Posts Tagged ‘digest of human rights awards and laureates’

Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for freedom of expression

October 8, 2021

On 8 October 2021 the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. Maria Ressa has received earlier recognition with 5 human rights awards [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c048da20-ba0f-11ea-a77e-f524f6fc9aaa]

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

Muratov dedicated his award to six contributors to his Novaya Gazeta newspaper who had been murdered for their work exposing human rights violations and corruption. “Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natasha Estemirova – these are the people who have today won the Nobel Prize,” Muratov said, reciting the names of slain reporters and activists whose portraits hang in the newspaper’s Moscow headquarters.

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

For more on the Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards on freedom of expression see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/F8EA8555-BF30-4D39-82C6-6D241CC41B74

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/press-release/

https://www.reuters.com/world/philippines-journalist-ressa-russian-journalist-muratov-win-2021-nobel-peace-2021-10-08/

Erik K. Ward Wins 2021 Civil Courage Prize

October 5, 2021
Eric K. Ward, a nationally-recognized expert

New York, NY – Eric K. Ward, a nationally-recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence, and preserving inclusive democracy, will receive the 21st annual Civil Courage Prize virtually on Friday, October 29, 2021.

This is the first time in the award’s history that an American has won the prize, revealing the dangerous proliferation of hate crimes and political violence by authoritarian and extremist movements in the United States.

In his 30+ year civil rights career, Ward has worked with community groups, government and business leaders, human rights advocates, and philanthropists to combat white supremacy, extremism, and anti-democratic activities of the far right. The recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures Media Award, Ward’s widely quoted writings and speeches are credited with key narrative shifts in the fight to take white supremacist violence seriously. He currently serves as Executive Director of Western States Center, Senior Fellow with Southern Poverty Law Center and Race Forward, and as Chair of The Proteus Fund.

“There are few with more experience in the realm of civil courage in the United States than Eric Ward. Eric understands the deep connections between creating and sustaining inclusive, democratic institutions and combating extremism, bigotry and racism in all its forms,” said George Biddle, Train Foundation Trustee. “We commend Eric for spending his career and life demonstrating how extremism can only be mitigated through non-violent action and facilitating common ground.” 

The fact that I am the first ever American to win this prize is a clear and jarring message from The Train Foundation to governments and civil society domestically and internationally: the rise of authoritarianism and violent extremism has ended all illusions of ‘American exceptionalism.’ America’s dream of achieving a multiracial and inclusive democracy is in danger, said Eric Ward. “Bigoted and authoritarian ideological movements are now an active threat to the very structures of our democracy established by the 1960s Civil Rights movement. I am grateful and proud to accept this honor on behalf of all those who continue the struggle towards a strong, multicultural democracy.

For more on the Civil Courage Prize see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/B1359DF3-B0A3-4AE5-B8E3-50599E0665FF

Eric Ward has a special interest in the use of music to advance inclusive democracy. In 2020 he helped to launch the Western States Center Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab which works with musicians to create new narratives about anti-bigotry and inclusion, puncture the myths driving our political and social divisions, and invite people who don’t always trust politicians and movement leaders into the safe and trusting conversational space that exists between a performer and their audience.

Ward began his civil rights career at a time when the white nationalist movement was engaged in violent paramilitary activity that posed a threat to democracy and democratic participation in the Pacific Northwest. He founded and directed a community project designed to expose and counter hate groups and respond to bigoted violence before joining the staff of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, where he worked with government leaders, civil rights campaigners, businesses leaders and law enforcement officials in establishing over 120 task forces focused on human rights and anti-violence in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Ward considers himself ‘lucky’ to have had the experience of working closely side-by-side with people who decided to leave any movements which pose a threat to democracy. “I can’t take a lot of claim for that,” he said in an interview with Floss Media earlier this year. “What I think I presented was a doorway out. The truth is when we break this binary of white supremacy and the white nationalism that is trying to turn it into something new, what we find out is we have a lot of problems in common. We also have a lot of dreams in common.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/

https://www.blackstarnews.com/us-politics/news/erik-k-ward-first-american-to-win-civil-courage-prize.html

2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award

October 4, 2021

The 2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award were announced in Stockholm on Wednesday, 29 September at Kulturhuset, Stockholm. For more in this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59

Marthe Wandou, Cameroon

“For building a model of community-based child protection in the face of terrorist insurgency and gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region of Cameroon.”

