Posts Tagged ‘human rights award’

Today: the people of Ukraine win this year’s European Union Prize

October 19, 2022

The European Parliament on Wednesday 19 October awarded “the people of Ukraine” its annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought amid the ongoing war with Russia. For more on this award and its previous laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449

This award is for those Ukrainians fighting on the ground. For those who have been forced to flee. For those who have lost relatives and friends. For all those who stand up and fight for what they believe in. I know that the brave people of Ukraine will not give up and neither will we,” said Roberta Metsola, the European Parliament’s head.

EU Commission chief Ursula von Der Leyen congratulated the people of Ukraine and said: “Their spirit and determination to fight for the values we hold dear is an inspiration to us all.”

At (the EU Council) we’ll focus on continuing our assistance; we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter.

Last year: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/21/alexei-navalny-wins-eus-sakharov-prize/

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20221017IPR43706/the-ukrainian-people-awarded-the-european-parliament-s-2022-sakharov-prize

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/ukrainian-people-awarded-eus-sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought/2715666

Angelo Guillen gets 2022 Baldwin medal

August 9, 2022

On 8 August 2022 Human Rights First announced that Angelo Karlo Guillen, a human rights lawyer in the Philippines, is the winner of the 2022 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty. The Baldwin Medal will be presented to Guillen in person at an event in the United States later this year.  

For more on the Baldwin Medal and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/F23B5465-6A15-4463-9A91-14B2977D9FCE

Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First said “Angelo Guillen is a courageous and effective advocate whose work has made a difference in the lives of his fellow Filipinos and put a spotlight on abuses and calling for accountability.”

Guillen is a prominent human rights defender and a leader in the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). He lives and works primarily on the island of Panay, and his legal practice has included a focus on helping document human rights violations and educating farmers and indigenous communities on their human rights under domestic and international law.  

In March 2021, after years of being followed, surveilled, and vilified for his work, Guillen survived a brutal stabbing by unknown assailants. The attack followed repeated attempts by government officials and others to depict him and other NUPL lawyers as “terrorists.” Three other NUPL lawyers have been murdered in previous years. 

I am honored to accept the Baldwin Medal, which I do on behalf of all Filipino human rights lawyers and defenders,” said Guillen. “This award will encourage us even more, to continue our work defending human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines, even in these difficult times.

I am especially glad this award could be announced on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is also National Indigenous Peoples Day in the Philippines. Indigenous peoples, like the Tumandok community, as well as farmers, labor leaders, and activists, have borne the brunt of unjust arrests, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights violations committed by state security forces that, to this day, still take place throughout the country. Their rights must be protected, and we hope that this recognition will help bring attention to their plight.

The immediate past recipient of Human Rights First’s Roger Baldwin Medal, Hong Kong lawyer and human rights defender Albert Ho, remains unjustly detained. Human Rights First continues to call on Hong Kong authorities to release Ho. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/10/albert-ho-wins-baldwin-medal-2020/]

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/filipino-human-rights-lawyer-angelo-guillen-honored-baldwin-medal-liberty

Polish Border NGO Granica receives 2022 Zabel award

May 20, 2022

Human Rights First announced that it will present Grupa Granica with the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award 2022 in recognition of its commitment to human rights at the Poland-Belarus border.

For more about this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/984CA015-FE02-4992-8AED-4EB1AEC7D0EE

Grupa Granica are front-line human rights defenders working at a flashpoint for human rights and freedom of migration,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “We hope that Human Rights First’s presentation of the William D. Zabel Award provides additional recognition to the importance of their work and helps to stem this humanitarian and geopolitical crisis.

Formed in 2021 in response to the humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border, Grupa Granica is an informal network of Polish NGOs, activists, and inhabitants of the border region that provides humanitarian, medical, and legal aid to migrants stranded in the forests there.  They monitor the situation on the ground, provide assistance to people searching for missing family members, document human rights violations and educate Polish society on the situation at the border.

Our network was formed in August last year in response to the humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It consists of local inhabitants, activists, NGO staff, doctors, lawyers, interpreters, psychologists, public figures and many others working hand in hand to save the lives of migrants stranded at the border,” says Marta Górczyńska of Grupa Granica.  “This prestigious award sends a clear message to the public that despite the recent attempts by the Polish authorities, providing humanitarian aid and defending human rights must never be criminalized. We hope it will also make it more difficult for the international community to turn a blind eye to the violations at the border.”

