Archive for the 'awards' Category

BIG question: what to do with long-term detention of Human Rights defenders?

May 21, 2022

Event on 1 June 2022, 12:00-14:00: “Don’t forget about us: Strategies for resisting long-term detention of Human Rights Defenders”. Location: Cassese Room,  Villa Moynier, 120B Rue de Lausanne, Geneva (and online)

Figure of a person in a prison hallway

Logo Ennals

In 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders published a report on cases of long-term detention of activists, which were estimated to number hundreds or thousands worldwide. This report confirms the terrible treatment and conditions many defenders bear in prison. However, while an objective of long-term detention may be to discourage defenders, many cases result in perennial campaigns and increased publicity for the defenders themselves.

How can governments, civil society and international mechanisms work together to keep the pressure on long-term detention cases? What strategies have proven successful in improving respect for defenders’ rights and physical integrity while imprisoned?

This event is co-organized by Geneva Human Rights Platform and the Martin Ennals Awards, which has a long experience with its laureates being detained. This year, two of its three winners are in prison! See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/20/save-the-date-and-come-to-the-mea-ceremony-2022-or-watch-online/

Opening

  • Gloria Gaggioli, Director, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Moderation

  • Brian Dooley, Senior advisor on human rights, Human Rights First

Panelists

  • Maryam Al-Khawaja, Human Rights defender and daughter of Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, detained in Bahrain since 2011
  • Quynh Vi Tran, Journalist and colleague of Pham Doan Trang, detained in Vietnam since 2020
  • Fr. Xavier Soreng SJ, Lecturer, Ranchi Social Sciences Institute, on behalf of Father Stan Swamy (1937-2021), India
  • Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General, World Organisation Against Torture
  • Tor Hodefield, Vuka! Coalition Coordinator, CIVICUS

Registration

This event will take place in a hybrid format:

  • Register here to attend the event at Villa Moynier (places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis) until 26 May 2022
  • Register here to join online via Zoom.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/event/all-events/detail/336-don-t-forget-about-us-strategies-for-resisting-long-term-detention-of-human-rights-defenders

Polish Border NGO Granica receives 2022 Zabel award

May 20, 2022

Human Rights First announced that it will present Grupa Granica with the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award 2022 in recognition of its commitment to human rights at the Poland-Belarus border.

For more about this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/984CA015-FE02-4992-8AED-4EB1AEC7D0EE

Grupa Granica are front-line human rights defenders working at a flashpoint for human rights and freedom of migration,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “We hope that Human Rights First’s presentation of the William D. Zabel Award provides additional recognition to the importance of their work and helps to stem this humanitarian and geopolitical crisis.

Formed in 2021 in response to the humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border, Grupa Granica is an informal network of Polish NGOs, activists, and inhabitants of the border region that provides humanitarian, medical, and legal aid to migrants stranded in the forests there.  They monitor the situation on the ground, provide assistance to people searching for missing family members, document human rights violations and educate Polish society on the situation at the border.

Our network was formed in August last year in response to the humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It consists of local inhabitants, activists, NGO staff, doctors, lawyers, interpreters, psychologists, public figures and many others working hand in hand to save the lives of migrants stranded at the border,” says Marta Górczyńska of Grupa Granica.  “This prestigious award sends a clear message to the public that despite the recent attempts by the Polish authorities, providing humanitarian aid and defending human rights must never be criminalized. We hope it will also make it more difficult for the international community to turn a blind eye to the violations at the border.”

The 2022 award will be officially presented to Grupa Granica on June 8. 

