Posts Tagged ‘human rights award’

Vincent Raj Arokiasamy wins Raoul Wallenberg Prize of the Council of Europe

January 18, 2022
Defender of disadvantaged population of “untouchables” in India receives Raoul Wallenberg Prize

Vincent Raj Arokiasamy, founder of the organisation “Evidence” in India, has been awarded the Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg Prize for his outstanding determination and persistence in bringing meaningful change to the lives of the Dalits, historically known as “untouchables”. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/730A3159-B93A-4782-830F-3C697B0EC7A0

“Vincent Raj Arokiasamy (better known as “Evidence” Kathir) has risked his life to help an exceptionally disadvantaged part of the Indian population whose plight is often ignored by national and international communities. In defending human rights with incredible commitment and resilience, his courageous actions for the so-called “untouchables” fully reflect the spirit and values of the Raoul Wallenberg prize”, said Marija Pejčinović Burić, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Vincent Raj Arokiasamy has demonstrated enormous courage and taken grave risks regarding his own and his family’s lives. He has rescued some 25,000 victims in 3,000 incidents of human rights violations. As a result, he has to live apart from his family to protect them. He has devoted his life to the cause of promoting justice for Dalits and others whose voices are rarely heard.

The award ceremony will take place on Wednesday 19 January at 12h30 CET in a hybrid format. The event will be live streamed, and speakers include the Secretary General, the Chair of the Jury and the Laureate. A screening of József Sipos’s documentary on the life of Raoul Wallenberg “The Lost European” will follow the ceremony. The documentary can be streamed online, free of charge, until 23 January. The film streaming is made available with the support of the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the Council of Europe.

17 January marks the anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest in Budapest in 1945. The Swedish diplomat used his status to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. His actions show that one person’s courage and ability can really make a difference. Starting in 2014, at the initiative of the Swedish Government and the Hungarian Parliament, the Council of Europe has created the Raoul Wallenberg Prize to keep the memory of his achievements alive. The Prize, worth €10,000, is awarded every two years in recognition of extraordinary humanitarian achievements by a single individual, a group of individuals or an organisation.

https://www.coe.int/en/web/human-rights-rule-of-law/-/defender-of-disadvantaged-population-of-untouchables-in-india-receives-raoul-wallenberg-prize

Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders 2021

December 14, 2021

With some delay (apologies), here are the winners of the 2021 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. For more on this award and all its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/2E90A0F4-6DFE-497B-8C08-56F4E831B47D

The short videos above provide more information on the laureates:

2021 – Africa: Aminata Fabba, Sierra Leone
          – Americas: Camila Moradia, Brazil
          – Asia: Mother Nature Cambodia, Cambodia [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/06/22/continued-harassment-of-mother-nature-defenders-in-cambodia/]
          – Europe & Central Asia 1: Siarhei Drazdouski & Alah Hrableuski, Belarus
          – Europe & Central Asia 2: Mamadou Ba, Portugal
          – Middle East & North Africa: Sami & Sameeha Huraini, Palestine.

To watch the on-line ceremony:

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/front-line-defenders-award

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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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/

Sonita Alizadeh, Afghan-born rapper, receives 2021 Normandy Freedom Prize

April 29, 2021

The Normandy Freedom Prize invites young people aged 15 to 25 in France and around the world, to reward each year a person or an organization engaged in an exemplary fight in favour of freedom. The online vote open to 15-25 year olds around the world to elect the 2021 Freedom Prize closed on April 26. Sonita Alizadeh, 25 years old, rapper born in Afghanistan, was named the laureate of this third edition of the Freedom Prize thanks to the votes of more than 5,000 young people from all over the world. For more on this award and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/fef9ddd0-5b73-11e9-aba0-2ddd74eff7fa

Sonita Alizadeh is a rapper who was born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. At the age of 9, her parents planned to sell her as a bride but because of the war, her family fled to Iran and the planned marriage fell through. In Teheran, an NGO provided her with access to education and a cleaning job. When Sonita stumbled upon a song by the rapper Eminem, it is a real breakthrough. She began writing to tell her story and to speak out against forced marriage and the plight of millions of children around the world. Her first single, “Brides for Sale” garnered worldwide attention. Having moved to the United States, she now studies law to become a lawyer and to return to her country to defend Afghan women and children.
 

The reaction of Nadia Khiari alias Willis from Tunis, president of the international jury for the Freedom Prize 2021

I am proud to accompany the youth jury for the Prix Liberté. It is essential to sensitize the young generation to the defense of freedoms whatever they may be and to involve them in the construction of equality and the rights of every woman and man in the world. This requires awareness and teaching of what is happening elsewhere but also in France. Young people need to be heard because they are just like adults, victims of suffering and indifference.”

https://normandiepourlapaix.fr/en/actualites/sonita-alizadeh-laureate-2021-freedom-prize

New award for ‘forgotten’ heroes of the international human rights movement

April 20, 2021

As can be seen from THF’s  Digest of Human Rights Laureates [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest] there is a small number of important individuals which do not appear in the Digest for the simple reason that they did not get an award while they were still alive. One explanation is that these leaders of the early days operated in the time that awards were less numerous (most awards were after all created after 2000).

In order to rectify this a group of individuals has created a Life-time Human Rights Achievement Award, which is an honorary, posthumous award for individuals who have greatly contributed to the international protection of human rights defenders but have been ‘forgotten’ by other awards. Attributed in exceptional cases.

