Posts Tagged ‘human rights awards’

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.
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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

Right Livelihood Award 2019 lauds ‘practical visionaries’

September 26, 2019

On its 40th anniversary, the Right Livelihood Award is honoring the efforts of an activist, a lawyer, a rainforest protector and Greta Thunberg. Deutsche Welle takes a closer look at the people who have inspired others.

German-Swedish writer Jakob von Uexküll thought there weren’t enough Nobel Prize categories to truly address the challenges faced by humanity. So in 1980, he founded the Right Livelihood Award [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/right-livelihood-award]

This year, the recipients hail from Western Sahara, China, Sweden and Brazil. “With the 40th Right Livelihood Awards we honor four people whose leadership inspires millions of people to defend their rights and fight for a livable future on planet Earth,” said Ole von Uexküll, Jakob von Uexküll’s nephew and the current executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation.

Aminatou Haidar speaks at a podium (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Aminatou Haidar spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world

By the time she was a teenager, Aminatou Haidar was already an activist. She has continued to campaign peacefully for the independence of her home country, Western Sahara, ever since. Haidar has become the face of a movement that is committed to Sahrawi self-determination, and fights for their fundamental human rights to be respected. She is also co-founder and president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) humanitarian organization. Haidar has organized demonstrations, documented torture and gone on a hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of her people. These actions are often not tolerated by Moroccan authorities: Haidar has been imprisoned without being charged or tried many times. She even spent four years in a secret prison isolated from the outside world. Yet in the face of harassment, attacks and death threats — including against her children — she continues to fight tirelessly for a solution to the long-standing conflict in Western Sahara. Her enduring stamina and nonviolent protests earned her the moniker “Gandhi of Western Sahara.” The jury said she was chosen to for her “steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/10/30/saharawis-human-rights-defender-aminatou-haidar-awarded-bremen-solidarity-award/].

 

Guo Juanmei (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Guo Juanmei has been working for women’s rights in China for 25 years

It wasn’t until 2014, when official figures were released, that it became known just how endemic domestic violence is in China: one in four married Chinese women is beaten by their husbands. It was a topic that had long been hushed up. Two years later, the Chinese government passed a law against domestic violence, an achievement owing to the tireless efforts of women’s rights activists like Guo Jianmei. Guo is one of China’s most prominent women’s rights lawyers. Over the past 25 years, she and her team have provided free legal advice to 120,000 women. She is the first lawyer in the country to work full-time in non-profit legal assistance. Guo supports campaigns on issues such as unequal pay, sexual harassment and widespread employment contracts that prohibit pregnancy across the country. In rural areas, Guo helps women who are denied land rights where patriarchal systems leave women dependent on their husbands. She founded an association of more than 600 lawyers that handles cases in the country’s most remote regions. Guo received this year’s award “for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China.”

 

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami has long been committed to protecting indigenous rights and land

The Amazon is burning, and the world is worried about the effects the burning rainforest will have on the climate. But local inhabitants are feeling the immediate impact. The award organizers wanted to draw attention to the plight of the indigenous people of Brazil by jointly recognizing Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of Brazil’s most respected advocates for the indigenous peoples, and the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which he founded in 2015. Kopenawa belongs to the Yanomami tribe, one of Brazil’s most populous indigenous tribes with some 35,000 members. The well-known Hutukara Yanomami Association is committed to protecting the rights, culture and lands of the indigenous people of the Amazon region. Increasing destruction and deforestation for agricultural purposes poses a threat to the environment, but also to the livelihood of the indigenous people. In the 1980s and 1990s, gold miners destroyed villages, shot people and spread diseases. Now such attacks are on the increase again. In 1992, Kopenawa was instrumental in ensuring that a 96,000 square kilometer (37,000 square mile) area in Brazil became Yanomami protected area. He also plays a crucial role in bringing different indigenous groups together to protect themselves from exploitation. It was for this purpose that he founded the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which represents different Yanomami communities. Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association have been jointly awarded “for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.”

Greta Thunberg in the USA (picture-alliance/S. Reynolds)

Greta Thunberg has become the face of a generation fighting climate change

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is without a doubt the most well-known of the 2019 laureates. In August 2018, the then 15-year-old started a solitary school strike in front of the parliament building in Stockholm a few weeks before elections. She has since become the face of a generation who view climate change as an enormous threat to their future. Her campaign has pushed for worldwide political action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/greta-thunberg-receives-amnestys-ambassador-of-conscience-award/

Around the world, millions of young people have joined her in skipping school and taking to the streets for the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations, which culminated in a huge global climate strike last Friday. Thunberg speaks at major conferences and meets with world leaders. Her message is clear: Humanity must acknowledge climate change, the urgency of the crisis and act accordingly. Thunberg has been awarded “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.” The jury added that she is “the powerful voice of a young generation that will have to bear the consequences of today’s political failure to stop climate change,” and that her efforts have inspired millions of people to take action.”