For last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/27/william-zabel-human-rights-award-2021-to-philippines-ngo-karapatan/

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-present-poland-s-grupa-granica-2022-william-d-zabel-human-rights

Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award 2022 to two Ukrainian journalists

May 10, 2022

DW Freedom of Speech Award 2022

Ukrainian visual journalist and novelist Mstyslav Chernov and photojournalist Evgeniy Maloletka are this year’s DW Freedom of Speech Award laureates. For more on this and other awards for press freedom, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/b9e2c660-8e41-11ea-b31d-31ce896d8282

Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka have a way of reporting that is painful to read and watch, but what really hurts is the truth that their reporting conveys: Russia brutally attacking Ukraine, and thereby Ukrainian civilians, under a fabricated pretense. While there are nuances to every story, there is no way facts can be negotiated. This is exactly what the Kremlin is doing: Distorting facts, spreading misinformation,” said DW Director General Peter Limbourg. “

The journalists, who both remain in Ukraine to continue their coverage of the war, welcomed the news about receiving the DW Freedom of Speech Award as an acknowledgment of their work. The award ceremony will be held on June 20 as part of the DW Global Media Forum.

AP journalist and novelist Mstyslav Chernov and freelance photojournalist Evgeniy Maloletka are both from eastern Ukraine. Previously, their reports and footage from the conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have been published in various international media, including BBC, Deutsche Welle, The New York Times, Washington Post, Der Spiegel and others. As a war reporter in several conflict zones such as Iraq or Syria, Chernov has been wounded multiple times. Before the war, Maloletka had also been working on a project about the Hutsul community in western Ukraine, their traditions and daily life, and on the impact of the conflict in the Donbas. Evgeniy Maloletka is a freelance photojournalist based in Kyiv.

The report “20 days in Mariupol: The team that documented city’s agony” offers a unique account of Mariupol under Russian siege, with Chernov and Maloletka being the last journalists in the city before their evacuation. They documented the city’s first deaths at the city hospital of Mariupol and the attack on the maternity ward with pregnant women and children in it, as well as numerous bombings. During this work, the journalists themselves were under constant attack and took great risks only to find a steady connection to upload their footage of the siege, bringing it to the attention of the international community. They were evacuated by Ukrainian soldiers to avoid them falling into the hands of Russians, who had been hunting them down.

AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace: “Mstyslav and Evgeniy were the world’s eyes and ears in Mariupol, producing courageous and compelling reporting as the only international journalists inside the besieged city. The harrowing realities of Russia’s war would have remained unseen without their bravery. We are extremely proud of their work.

See also: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/9/pulitzer-prize-board-honours-courage-of-ukrainian-journalists

https://www.dw.com/en/dw-freedom-of-speech-award-2022-goes-to-ukrainian-journalists-mstyslav-chernov-and-evgeniy-maloletka/a-61638608

2022 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent

May 10, 2022

On 3 May 2022 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced the three recipients of the 2022 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.

The 2022 laureates are: professional basketball player and human rights advocate Enes Kanter Freedom, Iranian artist project PaykanArtCar, and Ukrainian-born Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova. This year’s laureates will receive their awards on Wednesday, May 25, during the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum.

Enes Kanter Freedom is a professional basketball player and vocal advocate for human rights. Since the start of the 2021 NBA season, he has used his global platform to consistently raise awareness of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s human rights abuses. Using his basketball shoes as the canvas for his messages, he wore multiple artistic designs highlighting issues such as the Uyghur genocide, the occupation of Tibet, slave labor at the Nike shoe factories, and the intolerance of China’s dictator. As a result of his creative dissent, he is now banned from China and was dropped by both the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, despite being only 29 years old and in the prime of his career. Freedom’s perseverance has captured the attention of international media and informed millions of sports fans about the global struggle for individual rights in places like Tibet and the Uyghur region. At a time when professional athletes display incessant hypocrisy, unlimited greed, and double standards, Freedom emerges as the moral conscience of professional basketball. Freedom first came to international attention as an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, making him a target of Turkey’s government — he was deemed a “terrorist” by the regime, stripped of his passport, and was publicly disowned by his family. In late 2021, he changed his name and added “Freedom” as his official last name. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/525e5018-7f56-4009-85b8-3f3cce9a8810

