Posts Tagged ‘digest of human rights awards’

Guatemalan human rights defender Abelino Chub Caal wins Trócaire human rights award

November 8, 2019

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire, for his work defending human rights. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Abelino Chib Caal from Guatemala in Dublin after he was awarded the Romero International Award by Trócaire. Photograph: Dave Meehan

On 26 April, 2019 Abelino Chub Caal walked free after spending 813 days in prison. Less than six months later, the Guatemalan human rights defender stood before a large Irish audience at the Riddel Hall in Belfast to accept the Trocaire Romero Award. This was the second edition of the award [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/trocaire-romero-award]. The inaugural award in 2018 went to Sr Bridget Tighe in recognition of her humanitarian work in Gaza and the Middle East (for more on her click here)

The following week Sorcha Pollak of the Irish Times sat in a small meeting room in the Irish Times building with the Guatemalan teacher who has dedicated his life to fighting for the environmental and cultural rights of the indigenous people of his home country. A few days later, the 35-year-old flew back to Guatemala, unsure of the reception he will receive in a country which has an extremely poor international reputation for its treatment of community leaders who call for greater equality and recognition of human rights.

This has been the struggle of the indigenous people throughout our lives,” explains Caal in Spanish. “We’ve been completely rejected by the state. On the one hand the government says we’re the pride of Guatemala and they get millions of dollars in tourist money but at the same time we’re being repressed. They criminalise and persecute us; they send people to their deaths. They harass men and women who raise their voices against the injustice.”

Caal first became involved in the campaign for equal land rights aged 14 when his family’s community, in the department of Izabal in eastern Guatemala, was suddenly taken over by the cattle farm of a French woman operating in the area. “She had about 1,000 cattle just roaming around the community. They slept under our roof and ate all our crops.” He was deeply shocked when a community leader, who had come to the town to educate locals about their rights and the international treaties they could cite as protection, was thrown in jail for eight years.

After school, having graduated with a diploma in sustainable tourism, Caal began working for the Guillermo Toriello foundation which promotes local development. He also trained as a teacher but never got the chance to use his qualification. “I’ve dedicated myself to the community struggle and to becoming a mediator between state institutions and communities on land issues. It’s a legitimate and true struggle, the land for us is like our mother.”

The mining industry along with the rapidly growing production of palm oil, fruit, sugar cane and rubber by multinational companies is being carried out at the expense of local communities, says Caal. “They’ve accumulated all the land they can. All areas of flat land have been declared private property for palm plantations but not for the production of food.

“The state’s intention is to dispossess and exterminate the life of the indigenous communities. The communities are being expelled from their land and left without any alternatives. They just treat them as if they were toys.”

Caal cites examples of fellow human rights activists who were jailed for their work defending local communities, including Bernardo Caal Xol who was sentenced to eight years for his efforts to halt the development of a hydroelectric project along the Cahabon river by the Spanish ACS construction group which is chaired by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez.

In February 2017, Caal was arrested and charged for alleged aggravated land grabbing, arson, coercion, illicit association and belonging to illicit armed groups. He spent the following two years in prison in Guatemala city.

While former government officials, locked up on corruption charges, made his life in prison difficult, he was surprised by the reception from gang members. “They were actually really respectful to me and called me profe [teacher]. They said I didn’t deserve to be there.”

During his two years behind bars, Caal witnessed hitmen inside the jail killing other prisoners and frequently worried for his safety. Despite being released earlier this year, after he was absolved of all charges, he knows that many other land rights defenders continue to face similar treatment. “The president is attacking human rights defenders, insinuating they have connections to drug trafficking. I wasn’t the first person to go to prison and I certainly won’t be the last. Our economic powers, they either send you to prison or send you to the grave.”

Upon his release, Caal spent one month in a safe house in Guatemala city and another three months in Costa Rica before travelling to Ireland to accept the Romero International Award presented by Irish NGO, Trócaire. He hopes his time in Ireland will raise awareness around the daily struggles faced by indigenous people across Guatemala in their attempts to hold on to their land. “We have been completely rejected by the state, we can’t be at peace. We just ask that people continue to show their solidarity with us.”

Caal is conscious that the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s office has not accepted his release and is appealing the decision. We part with uncertainty as to what will happen when he arrives home.

Gary Walsh of Trócaire says the voices of land rights defenders like Caal should put pressure on countries worldwide, including Ireland, to sign an international treaty on business and human rights which would help protect indigenous peoples around the globe.