For last year see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/24/laureates-of-the-2018-right-livelihood-award-announced/

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https://www.dw.com/en/right-livelihood-award-2019-lauds-practical-visionaries/a-50554572

Greta Thunberg receives Amnesty’s Ambassador of Conscience award

September 17, 2019

The politics required to take on this crisis simply doesn’t exist today,” Thunberg said, standing on a step to reach the microphone. “That is why every single one of us must push from every possible angle to hold those responsible accountable and to make the people in power act.” “Even though it is slow, the pace is picking up and the debate is shifting,” she said, before concluding: “See you on the street!

Earlier, Kumi Naidoo, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, said that the organization was originally not going to give out the prize in 2019, following the unprecedented decision to withdraw it from Aung San Suu Kyi in late 2018. Amnesty rescinded the award from the Myanmar leader for “the shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for” over Suu Kyi’s “apparent indifference” to the suffering of the Rohingya population. But Naidoo was swayed by the impact Thunberg and other youth activists had already achieved and could achieve in future, adding that the U.K.’s Parliament declared a climate emergency after she met with British political leaders.

Naidoo added that the issue of climate change was increasingly a human rights issue, and touched upon every aspect of Amnesty’s work, from refugees to indigenous rights to the defense of rights defenders, with an ever growing number of environmental activists being killed. “These young, high school students are playing a very important role in educating their own parents.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/09/17/world/social-issues-world/swedish-activist-greta-thunberg-wins-amnestys-top-human-rights-award/#.XYD87yVS9TY

RSF’s Press Freedom Award 2019 goes to three women journalists

September 16, 2019

On 12 September Reporters Without Borders (RSF) awarded its 2019 Press Freedom Prize to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan, Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang and Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat, at a ceremony held for the first time in Berlin. The award used to be called the Reporters Without Borders Prize {see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/reporters-without-borders-prize} but is increasingly referred to as Press Freedom Award which could be confusing as there are other awards with that name such as: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-canada and http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj.

The Prize for Courage, which is given to journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism, was awarded to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan. The founder of the SaudiWoman.me website and author of many articles in the international media including the Guardian and New York Times, Eman al Nafjan spearheaded the Saudi women’s campaign for the right to drive and against Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system. Arrested along with other women’s rights activists in May 2018, she was freed conditionally on 28 March 2019. According to the Saudi media, she is accused of endangering “national security,” maintaining “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” and of being a “traitor,” for which she could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The Prize for Impact, which is given to journalists whose work has led to concrete improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters, was awarded to Vietnamese journalist and blogger Pham Doan Trang. She is the founder of Luât Khoa, an online magazine that specializes in providing information about legal issues, and she edits another, thevietnamese, which also helps Vietnamese citizens to defend their rights and resist the Communist Party’s arbitrary rule. The author of many books including one defending the rights of Vietnam’s LGBT communities, she has been beaten by the police because of her work and was detained arbitrarily twice for several days in 2018.

The Prize for Independence, awarded to journalists for resisting financial, political, economic or religious pressure, went to Malta’s Caroline Muscat. After fellow Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017, she helped to create The Shift News, an independent investigative news website committed to combatting corruption and defending press freedom in Malta. In this small island nation where most media outlets are subservient to the government, she has exposed many cases of corruption implicating local politicians. Although the repeated target of gag suits, The Shift News has refused to comply with content take-down demands from Henley & Partners, a British firm that advises governments on residence and citizenship-by-investment policy. She received an award from the European Commission in 2015 for her journalism,

Every year, award-winners are unable to attend because the leaders of their countries prevent them,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Two of this year’s three laureates have been unable to collect their awards personally,………… These journalists, who should be honoured in their countries, are denied the freedom to travel and often their freedom, period. But their commitment transcends borders without the dictators being able to do anything to prevent it.”

https://rsf.org/en/news/journalists-saudi-arabia-vietnam-and-malta-honoured-rsfs-2019-press-freedom-awards

Ilham Tohti one of the finalists for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

August 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Martin Ennals Award

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar who has been serving a life sentence in Chinese prison since 2014, has been chosen as a finalist for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.  [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace].  The Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. (ITI) had nominated Prof. Tohti to the Prize on April 29, with support of four other human rights activists and NGOs. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/].

