was arrested by a “Joint Task team of Security and Financial Intelligence, on allegations of money laundering and related malicious acts. The investigations are progressing well and any new developments will be communicated in due course,” the message continued. “He remains in our custody at the Special Investigations Division.”

Opiyo, a strong ally of the LGBTI community in Uganda, is the executive director and lead attorney of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights advocacy organization. As an attorney, he represented presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) after Wine’s arrest before a campaign rally on Nov. 18. That arrest sparked widespread violence. Opiyo said Wine was arrested on a coronavirus violation, but “the actual reason really is that it is part of the broader attempt to stifle opposition campaigns.” He noted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also holding political rallies during the same period, but without police interference.

The Chimp Reports news site reported:

National Unity Platform Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Bobi Wine claimed Opiyo was arrested because he was looking into the aftermath of the November 18th protests in which over 50 people were killed. The protests were sparked by the arrest of the candidate. Bobi Wine said Opiyo was “abducted by security from restaurant in Kamwokya [a section of Kampala, the capital of Uganda], alongside other lawyers investigating murders of 18th & 19th, Nov. Thrown into private van with tinted glasses and  driven at breakneck speed to unknown destination.”

The Uganda Police Force message about Opiyo was harshly criticized in hundreds of comments on Facebook, including remarks.

The website of Chapter Four Uganda states about Opiyo:

He is the recipient of German Africa Prize, 2017, Voices for Justice Award from Human Rights Watch, 2015 and the European Union Parliament Sakharov Fellows Prize, 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/08/11/4-human-rights-defenders-receiving-the-alison-des-forges-award-2015/]

He was until March of 2017, a member of the Team of Expert to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association. He is also a visiting scholar at the Centre for African Studies, Stanford University, CA, USA and the Global Health Program at the University of San Francisco (UCSF), California, USA.

Nicholas is the Board Chair of Action Aid Uganda, a member of the Human Rights Advisory Board BENETECH, a Silicon Valley human rights and tech company based in Palo Alto in California and African Middle Eastern Leadership Project (AMEL), a Washington, DC-based think and action group.

On 29 December a group of UN experts expressed their concern: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1081072

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/23/uganda-detains-leading-lawyer-for-lgbt-rights-on-money-laundering-charges

MEA 2020 finalist Sizani Ngubane Dies

December 23, 2020

NGO CSW/NY/YouTube Sizani Ngubane, founder of the Rural Women’s Movement land rights group in South Africa. 23 December 2020 allAfrica.com

South African women’s land rights activist Sizani Ngubane (also known as uGogo) has died, according to the Rural Women’s Movement (RWM) – an organisation of which she was the director and founder. This sad news was brought by AllAfrica.com on 23 December.

There were several attempts on Ngubane’s life during her 40 years of activism. At the time of her death she and her organisation , along with rights groups, were challenging the Ingonyama Trust in Pietermaritzburg High Court, Thomson Reuters reported in November 2020. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/07/more-about-mea-finalist-sizani-ngubane-from-south-africa/]

Their work so far includes finding housing for evicted women and children, helping grow food on communal land for the hungry and sick, and campaigning for better legal protection of women’s land rights. Ngubane said the movement, which was launched in 1998, has now grown to 50,000 women.

She was in 2020 one of three finalists for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, which is referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.

The RWM statement, released via their Twitter account, read:

We are saddened to share that our Founder and Director, uGogo Sizani Ngubane has passed on. She transformed countless lives. A lifelong freedom fighter, first against the brutal apartheid regime, uGogo, alongside other rural women, would later charge forward towards the promises of democracy.

“Tirelessly working for women’s land rights and equality, uGogo also laboured against gender-based violence and other challenges facing rural women. Originating in a non-partisan, women-led peace building movement, we have become a leader-full movement inspiring countless across KZN, South Africa, and the globe.
She was really beyond a special person. Fearless. Creative. Kind. Determined like no other. An unwavering belief in others and an endless reservoir of empathy and ubuntu.

She will be missed deeply by all. Hamba kahle, Gogo.”

This tribute was followed by one from Nomboniso Gasa, in which she wrote: ” Mam’ Sizani Ngubane has died. She was a gentle giant. My heart’s breaking. Last time I spoke to her, she was fatigued from a govt hell-bent on destructive Bills, TCB & TKLB.
Can’t imagine Rural Women’s movement – which she found in 1990 – without her energy, courage and vision
.”

The Ennals Award ceremony was to be streamed live from Geneva on February 19, 2020, and the Martin Ennals Foundation said about Ngubane after it decided to recognise her work with a nomination: ” In South Africa, women face discrimination, the worst expression of which is widespread gender violence. In rural communities, they frequently have their land expropriated and are deprived of access to education and justice. Sizani Ngubane founded an organisation of more than 50,000 women from rural areas in her country and has fought successfully for over 40 years for the recognition of their rights.”