The PaykanArtCar unites the talents of contemporary Iranian artists in the diaspora with a beloved symbol of Iranian national pride — the Paykan automobile — to advocate for human rights in Iran. The car used was once gifted by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran to the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and was purchased at an auction to serve as the canvas for artwork by Iranian artists in exile. Each year, PaykanArtCar commissions an exceptional Iranian artist-in-exile to use the car to capture the Iranian struggle for human dignity and basic freedoms. The inaugural PaykanArtCar was designed by Alireza Shojaian and features a historic Persian design with a provocative message about the brutality and ruthlessness faced by the marginalized and oppressed LGBTQ+ community inside Iran. The PaykanArtCar represents brave, creative dissent against the human rights abuses of Iran’s theocratic dictatorial regime. The PaykanArtCar will travel to Norway to be present at the Oslo Freedom Forum as part of Human Rights Foundation’s Art in Protest exhibit and will be parked at the event venue. The second edition of PaykanArtCar will be painted by a female Iranian artist and will advocate for women’s rights in Iran.

Marina Ovsyannikova is a Ukrainian-born Russian journalist and activist, who staged a live protest against the war in Ukraine during a news broadcast of Russian state TV. Ovsyannikova was a longtime editor at Russia’s Channel One, where her job was to assist those engaged in disinformation to be distributed to the Russian people. After thinking through ways in which she could protest, she chose to interrupt a live broadcast, holding a sign calling for “no war.” Following her demonstration on live TV and a subsequent anti-war video, Ovsyannikova was held overnight in a police station, denied access to a lawyer, and ultimately fined 30,000 roubles — she disappeared without contact for more than 12 hours. The Kremlin denounced her protest as “hooliganism,” and Ovsyannikova faces up to 15 years in prison under Russia’s disinformation laws. In a recent article, she expressed profound regret for her years as a participant in “the Russian propaganda machine” where her job was to create “aggressive Kremlin propaganda – propaganda that constantly sought to deflect attention from the truth, and to blur all moral standards,” she says: “I cannot undo what I have done. I can only do everything I possibly can to help destroy this machine and end this war.”

For more on the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/438F3F5D-2CC8-914C-E104-CE20A25F0726

Call for applications for the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

May 10, 2022

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism was launched on 16 October 2020 as a tribute to the Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger who was assassinated in a car bomb attack in 2017. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ea7f958d-a957-4495-9ab4-9550741a8a58]

The Prize, with the support of the European Parliament, will be awarded annually to in-depth journalism pieces undertaken by EU-based professional journalists. The Prize is open to individual professional journalists or teams of professional journalists of any nationality. Applications may be submitted by authors themselves or by professional media organisations and associations on their behalf.

Applications must be submitted via the online platform by  31 July 2022, 12 AM (CEST).

The Prize aims to recognise outstanding in-depth journalism work on topics that are relevant for the European Union (EU) as a whole or some of its Member States, and contribute to the promotion of principles and values of the EU, as enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pt/press-room/20220502IPR28408/premio-de-jornalismo-d-caruana-galizia-convite-a-apresentacao-de-candidaturas

New “Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award” to Ukrainian and Hungarian press cartoonists

May 10, 2022

Geneva Solutions of 3 May 2022 reported on the first issue of the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award. This is in fact a merger of two pre-existing awards for cartoonists [for more info, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/f60cb3d4-c79a-43aa-9b5c-351c56c02ae1]

The conflict in Ukraine with all these absurd symbols (Vladimir Kazanevsky for Nebelspalter)

Ukrainian Vladimir Kazanevsky and Hungarian Gabor Papai were announced as the winners of the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award at a ceremony at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva and presented by the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation. Jury : Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch (president), Sami Kanaan, City of Geneva and cartoonists Ann Telnaes (USA), Kak (France) and Chappatte (Switzerland). The portraits below were done by True Heroes Films (THF)

Vladimir Kazanevsky

Vladimir Kazanevsky, Ukraine’s leading cartoonist, was working in his studio early in the morning of 24 February when he heard loud explosions near the airport in Kyiv. He and his wife fled to western Ukraine, along with a huge wave of families fleeing the bombings. From there they went to Presov, a town in Slovakia with a community of artists.