The 2022 award will be officially presented to Grupa Granica on June 8. 

For last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/27/william-zabel-human-rights-award-2021-to-philippines-ngo-karapatan/

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-present-poland-s-grupa-granica-2022-william-d-zabel-human-rights

2022 Women of Courage awards announced by USA State Department

March 18, 2022

On Monday, 14 March, 2022 Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, hosted the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards in a virtual ceremony at the U.S. Department of State. The 2022 IWOC Award ceremony honours a group of twelve extraordinary women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, delivered remarks in recognition of the courageous accomplishments of this year’s IWOC awardees. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/A386E593-5BB7-12E8-0528-AAF11BE46695

Out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to practice safe social distancing, the ceremony was live streamed on www.state.gov.

Now in its 16th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity – often at great personal risk and sacrifice.  U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.  Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Virtual exchange to connect with their American counterparts and strengthen the global network of women leaders.  The 2022 awardees are:

Rizwana Hasan – Bangladesh [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/48B5C07A-458C-4771-97F9-FAD0CA89F478]

Simone Sibilio do Nascimento – Brazil

Ei Thinzar Maung – Burma

Josefina Klinger Zúñiga – Colombia

Taif Sami Mohammed – Iraq

Facia Boyenoh Harris – Liberia

Najla Mangoush – Libya

Doina Gherman – Moldova

Bhumika Shrestha – Nepal

Carmen Gheorghe – Romania

Roegchanda Pascoe – South Africa

Phạm Đoan Trang – Vietnam Vietnam’s official reaction: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/vietnam-irked-by-unsuitable-us-prize-jailed-dissident-2022-03-17/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/09/state-department-hands-out-21-international-women-of-courage-awards-2021/

https://www.state.gov/2022-international-women-of-courage-award-recipients-announced/

Human Rights Prize of AI Germany honours Ethiopian Human Rights Council EHRCO

March 14, 2022

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) receives the Human Rights Award 2022 from the German section of Amnesty International. For more on this and similar awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/1270FFCC-C0FA-4C95-822C-219533587262

For over 30 years, the independent Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) has been the voice of human rights in Ethiopia. The employees investigate human rights violations, provide legal advice for those affected and are involved in human rights education. Their use is often associated with reprisals and personal dangers. The outbreak of the armed conflict in 2020 in the north of the country, especially in the Tigray region, makes EHRCO’s human rights work indispensable.

The EHRCO is the voice of the unheard in Ethiopia,” says Markus N. Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany. “For 30 years, EHRCO has been fighting for those affected by human rights violations: its supporters have been insulted, imprisoned, tortured and even killed for this. Nevertheless, EHRCO has never allowed itself to be intimidated. Amnesty International is honoring this courage and commitment with the eleventh Amnesty Human Rights Prize.

Receiving the award and working with international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International are of great importance to us. Human rights are universal and require cooperation and solidarity to improve human rights and democracy,” said Dan Yirga Haile, Executive Director of EHRCO.

We now know that if something happens to us, others will raise their voices and stand up for us in solidarity. In Ethiopia, the government and politicians suppress many popular voices in various ways. These voices do not receive the attention they deserve. The human rights award of Amnesty International is helping to make these voices heard by recognizing EHRCO’s tireless commitment to human rights over the past thirty years.”

Since the armed conflict in northern Ethiopia began in November 2020, Amnesty International has observed that all parties to the conflict are responsible for gross human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions and sexualised violence against women and girls. These constitute violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and, in some cases, possible crimes against humanity, according to Amnesty International. Millions of people have been internally displaced and millions of people in Tigray and neighboring regions are being denied humanitarian assistance. Clashes between the armed groups claimed at least 1,500 lives, according to Amnesty. Police have been arbitrarily detaining people coming from Tigray or working on the conflict since early 2021.

You will find extensive press material here.

https://california18.com/germany-amnesty-human-rights-prize-2022-goes-to-ethiopian-human-rights-council-ehrco/3879812022/

https://allafrica.com/stories/202203150064.html

https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopia-human-rights-abuses-amid-tigray-conflict/a-61134938

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/