Read more

Vladimir Slivyak, Russia

“For his defence of the environment and for helping to ignite grassroots opposition to the coal and nuclear industries in Russia.”

Read more

Freda Huson of the Wet’suwet’en people, Canada

“For her fearless dedication to reclaiming her people’s culture and defending their land against disastrous pipeline projects.”

Read more

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, India

“For their innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India.”

Read more

For last year’s winners, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/four-well-known-human-rights-defenders-are-the-2020-right-livelihood-laureates/

https://rightlivelihood.org/2021-announcement/

Jeel Albena Association in Yemen wins 2021 Nansen Award

September 30, 2021
Ameen Hussain Jubran, head and founder of the Yemeni non-governmental organization Jeel Albena.

© UNHCR/Ahmed HaleemAmeen Hussain Jubran, head and founder of the Yemeni non-governmental organization Jeel Albena. 29 September 2021

The Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development, a Yemeni humanitarian organization that has supported tens of thousands of people caught up in the country’s conflict, is the winner of the 2021 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, announced the laureate this Wednesday 29 September 2021. Every year, the prize recognizes a person or group, that goes above and beyond the call of duty, to help displaced or stateless people. For more on this award for refugee workers: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/CC584D13-474F-4BB3-A585-B448A42BB673

In a statement, Mr. Grandi said that “Jeel Albena does this in an extraordinary way helping people on all sides of Yemen’s conflict.” 

“Its staff and volunteers have stayed put, working quietly on the ground throughout the conflict, in the face of the harshest adversity, at a time when many others have left,” he said.  

Frontline work 

Their work, often near the frontlines, has included constructing 18,000 emergency shelters for internally displaced people and their host communities. Their work has also allowed thousands to make a living, and been a vehicle to restore basic human dignity. 

Mr. Grandi noted that Jeel Albena’s motto is “By Yemenis, for Yemenis” and that it “exemplifies its spirit of local community action.” 

“Always, they seek solutions together with the communities where they are active,” he explained. 

Established in June 2017, the association started with only fifteen staff and now has more than 150 employees, over 40 per cent of them, recruited from within displaced communities.  . 

The organization’s founder, Ameen Jubran, will collect the award on behalf of the organization. 

Mr. Jubran first started working with displaced people while he was at university and he has never stopped. He was nearly killed in the conflict and, like many of his team, have experienced displacement first-hand.  

“But he did not give up. In fact, he says the experience of being forced to flee his home only increased his determination, in the true spirit of Nansen,” Mr. Grandi recalled.  For the High Commissioner, the award “puts a much-needed spotlight on Yemen, a country where the suffering faced by civilians does not receive the attention it deserves.”  “It is my profound hope this award draws international attention to Yemen and that Jeel Albena’s extraordinary work will inspire more action for the people there who have suffered,” concluded the High Commissioner.

For last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/02/nansen-refugee-award-2020-to-maye-vergara-perez-of-colombia/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101582

Afghan lawyer Freshta Karimi wins Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights Prize

September 30, 2021

Freshta Karimi, 38, the founder of the Da Qanoon Ghushtonky (DQG) organisation, one of the largest suppliers of legal aid in Afghanistan, won the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize 2021, awarded by jurists to their peers.

Her organisation works in particular on upholding the rights of woman and children in Afghanistan and she has regularly represented it abroad in recent years.