The decision as to the Prize winner will be made by the Selection Panel on 29 September 2019, and its name will be announced in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, on 30 September 2019 at 12:30pm. The award ceremony for the Prize will subsequently take place in the presence of all three shortlisted candidates. Two other candidates, who have also been shortlisted are Mr Buzurgmehr Yorov (Tajikistan) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

The UNPO is currently campaigning for Mr. Tohti to also be awarded the Sakharov Prize saying that such prizes are an excellent way in which the international community can continue to show support for the Uyghur people in the face of hostile oppression.

China’s predictable reaction came quickly: “Beijing slammed on Thursday the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.

https://unpo.org/article/21639

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-uighur-award-nomination-is-supporting-terrorism

Award for human rights defenders by PBI UK to Kenyan and Colombian defenders

June 23, 2019

Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, created in 2018 by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.

These awards are in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. They are presented annually to defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/henry-brooke-awards-for-human-rights-defenders

Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.

Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander. Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.

PBI provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.

 

 

2019 edition of the Africa Shield Awards by AfricanDefenders

June 21, 2019

On 14 June 2019, AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) awarded distinguished five human rights defenders on the African continent [for more on this and other regional awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/african-human-rights-defenders-shield-awards]The winners are Beatrice Mtetwa, Felix Agbor Aniyor, Donald Deya, Fatou Jagne Senghor, and the Sudan Women Protest. The Shield Awards highlight the positive impact of their outstanding human rights work and their unwelding motivation.
The Shield Awards comprise five sub-regional awards and an overall Africa Shield Award. For this third edition, a jury composed of Hon. Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); Hon. Commissioner Rémy Ngoy, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa; Margaret Sekaggya, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; and Hassan Shire, Chairperson of AfricanDefenders, acknowledged that Sudan Women Protest should be granted the overall Africa Shield Award – also the winner of the North African Regional Award. Sudan Women Protest is a community of Sudanese women activists at the frontline of the Sudanese revolution since December 2018 – bringing to the fore women voices and rights. “This is for all the women, mothers, daughters who stood up to mobilise the people and to ensure that their rights are not forgotten – we all stand in solidarity with them,” said Walaa Salah, a Sudanese activist living in Kenya, who received the award on behalf of the community, as the women activists on the ground are immobilised due to the ongoing violence. “I hope I will be able to travel to Sudan, and bring this shield as a testimony to your solidarity.”
Beatrice Mtetwa, Shield Award winner for Southern Africa, is a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Mtetwa has protected and promoted human rights for years, with a focus on HRDs and journalists, by representing on pro-bono hundreds of HRDs facing harassment and abusive detention in Zimbabwe. As a founding member and board member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), she continues to nurture leaders on the continent who carry her visionary mission of establishing a blue chip human rights lawyer’s organisation in Zimbabwe that has made access to justice for HRDs facing judicial persecution a reality in her home country. “This means a lot, particularly because it comes from my fellow African HRDs,” she said while receiving the award from Sekaggya. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/06/human-rights-documentary-beatrice-mtetwa-the-rule-of-law-on-television-and-internet/].
The Central African Shield Award was presented to Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho, a Cameroonian lawyer and the founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa. He has provided pro bono legal services to hundreds of victims. While seeking social justice and equality in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, he was arrested, charged, and tried at a ilitary tribunal for terrorism, rebellion to incite civil war, revolution, contempt against the State, and secession, which carries the death penalty. He was thrown into a cell with 12 alleged members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, later transferred to solitary confinement for 45 days, and was not allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Today, he is documenting and reporting systematic human rights violations committed by both government security forces and the armed separatist groups in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. “We, HRDs, defend the rights of others, so I thank you for protecting us,” he said.
Fatou Jagne Senghor, Executive Director of Article 19 West Africa, received the Shield Award for West Africa for her engagement on freedom of expression and media freedom. The award recognises Senghor’s longstanding human rights work in West Africa in general, and in The Gambia in particular. She plays an important role in regards to ensuring accountability on human rights violations, building the capacity of civil society, and strengthening the reforms in The Gambia. “Freedom of expression is increasingly under attack, and we need defenders like Fatou to protect us,” emphasised George Morara, Commissioner of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, while handing Senghor her shield.Donald Deya received the Shield Award for the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Deya is an international human rights lawyer who represent and support victims of human rights abuses on the African continent. He represented numerous victims before the ACHPR, , the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the East African Court of Justice, and several national High courts. Deya is also the head of the Secretariat of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), chair of the Boards of the Centre for Citizens’ Participation on the African Union (CCPAU) and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). He dedicated the award to all African HRDs who suffer from persecution.
Through their human rights work, the awardees have faced harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, and even the threat of death – but they have never abandoned their tenacious commitment to human rights protection and promotion. Expressing her appreciation to their efforts, Hon. Maiga said: “I congratulate all the winners for their courage, and acknowledge the risks they take, and their strength that enables them to stand up for the rights of others.”

