Archive for the 'awards' Category

University of York names new college after David Kato

June 16, 2021

The University of York has decided to name its new college after Ugandan David Kato who went to the university in 2010 for six months as a Protective Fellow on the Human Rights Defenders Programme at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR).

The announcement comes during national Refugee Week (June 14-20 ) as the university celebrates its newly-awarded status as a University of Sanctuary with a launch event on today (Wednesday).

David’s time in York provided respite from his role in Uganda as a human rights activist, and his legacy supports the University’s continued commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities (LGBT+).

An award in David Kato’s name was established in 2012: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/94EE8123-09C7-410A-9DE9-A0077FA87F31

He returned home to Uganda to fight the country’s controversial anti-homosexuality act. But he was murdered in Kampala in 2011, weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid paper that called for homosexuals to be killed.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “Colleges are an integral part of university life here at York and we knew we wanted an inspiring role model when naming our new college – one which would also reflect our belief in equality, diversity and inclusion.

Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights, Professor Paul Gready said:“The naming of the David Kato College also symbolises and demonstrates our admiration of, and solidarity with, human rights defenders across the world and with all previous Protective Fellows, of which there have been over 90 from more than 45 countries over the last 12 years.

The University will mark its newly-awarded status as a University of Sanctuary with an online event tonight (June 16) at 6.30pm. The event will include the launch of a film which tells the story of how York became a University of Sanctuary for refugees, asylum seekers, human rights defenders and those in need of humanitarian protection. The film will be followed by a round-table discussion. Go to http://www.refugeeactionyork.org/refugee-week.

https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/public-notices/19373685.new-university-york-college-named-david-kato/

Save the dates for the RAFTO Prize 2021

June 15, 2021

The Rafto Prize Events 2021

These are the dates for the 2021 Rafto Prize Events. They are live-streamed. You can watch them on RAFTO’s website and on Facebook.

The Rafto Prize Announcement (online )

Thursday 23 September at 10:00 AM (CEST)

Watch the press conference where the Head of the Rafto Prize Commitee announces the recipient of the Rafto Prize 2021! The live-stream starts at 09:30, and will include interviews and commentaries by experts and Rafto staff.

The Rafto Conference (online)
Saturday 13 November at 11:00-14:00

Join our online conference with keynote speech by Rafto Laureate 2021. The conference will shed light on and discuss human rights challenges related to this year’s Rafto Prize. Free of charge and open for everyone to attend.
Speakers and program TBA

The Award Ceremony (online)
Sunday 14 November at 18:00-19:15

Live broadcasted from Den Nationale Scene, Bergen, we are celebrating this year’s Rafto Laureate with an award ceremony and a concert.
Free of charge. Artists and perfomances TBA

Torchlight procession, Den Nationale Scene in Bergen.
Sunday 14 November at 19:30

After the Award Ceremony there will be a torchlight procession, that will start outside of Den Nationale Scene, Bergen.
Physical attendance only.

For more on this and other human rights awards for HRDs, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/A5043D5E-68F5-43DF-B84D-C9EF21976B18


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The intriguing case of Artur Ligęska who was in prison with Ahmed Mansoor in the UAE

June 9, 2021

Mirage news of 8 June 8, 2021 tells the sad story of Artur Ligęska, a 40-year-old Polish citizen who has spoken out widely about torture and ill-treatment in Emirati prisons. He was found dead in his apartment in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on May 26, 2021. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are deeply saddened by the news of his death and extend their sincere condolences to his friends and family.

Following his release from al-Sadr prison in May 2019, Artur dedicated himself to seeking justice for the abuse he and other prisoners suffered in prison, especially Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender who is on the advisory boards of GCHR and Human Rights Watch. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A]Artur was a uniquely valuable source of information on prison conditions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He was an activist, author, and fitness expert and had recently celebrated the second anniversary of his acquittal on May 9. He had been sentenced to life in prison in the UAE following a deeply flawed trial on drug charges despite the absence of any evidence of drugs in his possession.

In a voice message to a friend at GCHR on May 9, Artur said, “My main wish for this new-life birthday is freedom for Ahmed Mansoor. I really do hope that this year will be special for him. I was thinking all day about him. I remember our last talk, and I was thinking about his wife and kids. …In the last days, Ahmed told me ‘Don’t forget about me.’

Artur said he was planning to organize a protest in The Hague soon to call for Ahmed’s release. Artur’s many actions to help Ahmed included advocacy with Polish and EU officials, providing human rights groups with information, taking part in human rights events, documentary films and TV appearances, and writing about Ahmed in his two books.