Land grabs, environmental damage and violent attacks, including murder, are all too common features of how big business interacts with communities in the developing world,” says Walsh. “This has been facilitated by the absence of any global framework governing how businesses impact the human rights of the communities they engage with.” A binding international treaty is needed to ensure businesses operating outside the EU respect human rights, and that vulnerable people are protected, says Walsh. Recent negotiations held in Geneva around the revised draft of a legally binding treaty showed some progress despite insufficient engagement from EU member states including Ireland, said a spokeswoman for Trócaire

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/guatemalan-activist-abelino-chub-caal-wins-tr%C3%B3caire-human-rights-award-1.4076152

lham Tohti now also awarded the EU’s 2019 Sakharov Prize 

October 24, 2019

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize      

Ilham Tohti, renowned Uyghur economist fighting for rights of China’s Uyghur minority, awarded 2019 Sakharov Prize © AP Images/Andy WONG  

It was just accounced that Uyghur human rights defender Ilham Tohti has been awarded this year’s European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureate in the Strasbourg chamber at noon on Thursday, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents: “I am very pleased to announce that the European Parliament has chosen Ilham Tohti as the winner of the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Tohti has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of the Uyghur minority in China. Despite being a voice of moderation and reconciliation, he was sentenced to life in prison following a show trial in 2014. By awarding this prize, we strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and we call for the respect of minority rights in China”. The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in the European Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December. For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and similar awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought.

This is the 6th major human rights award that Ilham Tohti has picked up:

2014   Freedom to Write Award (PEN)

2016   Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

2017   Prize for Freedom (Liberal Int’l)

2017   Weimar Human Rights Award

2019   Vaclav Havel Prize for Human Rights (PACE)

2019   Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government is going to react as it tends to be very sensitive on awards for its human rights defenders, think of the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo on 2010 or the reaction of the Chiane government against the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights giving the MEA in 2016 [https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un-idUSKCN12C0X2]. Another example is: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/11/cyber-attacks-on-city-of-weimar-for-awarding-ilham-tohti/

Indonesian human rights defender Veronica Koman receives Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award

October 24, 2019

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has awarded the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award to Indonesian lawyer and human rights defender Veronica Koman for her courageous work in exposing human rights violations in the Indonesian Provinces of Papua and West Papua. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/un-experts-urge-indonesia-to-protect-human-rights-defender-veronica-koman/]

Amid the recent internet blackout and mass demonstrations in West Papua Ms Koman disseminated information about the escalating situation on social media and functioned as a key source of information to the outside world. It honours the courage she has shown to continue to stand up for the human rights of West Papuans, and their right to self-determination, despite intensifying harassment and intimidation. Ms Koman has received death threats and accusations of being a traitor and has had charges brought against her for spreading false information and provoking unrest, with penalties of up to 6 years in prison. There are reports that Indonesian authorities have requested Interpol to put Ms Koman on a ‘red notice’ to locate her and enable her extradition. ACFID presented the award to Ms Koman at its annual conference on Wednesday 23 October 2019, in Sydney.Ms Koman said: “I dedicate this award to the victims of the crackdown which began in late August in West Papua, especially the dozens who have died at the hands of security forces, and the 22 political prisoners charged with treason. I hope this year’s award will raise awareness in Australia about human rights abuses suffered by West Papuans and the decades-long denial of their fundamental right to self-determination.

ACFID CEO, Marc Purcell, said: “We call on the Government of Australia to provide Ms Koman the protection to which she is entitled as a human rights defender. In line with recommendations from the UN Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, the Australian Government should also encourage Indonesia to drop all charges against Ms Koman and to protect the freedom of expression of all people reporting on the protests in West Papua.

For the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sir-ronald-wilson-human-rights-award

https://acfid.asn.au/media-releases/veronica-koman-receives-sir-ronald-wilson-human-rights-award?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Winners of the 2020 Andrei Sakharov Prize (of the APS) announced:

October 23, 2019

The American Physical Society (APS) on 22 october 2019 announced the Society’s Spring 2020 prize and award recipients. This includes the 2020 Andrei Sakharov Prize [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/andrei-sakharov-prize-aps] which goes to:

Ayşe Erzan, Istanbul Technical University
For her lifelong commitment to human rights, especially for her steadfast defense of the rights of citizens to criticize those in power, even at great personal cost.

Xiaoxing Xi, Temple University
For his articulate and steadfast advocacy in support of the US scientific community and open scientific exchange, and especially his efforts to clarify the nature of international scientific collaboration in cases involving allegations of scientific espionage.