On a special note, Hassan Shire  presented the Shield of Africa award to Hon. Commissioner Maiga Soyata. This special award is presented by AfricanDefenders to valuable dignitaries  who have demonstrated longstanding contributions to protecting and promoting the rights of African citizens. Hon. Maiga dedicated 12 years of her life to protecting the rights of Africans across the continent, notably promoting the rights of women in Africa through the Maputo Protocol. “This is a coronation for her outstanding role in the protection of the rights of African citizens,’’ said Hassan Shire.

 

 

Gwangju Human Rights Award 2019 to Philippine Carino and Indonesian choir

May 19, 2019

For those – like me – who missed the announcement  of the winners of the Gwangju human rights awards 2019, here a belated post.  [For more on this award see:http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwangju-prize-for-human-rights]. The winner is the Philippine human rights defender Joanna Carino.

This undated photo, released by the May 18 Memorial Foundation on April 15, 2019, shows Joanna Carino, a Philippine activist championing the rights of indigenous peoples. (Yonhap)

The Jury said “Carino has created a great sensation for her unyielding strife and sacrifice in fighting against suppression and made a favorable impression on many citizens and activists today.

The biennial special award went to Indonesia’s Dialita Choir, made up of women whose parents, relatives and friends were captured, tortured and exiled during the 1965-1966 communist purge in the Southeast Asian country. The members of Dialita co-initiate social change through singing performances. The award ceremony was on 18 May 2019 as part of events to mark the 39th anniversary of the democratic uprising. Hundreds of citizens were killed in the southwestern city during protests against the military junta of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980.

Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba severely contested

May 19, 2019

Ruslan Kotsaba Photo Mykola Vasylechko, RIA Novosti

This piece express grave doubt on the decision to award the 2019 Aachen Peace Prize to Ukrainian journalist and  blogger Ruslan Kotsaba because of a shocking anti-Semitic video posted by Kotsaba in 2011. People interested should judge for themselves, so here the full article:

The video certainly contains deeply offensive hate speech, yet it is by no means the only reason why the choice of Kotsaba seems bafflingly inappropriate. The award might possibly have seemed a little more understandable had it been given back in 2015, shortly after Kotsaba was arrested on ‘state treason’ charges.  His claim to a peace prize would still have been doubted by those familiar with his highly misleading reports on the war in Donbas, however his unwarranted prosecution and 14 months’ imprisonment  were over a video opposing mobilization.

It seems he was first nominated in 2015, but was not chosen.  In 2019, however, the Aachen Peace Prize general assembly decided that Kotsaba was an appropriate laureate for a prize given to a person or group “who campaigns for peace and a civic resolution of conflict”.

According to Lea Heuser, a member of the Peace Prize Executive Committee, Kotsaba was nominated by one of its members “who is familiar with the situation in Ukraine”.  This was almost certainly Andrej Hunko, a Bundestag deputy from the Linke Party, known for his ‘humanitarian mission’ to the self-proclaimed  ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and very one-sided statements about the conflict in Donbas. Hunko also campaigns actively for closer German relations with Russia and for recognition of Crimea as ‘Russian’.

Heuser explained that Kotsaba was first nominated on the basis of his claim to have become a pacifist after what he saw at the front (in Donbas).  She asserts that “he does not take one side in the conflict and advocates for concessions and dialogue”. It is also claimed on the peace prize’s website that Kotsaba “unlike most of his colleagues tried to objectively cover events in the east of Ukraine which he has called “a civic war and fratricidal”.

This has been the standard line taken by Hunko and other politicians, from various European far-right or left-wing parties, when visiting the so-called Donbas ‘republics’ or Russian-occupied Crimea.   Such visits are invariably used by their official hosts and by Russia as propaganda.  This is unsurprising since their guests can be relied upon to only criticize the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Kyiv.

While Kotsaba’s position is more complex, it would be very hard to describe his presentation of events in Donbas, Odesa, Crimea or in Ukraine in general as objective.