Artur first phoned GCHR staff in April 2019 to tell them that Ahmed was on a hunger strike and told them that he was worried that Ahmed might die because his health had deteriorated greatly. He told GCHR that Ahmed was being held in “terrible conditions” in a cell with no bed, no water, and no access to a shower. Ahmed today remains in a 2-by-2 meter isolation cell with no bed or mattress, serving a 10-year prison sentence for his human rights activities.

Despite suffering serious trauma after suffering abuse as a prisoner in the UAE, Artur again phoned GCHR to share the good news that human rights groups’ advocacy had been successful. Ahmed had ended his hunger strike after being allowed to phone his ill mother and to go outside to see the sun for the first time in two years. Artur sacrificed phone calls to his own family to make calls on behalf of Ahmed, referring to him as a brother.

Following his release, Artur was able to provide GCHR with more details about what he called the “medieval prison conditions” in al-Sadr prison, including periods when there was no running water despite extreme heat.

In a wide-ranging interview released by Human Rights Watch in January 2020, Artur described how he and Ahmed had become “prison mates in UAE hell.” Artur spent eight months in al-Sadr prison, in solitary confinement in a cell beside Ahmed’s. His friend suffered psychological torture from a near-total lack of human contact and access to the library, Artur said. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/22/lawlor-urges-uae-to-free-ahmed-mansoor-mohamed-al-roken-and-other-hrds/

Artur told GCHR that after he left the UAE, he had undergone surgery and therapy to treat the damage done by the rape and psychological torture that he said he was subjected to but he was recovering well and taking classes to become a journalist and human rights professional.

On April 13, 17 European Parliament members wrote to the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell to express their “deepest concern over the ongoing human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates, particularly with regards to the systematic crackdown on freedom of speech and expression and the subsequent retaliation received during detention.” The letter mentions Ahmed, and also refers to Artur, noting, “The use of torture has not been limited to Emirati nationals, as there have also been instances of EU citizens that have reported facing brutal torture at the hands of prison authorities.”

On October 22, 2020, Amnesty Westminster Bayswater and GCHR held an online event, The Prisoner and the Pen, featuring the writing, songs and poetry of prisoners who are human rights defenders and the work of writers and artists from the Middle East and North Africa region. The event, held on Ahmed ‘s birthday, included his poems. Artur read from his memoir, “The Sheikh’s Different Love,” published in 2019 in Polish. He has also written a second bestselling book in Poland, “Prison Diary.” His story is documented in a film by Hossam Meneai, Isolation Cell 32, which debuted at the Polish Film Festival in America in November. Artur also appears in an upcoming documentary about Ahmed Mansoor made by Manu Luksch.

Artur’s untimely and unexpected death comes as a great shock to those who knew him. The Dutch police are investigating the circumstances of his death.

https://www.miragenews.com/tribute-to-artur-ligeska-former-prisoner-in-uae-573024/

Documentary Film Calls for Justice for Kyrgyzstan’s Azimjon Askarov

June 3, 2021
Azimzhan Askarov Pictured here during hearings at the Bishkek regional court, Kyrgyzstan, October 4th, 2016.  
Ethnic Uzbek journalist Azimzhan Askarov. Pictured here during hearings at the Bishkek regional court, Kyrgyzstan, October 4th, 2016.© 2016 AP

Philippe Dam, Advocacy Director, Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, on 2 June 2O21, writes aavout Azimjon Askarov, a 69-year-old human rights defender from Kyrgyzstan, who died in prison after contracting pneumonia. Askarov had been in prison for 10 years, having been given a life sentence following an unjust and unfair trial in 2010, in retaliation for his investigations into the tragic wave of inter-ethnic violence that year in southern Kyrgyzstan. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/D8B31FA3-E648-4F92-81B9-8C3A4270F80E]

His death was the result of cruelty and negligence by Kyrgyz authorities. A screening this week of a documentary about Askarov, to be attended by senior European Union officials, is a reminder to Kyrgyzstan that it is responsible for his death and needs to show accountability and to the EU to press Bishkek on this issue. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/mary-lawlor-calls-death-of-human-rights-defender-askarov-a-stain-on-kyrgyzstans-reputation/

Askarov’s trial in 2010 was marred by serious procedural violations and allegations of torture that were never investigated. A United Nations human rights body ruled in 2016 his detention was illegal and called for his immediate release, but Kyrgyz authorities looked the other way.