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/updates/spring-prizes20.cfm

2019 Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Award goes to Rommel Durán Castellanos of Colombia

October 22, 2019

On 27 May 2019, the Jury of the 24th Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize chose the Colombian lawyer Rommel Durán Castellanos, President of the Equipo Jurídico Pueblos (EJP), as the recipient of the 2019 Prize. The Prize will be officially presented to Mr. Durán Castellanos on 8 November 8 at 5 p.m. at the Salle D of the European Convention Center Luxembourg – ECCL. For further information please contact: uiacentre@uianet.org.

Image result for ludovic human rights award

About the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Award and for some 15 other awards for lawyers, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-prize

Rommel Durán Castellanos, 33 years old, is a human rights lawyer and a the president of the ‘Pueblos’ Legal Team (Equipo Juridico Pueblos) and a volunteer with the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP), in Bucaramanga, in the northern Cesar Department, as well as a member of the Santander branch of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners. Since 2007, Rommel Durán has been defending marginalized communities and victims of human rights abuses and carrying out grassroots training workshops on human rights and protection mechanisms. In particular, he provides legal assistance to victims of violations in rural areas, where forcibly displaced small-scale producers are attempting to return to their lands, and victims of such crimes as enforced disappearance, torture and killings, perpetrated by State agents and paramilitary groups.
Rommel Durán faces very serious threats to his life due to his work as a lawyer and has first-hand experience of the violence that he seeks to challenge through his work. He is subject to harassment, including to a campaign of threats, attacks and stigmatization because of his work accompanying small-scale farming communities who are claiming the restitution of their lands under the Colombian Victims and Land Restitution Law.
In his work as a member of the ‘Pueblos’ Legal Team, Rommel Durán supports members of the Pitalito community who maintain that they have been forced, at gunpoint, to sell their land at unfairly low prices. Alongside the Directing Committee of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), Rommel Durán accompanied those members of the community who have returned to their lands and has provided them with legal advice and protection during the difficulties they have encountered since their return.
Apart from being stigmatized and falsely (criminally) accused, assumedly by those who have ‘purchased’ the land, the returning members of the community and their (legal) supporters, including Rommel Durán, have also been shot at by armed men during an incident in December 2013 while attempting to verify the state of the community’s crops.
On 9 August 2014, Rommel Durán was arrested in the village Curumaní and detained in poor conditions. The only information given by these policemen at the time was that there was a warrant for alleged conspiracy. However they did not state which judicial office issued the order. His cell phone was snatched from him; he was filmed and photographed illegally and was prevented from calling his own lawyer. He was released after being detained for 20 hours on 10 August. The issue of this certificate suggests that there is no intention holding to account those responsible for Rommel Durán’s arbitrary detention.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/does-g7-set-a-precedent-with-sotoudeh-for-inviting-human-rights-defenders/

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/28/jailed-human-rights-lawyer-in-uae-awarded-the-2017-ludovic-trarieux-award/

 

2019 Aurora Prize goes to Yazidi defender Mirza Dinnayi, founder of Air Bridge Iraq

October 20, 2019

Tom Catena, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Chair and 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate, praised Mirza Dinnayi by saying: “What makes Mirza Dinnayi an outstanding human being is the fact he couldn’t live in good conscience knowing that good people are left behind, that the innocent are suffering. Trying to help others while facing an unspeakable evil can be challenging and frustrating, but he never wavered. I am delighted to congratulate Mirza Dinnayi with being awarded with the Prize and welcome him to the Aurora family.

Mirza Dinnayi will receive a $1,000,000 grant for support to organizations that have inspired his work. He has chosen to donate the funds to three organizations that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror:

  • Air Bridge Iraq;
  • SEED Foundation;
  • Shai Fund.

Working on behalf of the Yazidi community, Mirza Dinnayi has dedicated his whole life to saving the victims of the Iraq war, evacuating women and children from territories controlled by ISIS and providing those tortured and violated with rehabilitation and support. It was Dinnayi who brought to Germany the future Sakharov Prize Laureate Lamya Haji Bashar. Today, she is a renowned human rights activist and has one of Aurora’s scholarships named after her.Previous Aurora Prize Laureates include:

Burundian activist Marguerite Barankitse (2016) [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/]

American physician and missionary Dr. Tom Catena (2017) and

Rohingya lawyer and human rights campaigner Kyaw Hla Aung (2018) [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/10/1-million-aurora-prize-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung/].

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also honored the contributions of the other two 2019 Aurora Humanitarians who received a $50,000 grant each: Zannah Bukar Mustapha, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Nigeria, and Huda Al-Sarari, Yemeni lawyer and human rights defender.

Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards 2019 to climate group Zero Hour and Honduran NGO

October 9, 2019

 Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson in a blog post of 7 October 2019 describes the NGO Zero Hour as the winner of the 2019 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards. The ceremony too place on 3 October at ther Carnegie Institute of Washington. For more on this and other awards for human rights and the environment, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/letelier-moffitt-human-rights-awards

Danny Ocean sings for Nansen award winner Azizbek Ashurov and refugees on 7 October in Geneva

October 2, 2019

Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean is one of the performers who will be honouring the winner of the 2019 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award at a ceremony in Geneva on 7 October. “I know how hard it is to leave behind family, friends and everything you know to build a life again somewhere new,” said Ocean, who rose to global fame with his hit Me Rehuso, in which he sings about the love he left behind when he moved from his native Venezuela to the United States of America. “Millions of people each year are forced into making this decision to protect themselves and their families. For those refugees who have lost everything, the humanity and support of others is their only lifeline. For many years the winners of the Nansen Refugee Award have been that lifeline. It is an honour for me to play a part in celebrating their extraordinary achievement.”

The ceremony will also feature a keynote address by Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese director of the Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Oscar-nominated film, Capernaum, and will be hosted by award-winning South African TV presenter Leanne Manas. Other performers joining them on the night will be Swiss musician Flèche Love and German poets and stage performers Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas.

Last year’s winner: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/02/south-sudanese-doctor-wins-2018-nansen-medal/.

https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/9/5d91b9434/danny-ocean-perform-global-humanitarian-award-ceremony.html

Ilham Tohti and Balkan youth group share 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

October 1, 2019

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has awarded jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, making him the first dissident from China to receive the prize. Tohti, 49, shares the prize  with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) – a group that brings together youths from across the Balkans to promote reconciliation – on Monday at ceremony in Strasbourg, France on the opening day of PACE’s autumn plenary session.
PACE said in a statement after a live broadcast on September 30 that actions taken by the two prize winners carry “a message of hope for all those who aspire to build a better world, one where the dignity, rights, and basic liberties of everyone are respected and guaranteed.

Tohti is an advocate for China’s Uyghur Muslim minority who was sentenced to life in prison by Beijing in 2014 on separatism charges. YIHR is a Balkan-based group promoting reconciliation through building connections between young people from different ethnic groups, regions, and countries.

The award was accepted on Tohti’s behalf by Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, who said that while the prize honors individuals and organizations, “it also recognizes a whole population in giving the entire Uyghur people a voice,” and vowed to continue efforts to free the jailed professor. Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service on Monday, Tohti’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, welcomed the award and expressed appreciation to Europe-based rights groups—particularly the Ilham Tohti Initiative—for advancing her father’s case.

Enver Can called the Vaclav Havel Prize “tremendous recognition of Ilham Tohti’s efforts to help his people.”

After Tohti was shortlisted for the seventh Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize last month [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/], China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a press conference that PACE should “withdraw the nomination and stop supporting separatist and terrorist forces.”

Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2014, the Martin Ennals Award in 2016, the Liberal International Prize for Freedom in 2017, and Freedom House’s Freedom Award in 2019. The jailed professor is also a nominee for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
——–

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/award-09302019133018.html

https://www.rferl.org/a/council-of-europe-awards-joint-havel-prize-to-uyghur-activist-tohti-balkan-youth-group/30191297.html

Lantos Award Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the instigator of the Magnitsky Sanctions

September 30, 2019

On 27 September 2019 at 10:30 the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice has given its Lantos Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the driving force behind the Magnitsky Sanctions. for more on this award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

[In 2008, Sergei Magnitsky, a young Russian lawyer who uncovered massive tax fraud perpetrated by Russian officials, was charged with the very offenses he had uncovered. In an effort to cover up the crimes he had exposed, Magnitsky was sent to prison where he later died from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Bill Browder, for whom Magnitsky had worked, vowed to dedicate himself to seeking justice for Sergei and this crusade has made him a global human rights leader. First passed by the US Congress in 2012, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorized sanctions of government officials implicated in serious human rights abuses. ..Since its enactment, the US Government has sanctioned more than 70 officials in over a dozen different countries. Most recently, Magnitsky sanctions were enacted to penalize those Saudi Arabian officials implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.]

Bill Browder’s campaign for justice and accountability did not stop in the United States. Since 2012, similar Magnitsky laws have been enacted in Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Lithuania. Despite fervent opposition from Russia and other lawless regimes that prefer to have their human rights abuses go unnoticed and unpunished, the European Union, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, and other EU member countries are considering the passage of their own Magnitsky laws.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/patrick-desbois-french-priest-who-uncovered-nazi-killings-awarded-lantos-prize/

https://www.prweb.com/releases/media_advisory_lantos_foundation_to_award_human_rights_prize_to_bill_browder_at_washington_ceremony/prweb16598333.htm