In some cases, he pushes toxic lies which are known to have prompted young men to go and fight in Donbas.  He invariably follows Russia’s lead in claiming that the people who died in the Trade Union building fire in Odesa on 2 May 2014 were deliberately burned to death by “Ukrainian radicals”.  Russia has repeatedly demonstrated that it is aware of the substantial research refuting such claims carried out by the 2 May Group, a respected bipartisan initiative formed by journalists, scientists and civic activists, and presented here in RussianEnglish and in German, as well as by the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel.  It is impossible to believe that Kotsaba is not aware that he is presenting a story that has been debunked.

Kotsaba’s coverage of the war in Donbas is equally one-sided.  He is certainly entitled to his own opinion on the conflict, however his claim that he is objectively presenting two sides of the story is simply untrue.

One of the most contentious areas is, of course, Kotsaba’s repeated assertion (for example, here)  that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war, and denial of Russia’s and Russians’ active role. Speaking on the Russian state-controlled Rossiya 24 channel on 27 June 2014,  Kotsaba claimed that he had not seen any Chechen fighters and assumes there are none. He does stress that he personally did not see any and this cannot be either proven nor refuted.  The problem is that, by the time he was saying this, there was ample video footage and witness accounts making it quite clear that there were a suspiciously large number of Chechens and other Russian citizens fighting in this alleged ‘civil war’.  Kotsaba has also chosen to ignore the fact that the war essentially began after heavily armed and trained fighters seized control of Sloviansk on 12 April 2014 under the leadership of (officially) former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin.  He later admitted that his men had provoked the conflict in Donbas.  “The first shots, albeit in the air, were from the rebels, carried out by our unit”.  Girkin and the leader of ‘DPR’ were only hurriedly replaced by Ukrainians after the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 by a Russian BUK missile on 17 July 2014.

Kotsaba’s claim to Rossiya 24 that he had been invited by a local Luhansk television channel which was trying to follow journalist standards, sounds admirable but deviates seriously from the truth.  The first thing that happened when militants seized control of an area was that all Ukrainian channels were replaced by Russian, or pro-Russian channels.   Later in the interview, Kotsaba was asked why other Ukrainian journalists were not in these areas.  He claimed that this was that they still needed to develop to reach world standards and “tell the truth”.   Although some of the many journalists seized, tortured and / or imprisoned by the militants (Yehor Vorobyov; Dmytro Potekhin; Serhiy Sakadynskyv;  Nastya Stanko; Maria Varfolomeyeva and many others) post-dated this interview, there were already multiple accounts of other abductions, such as that of Viacheslav Bondarenko and Maxim Osovsky.  Two journalists Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk remained imprisoned now in ‘DPR’ precisely because they wrote the truth about life in the supposed ‘republic’.  Kotsaba is silent about them, as he is about other people held hostage.

Unlike Kotsaba, there are very many journalists and activists who have repeatedly given the lie to Kotsaba’s claim that the conflict in Donbas is a civil war.  These are only a few of the many indications of Russia’s major involvement that Kotsaba never addresses.

In August 2014, Wojciech Bojanowski from the Polish TVN 24 posted huge amounts of footage in Russia’s Rostov oblast, close to the militants-controlled part of the border with Ukraine. It clearly shows Russian armed personnel carriers, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons turning onto a road leading to the border.  Artyleria, wozy opancerzone i broń przeciwlotnicza. Ruchy Rosjan przed kamerą TVN24  (four separate clips)

Bojanowski acknowledges that there are no photos of the actual crossing, however there is a steady flow of vehicles to the border and shots taken by the militants where you can see, for example, a BTR-80a transporter which the Ukrainian military do not have.  The next day, Aug 19 Bojanowski reported further movement towards the border, with many trucks this time carrying tanks.  On Aug 22, NATO reported  that the Russian military had moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory and had been using them to fire at Ukrainian forces.

In 2018, the OSCE’s Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported multiple examples of Russian military equipment being transported into Ukraine by night on dirt roads away from any border crossing (details here and in the links provided).

It was just days after the TV24 footage in August 2014 that the Russian newspaper Vedomosti asked: “Is Russia fighting in Ukraine, and if so, on what grounds?  If not, then who is lying in the freshly-dug graves, and who is giving testimony to the Ukrainian Security Service?”

More information about those first Russian military deaths here.  It is believed that an entire Russian paratrooper regiment from Pskov was probably killed in late August.