The first 6 laureates are: Werner Lottje, Niall MacDermot, Hansa Mehta, Bertha Lutz, Minerva Bernardino and Charles Malik. This selection is an indication of what the “Ad Hoc Committee for recognition of forgotten human rights heroes” considers lifetime achievements. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/3816a904-e225-4c74-a5da-136507ba27a2

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https://hrheroesrecognition.org/

2021 Per Anger Prize to South African housing rights defender Zikode

March 30, 2021

S’bu Zikode, co-founder of Abahlali baseMjondolo movement speaking at the Poverty Scholars Program: Poverty Initiative Strategic Dialogue, November 13, 2010. Image by Michael Premo,  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Nwachukwu Egbunike reported on 29 March 2021 in Global Voices that Sibusiso Innocent Zikode – an advocate for homeless people in South Africa – has won the 2021 Per Anger Prize.

For more on the Per Anger Prize and its previous laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/1E4D13EA-630A-4935-A4EF-674A51561F86

Zidoke was the co-founder, 16 years ago of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu phrase that roughly translates as “the people of the shacks”), a South African movement that has been working to resist “illegal evictions and campaign for the right to housing for all,” especially for shack dwellers. The movement grew from a protest organised from the Kennedy Road informal settlement in the eastern city of Durban in early 2005 and expanded to Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town.

Zikode has said that “a shack without water, electricity, and sanitation is not worth calling a home,” according to a press statement from the Living History Forum. “On the contrary, it means life-threatening circumstances that are particularly harsh towards women, children, and minority groups,” says Zikode.

The housing problem and the attendant lack of sanitation have exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic among the disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in South Africa.

South Africans are still divided along the lines of those with homes and the homeless, the shack dwellers. However, the 2004 “sequence of popular protest against local governments” across South Africa led to the emergence of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), “an autonomous shack dweller’s movement,” according to Richard Pithouse, scholar in political and international studies at the Rhodes University, South Africa. AbM “emerged from this grassroots ferment and has since issued a compelling demand for organisational autonomy, grassroots urban planning and the right to the city,” says Pithouse.

In May 2005, residents of six shack settlements and local municipal flats in Durban had organized a protest of over 5,000 people demanding access to land, adequate housing, toilet facilities, and the end of forced evictions.

Nigel C. Gibson, British activist and scholar states that the protesters “presented a memorandum of 10 demands that they had drawn up through a series of meetings and community discussions.” This led AbM, in early 2006, to “organize a boycott of the local government elections scheduled for March of that year,” says Gibson.

But AbM’s fight for the vulnerable did not go down well with many.

In September 2009, the AbM movement’s original home in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban was attacked by armed men, in full view of the police. The attackers were searching for Zikode, whom they threatened to kill.

The attacks which were reportedly carried out by “people associated with the local branch of the ANC” (African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party), left two people dead, many injured and 30 shacks destroyed.

In the aftermath, S’bu Zikode went into hiding, and the police arrested 13 AbM members.

Human rights group, Amnesty International described the attack as “apparently politically motivated violence.”

Nonetheless, violence directed at AbM has neither deterred its leaders nor the movement. Rather, they have strengthened their resolve to continue fighting for the rights of vulnerable South African shack dwellers to live a dignified life.

https://globalvoices.org/2021/03/29/south-african-shack-settlement-activist-wins-the-2021-per-anger-prize/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/durban-shack-dwellers-activist-sbu-zikode-awarded-international-prize-for-human-rights-be0e48e6-c665-4746-90b9-20ae56687816

https://www.groundup.org.za/article/swedish-award-offers-some-protection-says-activist-living-in-the-shadow-of-death/

Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic wins 2021 Oscar Romero award of Dayton

March 24, 2021

On Tuesday 23 March, 2021 the University of Dayton announced that Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic, leader of the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples,is the winner of its Oscar Romero award.

Environmental and climate justice will be at the heart of a series of University of Dayton events to honour the legacy of Saint Oscar Romero. The series will culminate with the University bestowing its human rights award named in his honour to Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic, leader of the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples which helps preserve indigenous lands against corporate exploitation in Guatemala.

As a result of her frontline advocacy work, Lolita has faced persecution and has lived in exile since 2017,” said Shelley Inglis, executive director of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center. “Her story brings awareness to the role of indigenous women in the fight for environmental justice despite the high levels of gender-based and other violence against them.

“Pope Francis has called for urgent action to combat climate change and protect our integral ecology. Yet, environmental and climate justice defenders remain under attack, with governments, corporations and financiers failing to protect their vital and peaceful efforts. The majority of the human rights activists killed last year were working on environmental, land or indigenous peoples’ rights, predominantly in Latin America.”  

The University will honour Chávez Ixcaquic April 20 during an event that will include Mauricio López Oropeza reflecting on Romero’s legacy. López Oropeza is a former executive secretary of the Red Eclesial Pan-Amazónica, which connects bishops conferences and church communities in the Amazon region.
All events in the series start at 3:30 p.m. ET, are free and open to the public, and will be held virtually. Register for and find more information about events here.

For more information on the award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/E4828B37-A192-B1B1-6F4A-1A2D93C4F4B4

https://udayton.edu/news/articles/2021/03/romero_award_series.php

Fatima Al-Bahadly 2020 Front Line laureate MENA

January 20, 2021

It has now been made public that Fatima Al-Bahadly, a human rights defender from the city of Basra, has received the 2020 Frontline Defenders Award.

The award was granted to Al-Bahadly for her role in founding Al-Firdaws Society, an organisation that focuses on protecting women affected by war and strengthening their role in peace building.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/fatima-al-bahadly

https://www.middleeasteye.net/video/iraqi-female-rights-activist-receives-frontline-defenders-award-0

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/front-line-defenders-award