Since the Taliban seized power last month however, she has kept a lower profile, lawyer Bertrand Favreau, the founder of the prize and chairman of its jury, told AFP.

“For at least five years, she has received threats from the Taliban in all the cities where she has tried to open an office to inform women of their rights,” he said.

That had not stopped her continuing her outreach work however, travelling to even the most remote villages, he added. “Today she is one of the most threatened lawyers in the world.”

Last year, the prize was awarded to two Turkish lawyers, sisters Barkin and Ebru Timtik. Ebru had died the previous month after a 238-day hunger strike to protest her imprisonment on terror-related accusations. Barkin is serving a lengthy sentence on similar charges. see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/26/timtik-sisters-in-turkey-share-2020-ludovic-trarieux-prize/

The Ludovic Trarieux Award is an annual prize which recognises lawyers of any nationality who have sought to defend human rights, often at great risk to themselves. The award was named after Trarieux, who in 1898 founded France’s Human Rights League (LDH). For more on this and other awards for jurists, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7C413DBA-E6F6-425A-AF9E-E49AE17D7921.

https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/35372/afghan-womens-rights-campaigner-wins-top-human-rights-prize

Belarus’s Kalesnikava Awarded Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

September 29, 2021

On 27 September 2021 RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reported that jailed Belarusian opposition figure Maryya Kalesnikava has won the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize awarded annually by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to honor “outstanding” civil society action in the defense of human rights amid an ongoing crackdown in Belarus on pro-democracy activists and groups by authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/beff3c8d-0e20-4e88-9efb-cdfcb4c26f40


Maryya Kalesnikava forms a heart shape to supporters from inside a defendants' cage at her trial in Minsk on September 6.
Maryya Kalesnikava forms a heart shape to supporters from inside a defendants’ cage at her trial in Minsk on September 6.

The prize was presented by PACE President Rik Daems to Maryya’s sister, Tatsyana Khomich, at a special ceremony on September 27, the opening day of the autumn plenary session of the PACE in Strasbourg. For more on this award, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D

“In standing up against a regime which has chosen force and brutality against peaceful and legitimate protest, Ms. Kalesnikava showed that she is ready to risk her own safety for a cause greater than herself — she has shown true courage,” Daems said.

Accepting the prize on her sister’s behalf, Khomich said: “This award is a sign of solidarity of the entire democratic world with the people of Belarus. It is also a sign to us, Belarusians, that the international community supports us, and that we are on the right track.”

Kalesnikava and another opposition figure, Maksim Znak, were sentenced to prison terms of 11 and 10 years respectively on September 6, after being found guilty on charges with conspiracy to seize power, calls for action to damage national security, and calls for actions damaging national security by trying to create an extremist group. Both pleaded not guilty, rejecting the charges.

Kalesnikava, 39, was a coordinator of the election campaign of an excluded presidential aspirant, former Belgazprombank head Viktar Babaryka. After Babaryka was arrested weeks before the August 2020 presidential election, Kalesnikava joined forces with another presidential candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, whom the majority of Belarusians have called the winner in the election.

After joining Tsikhanouskaya’s support group, Kalesnikava became a member of the opposition Coordination Council and turned into a prominent leader of protests demanding the resignation of Lukashenka, who was officially announced the winner of the election demonstrators say was rigged and which the West has refused to acknowledge.

Kalesnikava was snatched from the streets of Minsk in September 2020 by masked men along with two staffers. The three were driven early the next day to the border, where authorities told them to cross into Ukraine.

Security officers reportedly failed to deport Kalesnikava because she ripped her passport into small pieces after they arrived in the no man’s land between Belarus and Ukraine. Her two associates entered Ukraine, but with no valid passport, Kalesnikava remained in the country and was subsequently detained.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/nominees-for-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-2021-announced/

In the meantime the Belarusian Justice Ministry has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, one of the country’s oldest independent human rights groups, Human Rights Watch said today. On September 30, 2021, the Belarus Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the lawsuit. The move is part of wider effort by Belarusian authorities to silence all independent or critical voices in the country.