While Moscow has always denied this, young Russian soldiers have preferred to be imprisoned for having gone absent without leave rather than agree to fight in Donbas.

The amount of evidence confirming Russia’s decisive military role in the war is overwhelming.  Dr Igor Sutyagin, in a briefing paper for the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] on Russian forces in Ukraine writes that the “first phase of large-scale incursions by regular Russian troops commenced on 11 August 2014 and has involved a substantial array of forces (see Table 1)”.  He put the figure for direct Russian military personnel as up to “10 thousand at the peak of direct Russian involvement in the middle of December 2014.”  All of this is on another country’s territory without any declaration of war.

Considerable evidence of shelling from Russia is mentioned by Sutyagin, and has since been set out in a report by the International Partnership for Human Rights, and also by Bellingcat in a report entitled ‘Putin’s undeclared war’.

Kotsaba does not mention or try to challenge any of the above-mentioned facts.  His narrative about civil war and the need for ‘dialogue’ is, accordingly, based on manipulation and deceit.

German peace prize to Ukrainian journalist Kotsaba is discredited by the Russian lies he parrots, not just his anti-Semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StopFake

European governments should stop treating solidarity and compassion as a crime

May 15, 2019

Two recent cases of criminalization of human rights defenders in Europe helping people at sea:

Iuventa crew
Iuventa crew

On 13 May 2019 MarEx  reported that the crew of the rescue ship Iuventa operated by the German NGO Jugend Rettet has received the Swiss Paul Grüninger human rights award for saving the lives of around 14,000 of men, women and children in the central Mediterranean. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/paul-grueninger-award

The award is seen as a statement against the criminalization of those helping people at sea and comes whilst the crew is under criminal investigations in Italy for “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.” They face up to 20 years in prison and fines of 15,000 Euro ($16,900) per saved person. The prize money of 50,000 Swiss francs contributes to the defense.

The Iuventa was the first rescue vessel seized in Italy in August 2017. Captain Dariush was master of the Iuventa for three voyages off the Libyan coast: “We’re being charged for saving lives. This is absurd,” he said. “It is European politicians who block any safe way for people in need, so we had to act.

The crew says: “Although we have to stand trial, it is us who accuses Europe. We accuse European politicians of turning their backs on people in need. We accuse the E.U. of collaborating with regimes who violate human rights.” The Italian public prosecutor’s office has been investigating the crew for almost two years. Covert investigators claim to have observed the Iuventa crew cooperating with smugglers. However, the NGO claims that scientists at Goldsmiths, University of London have said there is no evidence for this. “They have compared the accusations of the Italian police with all available data, meteorological measurements, logbooks and recordings of the Reuters agency. In their study for Forensic Architecture, they conclude that the allegations are false.” The trial is expected to begin in autumn, and it is expected that charges will be brought against the 10 crew members. It is a precedent for Europe, says lead lawyer Nicola Canestrini: “This trial will show whether Europe can continue to stand for fundamental rights and solidarity in the world.

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Tom Ciotkowski is facing up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 7,500 Euros on trumped up charges. In July 2018, he was observing French riot police preventing volunteers from distributing food to migrants and refugees in Calais. He was charged with contempt and assault after he challenged the violent actions of a policeman against another volunteer. “Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who was taking action to support migrants and refugees when he was arrested. He has committed no crime and is being unjustly targeted for documenting the abusive behaviour of the police in Calais,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Migration Maria Serrano.

Tom’s case is sadly emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that human rights defenders supporting migrants and refugees face at the hands of police in Calais. His case also reflects a wider European trend of criminalizing acts of solidarity, as a way of discouraging others from standing up for human rights. We need courageous, compassionate people like Tom more than ever

[BACKGROUND At the end of July 2018, Tom Ciotkowski was observing French riot police ID-checking volunteers who were trying to distribute food to migrants and refugees. He recorded on his mobile phone an official pushing and kicking a volunteer. When Tom complained about the behaviour of the police, an officer approached him and another female volunteer, who he hit with a baton. When Tom asked the officer for his identification number and told the policeman not to hit women, he was pushed hard by an officer and fell backwards over a metal barrier separating the pavement from the road. As Tom fell backwards, a passing lorry narrowly missed him. He was then arrested, put in custody for 36 hours and charged with contempt and assault (“outrage et violence”). In May 2019, Tom filed a complaint against the police officer who pushed him and against other officers who provided reports stating false facts against Tom to support his arrest and prosecution.]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/02/un-experts-consider-human-rights-defenders-in-italy-under-threat/