Deprived of his drawing materials, catalogues and books, which he had to leave behind in Kyiv, Kazanevsky continues to draw relentlessly: Putin in action, on a tank or on the bow of the Titanic. “Autocrats and dictators are afraid of our cartoons, and they are right, because our drawings are powerful weapons,” he says.

Fiercely determined to continue the fight against Russian aggression, the 71-year-old sees his work as an act of resistance. An act of defence of freedom of expression against war propaganda.

Gábor Pápai

For several years, Hungarian cartoonist Gàbor Pàpai and his newspaper Népszava – the only opposition daily still alive in Budapest – have been the subject of attacks and legal proceedings by the authorities – even though Hungary is part of the European Union.

This cartoon, “The Chronicle” by Gábor Pápai, published in Hungary’s daily newspaper Népszava on 28 April shows the Hungarian National Public Health Centre’s chief doctor looking at Jesus on the cross and suggesting that many people who had deceased from the coronavirus had already been likely to die because they had suffered from pre-existing conditions.

It was intended to ridicule Hungary’s chief health figure for having tried to minimise the number of deaths solely attributable to the coronavirus in Hungary and, by extension, to mock the government’s handling of the crisis.

“Its depiction and use of Jesus on a cross sparked an outcry from the representatives of the Christian Democrat Party, an ally of the ruling Fidesz, to the point that the Secretary of State for persecuted Christian communities, Tristan Azbej, accused Gábor Pápai of blasphemy and threatened to sue him or Népszava,” as Reporters Without Borders, who came to the defense of Papai, explains.

The Catholic religion, the fight against Covid or simply Hungarian history are all pretexts for prosecution in a country ranked 92nd in the world press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). This shameful ranking has been deteriorating ever since Viktor Orbán became Prime Minister, putting all independent media in great difficulty. Some, like Népszava, are directly threatened with extinction. Gàbor Pàpai, far from being intimidated, continues to critically observe and draw all political actors in Hungary.

Read more about the 2022 laureates

https://genevasolutions.news/global-news/ukrainian-and-hungarian-press-cartoonists-collect-award-in-geneva-view-a-gallery-of-their-wo

https://www.kofiannanfoundation.org/articles/world-press-freedom-day-2022/

RFK Human Rights Award 2022 goes to two Cameroonians

May 9, 2022
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Logo (PRNewsfoto/RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights)

On 5 May 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights announced Cameroonian human rights defenders Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe and Felix Agbor Nkongho (Balla) as the 2022 recipients of its annual Human Rights Award. A ceremony honouring the two laureates will take place Tuesday, 7 in Washington, D.C.

For more on the RFK Human Rights Award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/69FD28C0-FE07-4D28-A5E2-2C8077584068.

A Cameroonian human rights defender with over 30 years of experience, Ngo Mbe is Executive Director of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC). Since 2010, she has led REDHAC in its efforts to promote civic space and protect fundamental freedoms throughout Central Africa through investigations of human rights abuses, advocacy before regional human rights bodies, monitoring of democratic processes, and demanding state accountability. She was previously named an International Woman of Courage in 2021 by the U.S. Department of State [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/09/state-department-hands-out-21-international-women-of-courage-awards-2021/] and received the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law in 2016.

Receiving the RFK Human Rights Award 2022 still feels like a dream,” said Ngo Mbe. “I am humbled by this recognition and dedicate it to my family, my colleagues at REDHAC, the members of the REDHAC Board of Directors, in particular Me Alice Nkom, and the Human Rights Defenders who have been my source of strength over the years. I look forward to working alongside Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights as we continue our struggle for justice, human rights, and peace in Cameroon and Central Africa.

