Posts Tagged ‘Armenian Genocide’

1 Million $ Aurora Prize Awarded to Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung

June 10, 2018

Kyaw Hla Aung

Kyaw Hla Aung Photo: Aurora
The third Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. The award comes with 1 million USD to be given by the Laureate to other organisations. For more on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, commended Mr. Aung, stating: “As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians – especially women and children – on the deportation route during the Genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung’s advocacy work that will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable. Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement, and to help individuals transform their lives.

As the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a $ 100,000 grant and he will donate $ 1,000,000 award to:
•    Médecins Sans Frontières (London)
•    Malaysian Medical Relief – MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia)
•    International Catholic Migration Commission – ICMC (Switzerland, USA)

Kyaw Hla Aung has been working for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.  On being named the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung said: “There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination. The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public.”

Kyaw Hla Aung was congratulated by Dr. Tom Catena, who was awarded the 2017 Aurora Prize for his exceptional commitment to providing urgent medical care to the 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He said: “The Aurora Prize has created a true light for our people in Nuba, and has helped rebuild the resilience of our community, ultimately to keep people alive. I am proud to share the Aurora Prize mantle with such a selfless humanitarian as Kyaw Hla Aung. I congratulate him on receiving this award and applaud his incredibly selfless efforts fighting for such a noble cause.”  [see also” https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/28/nominations-are-open-for-the-2018-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity/]

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of the other two 2018 Aurora Prize Humanitarians: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, women’s rights advocate and Co-Founder of Prajwala, India, and Father Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, a center that supports Central American migrants in Mexico.

https://mediamax.am/en/news/society/28882/

http://hetq.am/eng/news/89973/$11-million-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung.html

Inaugural Aurora Prize (1 million $) goes to Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Burundian orphanage

April 25, 2016

Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi was named as the inaugural Laureate of the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. At a ceremony held in Yerevan on 24 April 2016, Barankitse was recognized for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi. Read the rest of this entry »

Which heroes should we cast in bronze? Human rights defenders and their statues.

February 3, 2016

Some time back, 12 October 2015, Simon Bradley wrote for Swissinfo a piece on the question: “Which heroes should we cast in bronze?”. Indeed, statues celebrating dead generals, kings, artists and philosophers are found in public spaces around the world, but what about contemporary heroes, especially human rights defenders? I found a few cases where human rights defenders objected to a statue (think of the Confederate statue issue in the USA, or the protest against a statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patellar on the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India – see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24188), but the positive question of which human rights heroes should be honored and how is an interesting one. Bradley’s article and thus this post concern just Geneva. I wonder what other experiences exist in this area and would welcome contributions! Read the rest of this entry »

Turkish human rights defender Ragip Zarakolu receives PL Foundation Peace Prize

December 17, 2015

 On December 10 Turkish publisher, human rights defender Ragip Zarakolu was awarded PL (Paul Lauritzen) Foundation Peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts in the areas of freedom of thought and expression. Zarakolu is an author of a number of works on Armenian Genocide. The prize amounting to 100.000 Danish krone is awarded to organizations and people who struggle for democracy without resorting to violence within the scope of United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. [Ragıp Zarakolu was born in 1948 on Heybeliada, in İstanbul. He started publishing with his wife, Ayşe Nur Zarakolu in 1977. He never abandoned his struggle for “popularizing respect for different ideas and cultures in Turkey” despite pressures, his books being seized or destroyed, heavy fines and being sent to prison. Zarakolu serving as the President of Publishers’ Union of Turkey Committee of Free Publishing has worked on Kurdish question and condition of minorities in Turkey. Zarakolu lastly was arrested together with his son Deniz Zarakolu within the scope of Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) case in 2011. He remained in prison until April 2012. (EA/TK)]

President of the PL Foundation Paul Sogaard noted in his opening remarks that Ragip Zarakolu was chosen as a recipient of the prize for his long struggle for the freedom of thought and human rights, as well as for his efforts targeted at raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide committed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago. Zarakolu said, in turn, he dedicates the award to the memory of Hrant Dink, the slain editor-in-chief of the Turkish Armenian Agos weekly, and Armenian linguist and architect Sevan Nisanyan, who’s currently serving a term in Turkey. He urged to do the utmost to speak out against and condemn the radical intolerance in Turkey and contribute to the release of detained intellectuals.

 

Sources:

http://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/169901-ragip-zarakolu-receives-pl-foundation-peace-prize

Ragip Zarakolu receives PL Foundation Peace Prize, criticizes radical intolerance in Turkey | Public Radio of Armenia

Ben Whitaker died: one of the early human rights defenders at the international scene

July 16, 2014

Ben (Benjamin) Whitaker died on 8 June 2014. The memory of the human rights world being notoriously short, there will be many who do not recognize the name of one of the early human rights defenders in the international arena. A UK citizen, in 1965 he spoke out forcefully against detention camps in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), became one of the most activist members of the UN SubCommission in the mid seventies and lead the struggle to have the Armenian Genocide recognised. His 1985 final report on the question of genocide – which only had a brief but controversial mention of the Armenia – was for that reason blocked at the Commission level by Turkey and could not be distributed as such. I was at that time Director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (SIM) and we agreed to publish a few thousand copies of the complete text under his own name.