Since his death, many have called for a full inquiry into the causes and responsibilities for his death.  A toothless internal inquiry ordered by Kyrgyzstan has gone nowhere. The documentary “Last Chance for Justice,” by filmmaker Marina Shupac, is a touching portrayal of the fight by Khadicha Askarova, Askarov’s wife, for justice and his release from prison.

The screening is on June 4 as part of the One World Film Festival in Brussels. The panel discussion of the film will be joined by Eamon Gilmore, the EU’s top human rights envoy; Heidi Hautala, a European Parliament vice-president; and a representative of the Office of the EU’s Special Representative to Central Asia.

On the same day as the screening, the EU is set to hold its highest-level annual meeting with Kyrgyz officials. This is a crucial opportunity for the EU to make it clear that closer ties with Kyrgyzstan will depend on the resolve of Kyrgyzstan President Japarov’s administration to investigate Askarov’s death, clean up his judicial record, and grant compensation to his family.

This week’s high-profile screening makes clear: Kyrgyzstan will continue to be in the international spotlight on Askarov until it fulfils its human rights obligations to account for his death.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/02/documentary-calls-justice-kyrgyzstans-azimjon-askarov

Call for nominations Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg Prize 2022

June 2, 2021

The call for candidates for the 2022 Raoul Wallenberg Prize has been launched in Strasbourg by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić

For more on this and other awards in the name of Wallenberg, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/730A3159-B93A-4782-830F-3C697B0EC7A0

The prize is worth €10 000 and the award ceremony will be held at the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg on or around 17 January 2022 – the date of Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest in Budapest in 1945.

The Prize Jury consists of six independent persons with acknowledged moral standing in the field of human rights and humanitarian work, appointed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the municipality of Budapest, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Raoul Wallenberg family.

The deadline for submitting candidatures for the 5th edition of the Prize is 31 October 2021.

https://www.miragenews.com/raoul-wallenberg-prize-2022-council-of-europe-570245/

William Zabel Human Rights Award 2021 to Philippines NGO Karapatan

May 27, 2021

Human Rights First announced that it will present Karapatan, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, with its annual William D. Zabel Human Rights Award in recognition of its commitment to human rights in the Philippines. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/984CA015-FE02-4992-8AED-4EB1AEC7D0EE

Karapatan is a Philippines-based alliance of human rights organizations, programs, committees, and individual advocates that have been at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in the country since 1995. 

Human Rights First has tremendous respect and admiration for Karapatan and the work done by Tinay Palabay,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “They are human rights defenders whom the government of Philippines regularly targets, and we hope this award, and our ongoing partnership, helps shine a bright light on their efforts and shields them from additional threats.”

With more than forty member organizations and sixteen regional chapters across the country, Karapatan addresses extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political prisoners and militarization all across the Philippines. The Alliance helps organize mass actions that expose human rights violations and challenge State policies and actions that promote the culture of impunity.

Karapatan documents human rights violations through fact-finding missions; files cases through courts, even quasi-judicial bodies like the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and other international human rights bodies. It also refers victims to medical professionals and groups for psycho-social and additional assistance; and organizes victims of human rights violations and their families.

It also monitors peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the nation’s adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and other agreements.

Fifteen human rights workers of Karapatan have been killed in the past five years, nearly 70 since 2001, and many more are imprisoned or are facing judicial harassment and threats because of their work in defending human rights,” said Tinay Palabay of Karapatan. “This recognition is an homage to their memory and legacy of selflessness, compassion and service to the poor and oppressed and we continue to honor them every day as we do the best that we can in advocacy, documentation, direct services and movement-building in the Philippines.”

Human Rights First and Karapatan are currently working on a pilot project testing “Digital Shield,” an application that tracks threats of violence and harassment made against the organization and its members online. 

For last year’s award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/07/human-rights-first-to-present-saudi-organization-alqst-with-william-d-zabel-human-rights-award/

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-present-philippines-organization-karapatan-william-d-zabel-human

“Uluru Statement from the Heart” winner of the 2021 Sydney Peace Prize

May 26, 2021

On 26 May 2021 the ongoing campaign for First Nations recognition in the Constitution has been awarded Australia’s Sydney Peace Prize.

Proud First Nations leaders and drivers of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barunggam Nation in South East Queensland; Pat Anderson AO, an Alyawarre woman from the Northern Territory; and Noel Pearson, a Guugu Yimidhirr man from Hopevale on the Cape York Peninsula, jointly welcomed the announcement and will receive the prize together at an official event later in the year.

Delivered in May 2017 at the National Constitutional Convention, the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a ‘historic offering of peace’ that calls for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution.