On hearing of her death, the MEA tweeted: ” A lifetime #HumanRights giant is gone. #SouthAfrica #WomenRights champion and #MartinEnnals finalist #SizaniNgubane has passed away. Generous, determined, loving, resilient, she was the very essence of a #HRD . She will be dearly missed.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202012230793.html

Patti Smith recognized with International Beethoven Prize

December 16, 2020

Musician Patti Smith attends a special screening of The Seagull at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York, NY on May 10, 2018. (Photo by Stephen Smith/SIPA USA) (Newscom TagID: sipaphotoseight127601.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Patti Smith is honored for her social commitment “She is an activist – with her books, her songs and her life. She stands up for human rights, peace, freedom, poverty reduction, inclusion and climate protection all her life,” the message said. In addition, Smith is a declared Beethoven fan. The Beethoven Academy has taken human rights, peace, freedom, poverty reduction and inclusion as its guiding principles. The International Beethoven Prize was awarded for the sixth time. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/c05408e0-e598-11e7-a009-858a33846a9e].

For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/09/igor-levit-wins-the-2019-beethoven-prize-for-human-rights/

Two Italians don’t want a French Legion d’Honneur if el-Sissi has one

December 15, 2020

PAOLO SANTALUCIA and NICOLE WINFIELD – based on an Associated Press item of 14 December 2020 – report that two prominent Italians announced they were returning their Legion of Honor awards to France to protest that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was given the prize despite his government’s human rights abuses.

Corrado Augias, a long-time journalist for La Repubblica daily and one-time European Parliamentarian for Italy’s center-left, returned his prize to the French Embassy on Monday. Giovanna Melandri, a former Italian culture minister and the president of Rome’s Maxxi contemporary art museum, announced she would follow suit.

Both cited Egypt’s role in the 2016 kidnapping, torture and killing of an Italian doctoral research student in Cairo, as well as the regime’s other human rights violations.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week awarded the Egyptian President the highest French honor during a closed-door ceremony Sept. 7 that only became public after the Egyptian presidency published photos of it.

Also last week, Rome prosecutors formally placed four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces under investigation over the death of Giulio Regeni, whose 2016 killing strained relations between Rome and Cairo and galvanized Italy’s human rights community. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/monday-25-april-what-will-happen-in-egypt/]

Speaking outside the French Embassy, Augias said he returned his 2007 prize out of “a sense of indignation,” given that the award was bestowed on el-Sissi at the same time that Rome prosecutors were detailing the torture that Regeni suffered to a parliamentary committee. “The two things together were too strong,” he told reporters. “I couldn’t refrain from reacting.

Melandri said in a Facebook post Monday that she too would return the honor she received in 2003, saying it was sad but necessary to make clear that “honor” should mean something.

I hope that this gesture can help open a frank and friendly confrontation in our two countries on which values ​​should be that we want to defend, strengthen and continue to ‘honor’ in a democratic Europe and a globalized world,” she wrote.

El-Sissi’s state visit had sparked protests by human rights activists incensed that France was welcoming el-Sissi despite the heaviest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history. At the time, it wasn’t known that Macron had awarded el-Sissi the highest distinction of the Legion of Honor order of merit, the Grand-Croix, or Grand-Cross. The award ceremony was held without the press before dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. The event was not listed on Macron’s official agenda. The French presidency said such a ceremony is usually part of the protocol during state visits.

The French ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, said he respected Augias and defended the government’s human rights record.

France is on the front lines for human rights and makes no compromises,” he tweeted after Augias returned his prize. “Many cases were discussed during President el-Sissi’s visit to Paris, in the most appropriate and efficient way.

The Legion of Honor has been given to French war heroes, writers, artists and businessmen. But it has also been given to leaders with questionable human rights records, including Syrian President Bashar Assad (though he returned it in 2018) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France has on occasion also stripped people of the honor, including Harvey Weinstein in 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo sexual misconduct accusations against him.

https://www.startribune.com/italians-return-french-legion-awards-after-el-sissi-gets-one/600001488/

Emilio Mignone prize 2020 to Haitian NGO

December 14, 2020

The Argentinian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday 9 December delivered the 2020 edition of the Emilio Mignone International Human Rights Prize to Haiti’s Devoir de Mémoire foundation in a virtual ceremony due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2013, this foundation has pioneered the publication of historic testimony of previous human rights violations in the Caribbean island republic. The prize, awarded since 2007 in recognition of outstanding work abroad to defend human rights, is named after the late Professor Emilio Fermín Mignone, lawyer and founder of CELS (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales) human rights organisation. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/51115C74-AFA5-4D19-BDC1-E31917D770C4

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/06/bringbackourgirls-gets-argentinian-emilio-mignone-award/

https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/5th-december-12th-december-what-we-learned-this-week.phtml

https://www.devoirdememoire.ht/

University of Oslo Human Rights Award 2020 goes to the Congolese agronomist Marcelline Budza.

December 14, 2020

Using coffee to secure women´s rights

The University of Oslo Human Rights Award 2020 [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest] goes to the Congolese agronomist Marcelline Budza. Mrs. Budza is awarded the prize for her work in securing women’s financial rights and increasing their participation in society through the coffee cooperative Rebuild Women’s Hope.

Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) is an initiative that ensures financial independence and security for women in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The women receive training and the opportunity to become financially self-reliant coffee producers.

– In addition to enabling women to take control of their own lives, Mrs. Budza works to provide clean water and health services. We know this is crucial for both women’s and children’s health, and her commitment creates enormous positive ripple effects, said Stølen.

Marcelline is a trained agronomist, and she herself experienced how her mother as a single parent had to struggle to ensure necessary livelihood for the family.

The Franco-German Prize for Human Rights: most of the 2020 laureates

December 12, 2020

From gynaecological medical care for victims of ISIS to “Cartoons for Peace”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on 10 December 2020 honoured 15 individuals from around the world who have shown a special commitment to human rights.

Every year since 2016, to mark Human Rights Day, Germany and France have jointly presented the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest. For last year’s award; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/13/2019-franco-german-human-rights-prize-to-14-human-rights-defenders/

The 13 Laureates for 2020 that were announced are:

Sara Seerat, an Afghan journalist

Azza Soliman Egyptian lawyer

Sérgio Piçarra, Angolan cartoonist

Francinara Soares Martins, leader of the indigenous Baré people in Brazil

Yury Dmitriev, Russian historian of repression [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders/]

Li Yuhan, Chinese human rights lawyer

Nagham Nawzat Hasan a Yazidi gynaecologist

Zoya Rouhana Director of the feminist organisation KAFA (enough!) in Lebanon

Nayyab Ali, transgender activist from Pakistan

Issam Younis, general director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza

Mathilda Twomey, first female judge in the Seychelles

Mária Patakyová, Slovak ombudswoman

Merekaje Lorna Nanjia of the South Sudan Democratic Engagement, Monitoring and Observation Programme.

https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/menschenrechte/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights/2425936

Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire wins local Human Rights Tulip award

December 11, 2020

Nasra Bishumba Nasra Bishumba published in the New Times of Rwanda on 10 December 2020 the story of Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire, the founder and executive director of I Matter, an organisation that seeks to end period poverty and menstrual shame, to become the first Rwandan to win the Human Rights Tulip award.

This is not the international version of the Tulip Award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/11/armenian-lilit-martirosyan-receives-human-rights-tulip-2020/] but one of the local satellite awards I referred to earlier [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/09/national-level-tulip-award-in-georgia/]

Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire, the founder and executive director of I Matter, an organisation that seeks to end period poverty and menstrual shame, has become the first Rwandan to win the Human Rights Tulip award. The award comes with €5,000 monetary funding that goes to the project. 

The Human Rights Tulip was established by the government of the Netherlands in 2008. Since 2018, selected Dutch embassies have also issued a Human Rights Tulip to a local human rights defender.

At only 23, Ingabire founded I Matter to build and support a community of young and strong women after drawing experiences from a personal story growing up as an orphan and living in poverty.

Receiving the award, Ingabire said that she identified with the struggles of many girls and young women in Rwanda who fail to fully participate in society because of menstruation due their failure to afford the costly sanitary products, lack of enough reproductive health information, and social norms which fuel menstruation shame. “It is indeed a right for every girl and woman to have access to sanitary products as well as sexual reproductive health information. What a journey! This journey can be summarized in these words. Responsibility, acceptance, embracing change and respect for humanity,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude to those who have helped her on the journey to break the silence around menstruation. Ingabire is credited for being some of the organisations that persistently pushed for the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) levied on sanitary pads, culminating into the legislation that was passed in 2019.

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/rwandas-divine-ingabire-wins-human-rights-tulip-award

https://allafrica.com/stories/202012110031.html

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2020 goes to Naw Ohn Hla

December 11, 2020

Naw Ohn Hla appears in court in Kyauktada Township in October last year on charges of organizing Kayin Martyr’s  Day. (Photo-Nay Myo Win)

Naw Ohn Hla appears in court in Kyauktada Township in October last year on charges of organizing Kayin Martyr’s Day. (Photo-Nay Myo Win) Published 11 December 2020

Naw Ohn Hla, chairperson of Democracy and Peace Women Network in Myanmar, has been presented with the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2020 by Civil Rights Defenders based in Sweden. The award announcement was made on Human Rights Day on December 10.

Naw Ohn Hla is a Karen democracy activist, politician, human rights defender, environmental rights and land rights activist for decades. She has been active in campaigning against the Letpadaung mining project in northern Burma. Naw Ohn Hla is also serving as general secretary of the United Nationalities Democracy Party.

Naw Ohn Hla has received the award for her exceptional perseverance in the fight against oppression and for her continued courage to stand up to those in power, Civil Rights Defenders said in its statement.

We are standing by the victims of human rights violations. It is now encouraging to see that not only us but also the international community is standing by this. It also encourages us to do more,” said Naw Ohn Hla.

She said she would accept the award at the headquarters of Civil Rights Defenders in Sweden together with the 2021 award winner because this year sees the Covid-19 outbreak.

For more on the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/ 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/25/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2017-goes-to-edmund-yakani-from-south-sudan/

https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/naw-ohn-hla-wins-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2020

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naw_Ohn_Hla