As his link with the Armenian community was and remained strong, it should not surprise that one of the obituaries was published in DIARIO ARMENIA in Argentina. It was written by Leandro Despouy, President of the Argentine Audit Office and Former president of the SubCommission as well as the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Below is the English translation of this piece:

http://www.diarioarmenia.gov.ar:

Benjamin Whitaker, the Argentine dictatorship and the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations

Ben Whitaker died on June 8th. Predictably, an Armenian friend gave me the news. Whitaker’s name will forever be consistently associated to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations. It happened after extensive and difficult sessions, sabotaged by Turkey during fifteen years, which finally materialized in 1985 with the approval of the document that carries his name, the Whitaker Report.

He was a man of remarkable virtues, but two of these: coherence and sense of humour, were present in each and every one of the multiple activities he undertook during his life. Born into an aristocratic family, he made his first political incursions in the north London borough of Hampstead: he won the Hampstead seat for the Labour Party, a seat that had traditionally gone to the Tories for the previous 81 years. He had already graduated from Oxford to the bar, and spoken out vehemently against the local police regime in his book The Police.

Ben remained faithful to his neighbourhood football club throughout his life. An “argumentative idealist” –as he liked to describe himself-, who intensified the campaign for the enforcement of Human Rights worldwide, he battled against discrimination, the death penalty, the criminalization of homosexuality, against the outlawing of adultery and abortion, in favour of environmental care and all the issues that were surfacing with enormous force during the sixties and the seventies of the past century, an era which produced an unprecedented cultural change.

His condemnation, in 1965, of the clandestine detention camps of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) is well-known. He served as consultant for Labour governments and became executive director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, created by an Armenian in Portugal, which is dedicated to the advancement of the arts, sciences and education. There is no doubt, however, that his better known activity took place in the United Nations, where he was appointed Special Rapporteur of the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities -a competent area of independent expertise-, by David Owen, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs of the seventies.

During his time at the SubCommission, after multiple attempts at public accusation, Whitaker, the French ambassador Nicole Questiaux and Theo van Boven managed to unfetter the restraints that the diplomacy of the Argentine dictatorship (Gabriel Martínez, Mario Amadeo) had used to muzzle the accusations – presented  before the United Nations since 1976 -, of murders and disappearances in our country. In 1979, Whitaker delivered a clear message to the effect that countries who exercised terrorism within their territories should not try to use the same methods in the United Nations.

In 1983, the SubCommission and the Human Rights Commission (nowadays Council) entrusted Benjamin Whitaker with a study and revision of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and its relation to the Convention of the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, in order to insure that Governments would comply with these directives. Whitaker was chosen for this research because of his intellectual stature and his proven integrity; nevertheless, one of the female experts advised him to add a bullet-proof vest to his wardrobe.

In point of fact, two preliminary studies (1973 and 1975) developed by the Rwandan expert Ruhashiankiko, included a paragraph , number 30, which would become renowned because it labeled the Armenian Massacres of 1915 and 1923 as “the first genocide of the twentieth century”. This paragraph raised a storm of great proportions, conducted by the Turkish diplomacy, and had to be suppressed from the final report in 1979. The Rwandan expert vanished from the international arena.

We met at the SubCommission. We were 26 experts. Alfonsin’s administration was just getting started, as was the revolution of the cause of Human Rights. When I was appointed General Rapporteur of the SubCommission in 1984, the project of Whitaker’s excellent Report was being debated. It contained the definition of the Armenian Genocide. I agreed entirely with its contents, but found it difficult, from a political standpoint, to show signs of support and proximity to an Englishman, when the wounds of the Malvinas War were still so fresh. Concurrently, the investigation of the Argentine dictatorship’s crimes and the legal summons issued to the Juntas drew us closer, so we established an undercurrent of mutual sympathy in an almost clandestine fashion, sometimes mediated by the French judge Louis Joinet who was also an expert in the SubCommission. I told him I supported him. By 1985 we already enjoyed a fluid relationship and though the context was not simple, we were able to overcome that contingency; we shared a profound dialogue, and we both had knowledge of the world of the United Nations and Human Rights.

The situation was also very complicated for Whitaker; Margaret Thatcher ruled in Great Britain, her government did not endorse his condition of Rapporteur, and he had to receive the backing of a British NGO in order to finish his mandate at the United Nations. A committed socialist, Whitaker did not support the policies of Thatcher’s administration, and although these circumstances weakened him personally, the forcefulness of his Report made him stronger. That situation was taken advantage of by the Turkish diplomacy, who tried to erase from his Report the paragraph about the Armenian Genocide. During the debate of this issue, I brought up the changes which had taken place in Argentina, our solidarity with the victims of genocides and openly declared that the controversial paragraph must be kept.

In 1985, Whitaker reported to the SubCommission the theft of documents which he was never to recover. In that same session, as General Rapporteur, I pointed out that the expression “genocide” had been replaced by “Armenian question”. In those days, Whitaker received the visit of two Turkish diplomats who tried to dissuade him from continuing with his investigation. But Whitaker was a man of principles, not easily swayed by political pressure. The final approval in 1985 of the historical Report, which has become part of the patrimony of the United Nations, is the culmination of an unprecedented diplomatic battle that produced an important judicial and political impact throughout the world.

Whitaker ended his Report stating that it was necessary to close that chapter of History in an honourable way, and that if the experts did not have the courage to tell the truth, then participating in the SubCommission’s work would be useless, since it was the duty of the SubCommission to protect the victims from the governments and not the other way round.  For ethical reasons and in an act of chivalry, Whitaker abstained from voting for his own Report. When we met again in 1986, during his visit to Buenos Aires, he declared that the approval of the Report had been a good example of Anglo Argentine cooperation. Unknown to the media, he met with Dante Caputo and president Raúl Alfonsín.

He dedicated his last years to painting, and he campaigned to have a statue of George Orwell installed in front of the BBC, where it stands today.