Nkongho is a Cameroonian lawyer and human rights defender. He is the director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and a leading advocate for human rights of Cameroonians in the conflict-stricken Anglophone region. Nkongho’s work focuses on the promotion of democracy, good governance, access to justice, and rule of law. His reputation as a devoted human rights defender is evidenced by his tireless work for human rights in Cameroon and throughout Africa, despite state sanctioned pushback, including his arbitrary detention in 2017. In 2019 he won the African Human Rights Defenders Shield Award.

When I got news of the award, I was staring at portraits of my late parents and crying tears of joy. This is the best gift I could ever offer them, and I am sure they will be celebrating in heaven,” said Nkongho. “I am truly honored, and I sincerely thank Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights for considering me worthy of this award. It is dedicated to all those who advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights, to all the human rights defenders who continue to put their lives and liberty on the line to fight against injustice.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/29/haitian-guerline-jozef-wins-robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-award-2021/

https://rfkhumanrights.org/awards/human-rights-award-2022.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-announces-2022-human-rights-award-laureates-301541320.html

Press Freedom Awards in Hong Kong cancelled

April 29, 2022

Oiwan Lam on 26 April 2022 reported that Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has canceled its Human Rights Awards for fear of “legal risks”

Image created by Oiwan Lam.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC HK), a press freedom watchdog, announced they would cancel their 2022 Human Rights Press Awards (HRPA) on April 25.  Eight members of the Club’s Press Freedom Committee have resigned in protest over the decision. 

Many foreign correspondents were shocked by the decision. Launched in 1995,  the HRPA has been one of the most important platforms to celebrate and honour human rights journalism from around Asia. The Club normally announces the winners on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) quoted sources from FCC HK that the cancellation was related to the legal risks in presenting awards to the now-defunct Stand News. Two former senior staff members of the independent news outlet have been charged with conspiring to publish “seditious publications” pending trial. 

Stand News was forced to shut down last December after security police raided its office. The police authorities accused the news site of publishing “seditious materials” with the intent to cause hatred towards the government and the judiciary. 

An FCC member told the HKFP that Stand News would receive four awards and five merits in this year’s award, but “certain items” would pose a legal risk. 

In a letter to the Club’s members, the president of FCC HK Keith Richburg said the decision was made in the organization’s board meeting on April 23:

Over the last two years, journalists in Hong Kong have been operating under new “red lines” on what is and is not permissible, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law. This is the context in which we decided to suspend the Awards.

The letter also says that “recent developments might also require changes to our [FCC HK’s] approach” in the promotion of press freedom.

As the city’s incoming Chief Executive John Lee has vowed to apply the “strictest measures” to clamp down on “anyone who tries to use journalistic work as a shield to engage in crimes endangering national security” in response to the crackdown on Apple Daily, FCC HK’s anticipation of legal risks is valid.

Yet, as a press freedom watchdog, many see the choice to ax the awards as an act of self-censorship antithetical to the organization’s purpose, as independent journalist Ilaria Maria Sala wrote on Twitter:

Eight members of the Club’s press freedom committee have resigned in protest over the decision. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post’s Southeast Asia and Hong Kong Bureau Chief, is one of the resignees. As one of the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards in 2020, Shibani Mahtani expressed her regrets about the decision and explained, in a Twitter thread, the significance of the annual occasion in Asia: See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/

For more on the real, unannounced winners: https://hongkongfp.com/2022/04/27/in-full-winners-of-the-axed-fcc-human-rights-press-awards-revealed/

see also for future editions:

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3176537/american-university-taking-over-hong-kong-press-groups

Three Aurora Prize finalists for 2022 announced

April 26, 2022

On 24 April – Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day – the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative announced the names of 2022 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen for their exceptional impact, courage, and commitment to putting themselves at risk to help others. One of the Humanitarians will later be named the 2022 Aurora Prize Laureate.

Such exceptional modern-day heroes remind us that even in the darkest times, a brighter future is in the hands of those who believe in it and are willing to do extraordinary things to protect it. Many of us may feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless tide of human sorrow and suffering we face today, but the Aurora Humanitarians remain beacons of compassion, guiding and inspiring humanity. It is an honor for me to be part of the Initiative that recognizes and supports them,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London.