In a September 22 letter, five international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, urged the Justice Ministry to withdraw its lawsuit, calling it “inappropriate [and] inconsistent with the Belarusian government’s obligations to respect and protect the legitimate work of human rights defenders.” They also said the lawsuit “violates a number of fundamental rights, including those of freedom of expression and association and due process.”

https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-kalesnikava-havel-prize/31480306.html

https://www.euronews.com/2021/09/28/us-europe-rights-belarus

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/29/belarus-authorities-target-top-human-rights-group

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Human Rights Data Analysis Group winner of the 2021 RAFTO prize

September 29, 2021

The 36th Rafto Prize 2021 is awarded to the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) for their work in uncovering large-scale human rights violations. By using statistics and data science, HRDAG document human rights violations that might otherwise go undetected. Their approach has enabled courts to bring perpetrators to justice and given closure to affected victims and their families. For more on th4 RAFTO award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/A5043D5E-68F5-43DF-B84D-C9EF21976B18

Statisticians for Human Rights: HRDAG seek to uphold credible information as a foundation of human rights advocacy and justice and by doing so, they represent a new generation of human rights defenders that advances the enforcement of human rights globally.

HRDAG promotes accountability for human rights abuse. Evidence is crucial in demanding accountability and justice. Systematic documentation of human rights violations exposes the scope of transgressions. This is central to putting an end to impunity for perpetrators, and vital for the protection and empowerment of the courageous human rights activists at the frontline.

HRDAG’s rigorous methods and analyses also ensure that every death is counted, and a minimum standard of human dignity is respected. The HRDAG team consists of a small group of dedicated experts in computer science, software development, mathematical and applied statistics, and demography. In their work, HRDAG partner with human rights defenders, experts, and organizations worldwide.

Holding perpetrators to account

Based on the idea that “truth leads to accountability”, HRDAG provides thorough documentation of torture, forced disappearances, kidnappings, war crimes and extrajudicial killings. Perpetrators of human rights abuses often do everything they can to hide their crimes from the public, while victims and their families seek answers and justice.

For example, in collaboration with Amnesty International, HRDAG has documented that 25 % of the deaths in Syrian prisons were unreported. Their researchers have been expert witnesses in the trial of General José Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala, who was convicted as the chief perpetrator of genocide against the Maya Ixil indigenous people. They have provided evidence of unusually high death tolls among political prisoners under the rule of former President Hissène Habré in Chad, as well as evidence of ethnic cleansing carried out by Serbian forces and former President Slobodan Milošević in Kosovo.

HRDAG has recently launched a project on underreporting police violence in the United States, where their analysis show that one third of all victims murdered by strangers, are killed by the police.

A new approach

The novelty of HRDAG’s approach lies in their efforts to invent and extend scientific methods from other fields, such as mathematical statistics, machine learning, software engineering, and computer science. They apply these methods to the area of human rights to detect patterns of violence and provide statistical estimates traditional approaches have not been able to deliver. They bring the power of quantitative analysis to the pursuit of justice and accountability. In doing so, they establish scientifically defensible historical records of human rights crimes.

Credible information is key

In an era of misinformation and polarization, credible information is more crucial than ever. The Rafto Prize 2021 aims to highlight the importance of HRDAG and other human right defenders’ work in seeking and upholding the truth as a foundation of human rights advocacy and justice.

The Rafto Prize 2021 is a recognition of HRDAG’s pioneering approach and dedicated commitment to detecting and deterring human rights violators by providing reliable scientific documentation.

The prize sends a firm message to human rights violators, both state and non-state perpetrators, that violations will not go unnoticed.

Award Statement 2021 (ENG)

https://www.rafto.no/news/the-rafto-prize-2021-to-hrdag

German Africa Prize 2021 goes to Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele

September 28, 2021

Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele is the winner of the 2021 German Africa Prize. The human rights defender is being honored for his unceasing commitment to monitoring and speaking out against injustice.