Professor Davis, Ms Anderson and Mr Pearson worked tirelessly to deliver the statement in 2017 and have spent the past four years leading the campaign for a referendum to change the constitution. The announcement of their win coincides with National Sorry Day, and marks four years since the Uluru Statement was originally endorsed by First Nations people from across Australia.

The Uluru Statement was the culmination of a dialogue process designed to take agreement and disagreement and elicit a pathway forward on the vital question of recognition,” Professor Davis said.

This is a tribute to the men and women of the dialogues who crafted a roadmap to peace for the nation. We are accepting this prize on behalf of all of the First Nations that participated in the Uluru Dialogues and the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017.”

Uluru Statement
The Uluru Statement from the Heart.

For more on the Syney Peace Prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7E938842-91DB-A3FD-EDF6-7143BA02216B

https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2021/05/26/uluru-statement-from-the-heart-wins-2021-sydney-peace-prize.html

https://ulurustatement.org/

Reminder: Call for Nominations MEA closes on 30 May

May 26, 2021

Only a few days remain to submit candidates for the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. For detials see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/04/15/call-for-nominations-martin-ennals-award-2022-with-a-focus-on-digital-rights/

Ocen Ivan Kenneth from Uganda is Human Rights Defender of the Month

May 24, 2021

Ocen Ivan Kenneth is a Program Director at Foundation for Development and Relief Africa (FIDRA), with more than 10 years of experience working in the human rights field. Ivan’s ambitions for change focus on building inner peace, defending human rights and empowering local communities using theatre and storytelling. He creates a space where people from the community share their personal stories of trauma and resilience as well as identify mechanisms of healing.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to defend justice.” Ocen Ivan Kenneth Tweet

As an activist, Ivan has faced several challenges including personal threats that sometimes extend to his family and colleagues. His work with victims of conflict related sexual violence also at times takes a toll on him.

“I get moved when speaking to people whose human rights have been violated in some way, or those who have survived sexual violence, or those brutalised by militia. I can see the trauma in their eyes and hear it in their voices. It has always been the most difficult aspect of my job.”

Just like many other human rights defenders, the lack of adequate equipment and limited resources coupled with limited capacity and skills, plus legal restrictions curtail his ability to efficiently execute his work. Despite all these challenges, Ivan’s commitment to keep protecting and promoting human rights remains unwavering.

After decades of armed conflict, now we are facing another attack, this time affecting our health and life. I am motivated because we are strong resilient workers. We keep resisting this new attack as we have always done by staying together, helping each other, and keeping our spirits high,” he says.

He believes that there should be more work done to support human rights defenders through building their capacity and expertise, strengthening their recognition, and protecting them from threats, risks, and reprisals particularly those who are marginalised or most at risk.

I believe that current protection measures for human rights defenders in Uganda are insufficient. Particularly protection offered from the government mechanisms towards human right defenders is insufficient. A mechanism needs to be created and developed, and people working on other protection mechanisms for human rights defenders should truly address the different vulnerabilities for male and female human rights defenders.” Ocen Ivan Kenneth

Yury Dmitriev wins 2021 Sakharov Freedom Award

May 21, 2021

Thomas Nilsen in the Barents Observer of 21 May reports that The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has given its 2021 award, the Sakharov Freedom prize, to Russian dissident Yury Dmitriev. for more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/DC70DA62-BCB5-497A-A145-79D1F865FC11

Dmitriev is well known for his research and campaigns to create a memorial to the victims of Soviet terror in the Republic of Karelia, a northwestern province near Russia’s border to Finland. see also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/303c010f-033a-45b1-9d25-ed42d99b1da9

“Yuri Dmitriev has returned the human value back to the Russian state. He confronts the past and gives a new vision for the future, which today’s regime does not have,” says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Geir Hønneland, to the Barents Observer.

Explaining the reason behind the award, Hønneland says it is not only about Dmitriev as a historian. “His work has already inspired thousands of young and old people, who want to find their dearest in the darkest graves. It is about hope and common identity.

Millions were killed during Soviet terror, but the victims of these atrocities and their living relatives have never been given real justice. This was what Yury Dmitriev was working on. In the forests of Karelia, tens of thousands of people were shot and killed without trial or conviction and buried in mass graves.

Dmitriev is currently serving a 13 years prison sentence and is considered a political prisoner by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other leading human rights organizations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/dunja-mijatovic-calls-on-russia-to-end-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders/

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/democracy-and-media/2021/05/jailed-russian-historian-receives-sakharov-freedom-award