The 2022 Aurora Humanitarians are:

  • Jamila Afghani (Afghanistan), a peace activist and founder of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO) who has dedicated over 25 years of her life to giving the women of Afghanistan access to education. After the Taliban took over her country, Jamila Afghani was forced to flee her homeland – but she hasn’t given up on its people.
  • Hadi Jumaan (Yemen), a peace activist, mediator, and body collector from Yemen who regularly risks his life to facilitate the exchange of prisoners of war and recover human remains from the frontlines. As the country continues to experience a prolonged political and humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war, Mr. Jumaan brings to the families the only solace left to them – the knowledge that their loved and lost ones may finally rest in peace.
  • Mahienour El-Massry (Egypt), a lawyer and political activist from Egypt who promotes political freedoms and human rights in the country by organizing peaceful protests and defending political prisoners in courts. In Egypt, voicing disagreement with the official policy can be dangerous, and Mahienour El-Massry has been detained and put in jail several times for her activism. Nevertheless, she remains optimistic about the future of her country and committed to being an agent of positive change. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/29/2020-award-of-european-bars-associations-ccbe-goes-to-seven-egyptian-lawyers-who-are-in-prison/]

“As one of the Aurora Prize Laureates, I have witnessed the impact of support and recognition on the international level. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative gives activists and human rights defenders, often operating on their own, a way to promote and elevate their work so they can achieve even more. I would like to congratulate the 2022 Aurora Humanitarians and wish them all the best in their activities,” said 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate Julienne Lusenge, co-founder of Women’s Solidarity for Inclusive Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) and Fund for Congolese Women (FFC).

In accordance with the tradition, the names of the 2022 Aurora Humanitarians are inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities, and the tome will be displayed for the public in the Matenadaran.

For more about the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/35D4B5E3-D290-5DF9-08E1-14E6B3012FFA

https://hetq.am/en/article/143783

Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2022 to LGBTI defenders Xheni Karaj and Frank Mugisha

April 21, 2022

On 21 April 2022 LGBTI+ activists and human rights defenders Frank Mugisha from Uganda and Xheni Karaj from Albania were awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the year award 2022.  For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/F2D9088D-2A4E-4FFF-8EC8-7AF252D5B5E7.  

“Xheni Karaj, from Albania, and Frank Mugisha, from Uganda, are two of the world’s most courageous LGBTI+ activists and human rights defenders. Despite working in environments where homophobia is widespread, they continue fighting with impressive resilience, for every individual’s right to have their own sexual orientation and gender identity. They have both been instrumental in building LGBTI+ movements in their countries and inspire LGBTI+ activists all over the Balkan region and the African continent,” the Civil Rights Defenders Board of Directors writes in the motivation for the award.  

The right to one’s own sexuality and gender identity is a human right, but violence and discrimination against people from the LGBTI+ community is still a problem globally. Xheni Karaj, founder and Executive Director of Aleanca LGBT in Albania and Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) are working for LGBTI+ and human rights in countries where violence, discrimination, and homophobia is widespread. Due to the situation in both Uganda and Albania, many LGBTI+ people keep their sexual identity hidden out of fear for the consequences they might face if coming out in public. Through education, advocacy, and building a community for LGBTI+ persons, Frank Mugisha and Xheni Karaj are contributing to improving the lives of thousands. Their commitment to LGBTI+ rights has played a huge part in the progress for human rights in their regions.   

I am excited and happy about the award. This prize shows that LGBTI+ rights are part of universal human rights. For us, it is a recognition that we are involved in advancing human rights work,” says Frank Mugisha. 

“The award made us all feel very happy and appreciated and motivates us to continue with the good work we are doing. To get this acknowledgment also helps me realise that we are making a revolution in Albania. From being invisible, we have showed people that we exist. That we are proud of ourselves, and we should have the right to be free and tell our stories,” says Xheni Karaj.