Daniel Bekele, currently Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), will receive the German Africa Award for his fight for democracy and human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/08/human-rights-defender-daniel-bekele-now-commissioner-of-the-ethiopian-human-rights-commission/

For more on this prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7bdd4070-5958-11e9-90d9-57c8733f3136

I am delighted that the independent jury has selected an outstanding human rights defender,” said Uschi Eid, President of the German Africa Foundation, which presents the prize.

“[Daniel Bekele] deserves this prize for his lifelong advocacy of human rights. I sincerely hope that the award will encourage [him] and his colleagues at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to be fearless and impartial advocates for human rights in Ethiopia,” she added. 

Daniel told DW he was “truly excited and humbled to be the first Ethiopian to receive this prestigious German award.”

I know it will go a long way to encourage and inspire my colleagues at the EHRC, as well as human rights defenders in my country Ethiopia and Africa, who work for the promotion and protection of human rights in increasingly challenging environments,” he said.

As a human rights defender, Daniel Bekele has also fought for women’s rights

Daniel Bekele began his dedication to human rights early in his career.

He started representing non-government organizations as a 23-year-old lawyer, quickly becoming a much sought-after expert on democracy and human rights.

In 2004, Daniel became the Head of Policy Research and Advocacy for Ethiopia at the international charity ActionAid. At the same time, he was also highly involved in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, a network of thousands of organizations promoting an end to poverty.

As a civil society representative, Daniel assumed a leading role in monitoring Ethiopia’s 2005 parliamentary elections, marked by flawed counting and repeated incidents of post-election violence.

A critic of the election process, Daniel was attacked and injured by armed men in October 2005. He was subsequently arrested, imprisoned, and convicted on charges of trying to “overthrow the government and the constitution.”

He remained in jail from November 2005 until March 2008.

Daniel Bekele’s determination to stand up for political rights, especially those of disadvantaged groups, remains undiminished by his prison sentence.

“The human rights defender believes that economic and social recovery fails to lead to sustainable development without the enforcement of human and political rights,” Eid from the German Africa Foundation said.

“As such, [Daniel Bekele] doesn’t shy away from criticizing donor countries in the North for their cooperation with authoritarian regimes.”

Ethiopia has started a democratic opening under Prime Minister Ahmed

In the wake of Ethiopia’s democratic opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018, the country’s parliament elected Daniel to lead the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in 2019.

Daniel has not only transformed the commission, but has also successfully advocated for its greater independence, with parliament passing an amendment in 2020 strengthening the commission’s operational and financial autonomy.

The German Africa Foundation acknowledges, however, that Ethiopia’s political crisis and the civil war in the country’s northern Tigray province have cast a shadow over Bekele’s work at the Human Rights Commission. Watch video 01:52

The EHRC is currently conducting an investigation, together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, into human rights violations committed by all sides in the Tigray conflict.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/07/german-africa-prize-goes-to-kenyan-ushahidi-it-pioneer/

https://www.dw.com/en/german-africa-prize-2021-goes-to-ethiopian-rights-activist/a-59189323

Two lawyers from Belarus share Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021

September 10, 2021

Belarusian lawyers Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021. The Award will be presented at a ceremony co-hosted by Lawyers for Lawyers and the Amsterdam Bar Association in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on 18 November 2021. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/B40861B3-0BE3-4CAF-A417-BC4F976E9CB0

By awarding Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak the Lawyers for Lawyers Award, the jury wants to highlight the important work of both lawyers who bravely represented Belarusian human rights defenders and opposition leaders and are paying a high price for their work. With this Award, the jury also wants to raise awareness of other Belarusian lawyers who have been subjected to pressure, harassment and intimidation in connection to their professional activities especially in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections”.

Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak laureates Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021

Maksim Znak                                                                                     

Maksim Znak represented Viktor Babaryko, a potential candidate in the presidential elections who was not allowed to formally register. He also provided legal assistance to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former candidate for the presidency who is now in exile, and Maria Kolesnikova, Coordination Council co-leader. On 9 September 2020, Mr. Znak was arrested for allegedly having committed the offence of “calls to actions seeking to undermine national security” in violation of Article 361(3) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. In February 2021, additional charges were added, including “conspiracy to seize state power” and “organising extremism”. On 6 September 2021, Mr. Znak was sentenced to 10 years in prison during a closed-door-trial. His sentencing is another indication of the challenging working environment in which Belarusian lawyers must operate.

Liudmila Kazak

Liudmila Kazak is a human rights lawyer who has defended political prisoners, human rights defenders, and journalists, including the opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova. On 24 September 2020, she was detained. The next day, the court held Kazak administratively liable for disobeying police officers based on testimony given by anonymous masked witnesses who appeared via Skype and claimed to be the arresting officers. She was sentenced to a fine under article 23.4 of the Belarusian Administrative Code and released on 26 September 2020. On 11 February 2021, she was notified of a pending disciplinary proceeding against her before the Qualification Commission for legal practice in the Republic of Belarus. On 19 February 2021, the Qualification Commission disbarred Ms. Kazak. Ms. Kazak appealed the decision, but, on 15 April 2021, a district court upheld Ms. Kazak’s disbarment. On 17 June 2021, an appellate court upheld the district court decision.

For 2019 award, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/lawyers-for-lawyers-award-to-turkish-human-rights-defender-selcuk-kozagacli-on-23-may/

Nominees for Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2021 announced

September 7, 2021

The selection panel of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which rewards outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond, has announced the shortlist for the 2021 Prize. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D

Meeting today in Prague, the panel – made up of independent figures from the world of human rights and chaired by Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) – decided to shortlist the following three nominees, in alphabetical order:

Maria Kalesnikava (Belarus)
The nominee is one of the opposition leaders in Belarus and a member of the Coordination Council. She was the head of the campaign headquarters of former presidential nominee Viktar Barbaryka. She is one of the three female symbols of the Belarusian opposition and its people’s struggle for civil and political liberties and fundamental rights. The nominee was abducted in Minsk in September 2020 and has been detained since then. She was charged with undermining national security. She tore her passport at the border to prevent being removed from Belarus. The nominee is at serious risk for her safety and life. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/beff3c8d-0e20-4e88-9efb-cdfcb4c26f40]

Reporters Sans Frontières
The nominee is a leading INGO that safeguards the freedom of expression and information. Since 1985, RSF has provided emergency support to thousands of journalists at risk around the world and obtained the release of several detained journalists. RSF systematically takes steps to ensure investigation and legal proceedings against those responsible of the murder of journalists and supports democracy by rolling back disinformation. [see: https://http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/B4EE0687-54AB-9CB3-AD6E-EA1A03C7D73B]

Germain Rukuki (Burundi)
The nominee is a human rights defender who has been campaigning in the human rights field for years (in particular, against torture and the death penalty). Since 2015, human rights defenders and organisations in Burundi have been facing a shrinking space and have been targeted by the authorities. In this context, the nominee was sentenced in 2018 to 32 years in prison in what the international community considered to be a pretext to silence his voice and criminalise his human rights work. Subsequently, a Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to 1 year in 2021 and he was released. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/03/germain-rukuki-burundi-human-rights-defender-out-of-jail/

I would like to thank all those who put forward nominations for the 2021 Prize,” said PACE President Rik Daems. “Fundamental rights and freedoms must be defended and preserved with strength and vigilance. They can never be taken for granted and it takes a lot of courage and determination to uphold them. The three selected candidates’ commitment to the values which were dear to Vaclav Havel and which Council of Europe stands for deserves our appreciation and recognition.

https://pace.coe.int/en/pages/havelprize