Posts Tagged ‘human rights awards’

German Africa Prize goes to Kenyan Ushahidi IT pioneer

April 7, 2019

The winner of the 2019 German Africa Prize is Juliana Rotich, founder of software project Ushahidi, which was introduced to monitor violence in Kenya following the 2007 general elections.

Juliana Rotich (Getty Images)

Juliana Rotich became known in professional circles in 2007 as the co-founder of the open source platform Ushahidi (a Swahili word meaning ‘testimony’), which began in Kenya as an internet platform developed to map reports of post-election violence and which went on to revolutionize the international flow of data and information.

A 16-member independent jury selected Rotich from a list of 18 African nominees. The 42-year-old was informed at a meeting on Thursday 4 April 2019 at the German embassy in Nairobi, attended by Deputy Ambassador Michael Derus and the General Secretary of the German Africa Foundation, Ingo Badoreck. The award pays tribute to the Kenyan entrepreneur not only for her business achievements and technological innovations but  also for her outstanding sense of social responsibility. For more on this another regional awards for Africa see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/german-africa-award]

The Ushahidi logo

In an interview with DW in 2013, Rotich explained the philosophy behind Ushahidi: “One of the things that we are doing is that we have a partnership with civil society organizations, peace networks and youth networks. And these are organizations that are doing peace work in terms of messaging and encouraging the population to be peaceful and to conduct themselves in a peaceful way. So in that respect we are part of a partnership. Ushahidi’s key role in this partnership is the technology. And this is the crowdsourcing technology that allows people to report but also provides a way for digital humanitarians to volunteer and help to sift through the information, categorize it and make it available on the website.

Today Ushahidi is used in over 160 countries as a tool for crisis response and for independent election monitoring, for example in Nigeria and Afghanistan. It has also been used following natural disasters in Chile, Haiti and New Zealand. Juliana Rotich is regarded as one of the leading figures of the digital revolution in Africa and beyond.

From Ushahidi she went on to found BRCK, an innovative technology company which is now the biggest Wi-Fi provider in sub-Saharan Africa. The central product is a battery-operated modem which can function for up to eight hours without electrical power. It is used in 150 countries.

See also: https://www.huridocs.org/2018/09/tools-for-human-rights-documentation-our-2018-snapshot/

https://www.dw.com/cda/en/german-africa-prize-goes-to-kenyan-it-pioneer/a-48200177

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019 goes to Hungarian Márta Pardavi

April 5, 2019

Hungarian human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has been awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2019. As an outspoken critic of the Hungarian government and its policies, Márta is often smeared and her work discredited. The award is a recognition of her work of many years, fighting against the attempts to systematically dismantle democracy, normalisation of xenophobia and hate crimes in Hungary.

Márta Pardavi is the Co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, one of Hungary’s leading human rights organisations. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is a watchdog organisation that protects human dignity and the rule of law through legal and public advocacy methods. Being both vocal and successful in its activities, and particularly because of their work to support asylum seekers, the organisation has become a prime target of the government’s toxic campaigns.

“Democracy is under threat all over the world and now we see what authoritarians do when they get to power. They target critics, human rights defenders and treat marginalised groups as threats to society. We see this happening in Hungary, but also in other countries such as Poland. This award sends a very strong message, that our work is recognised, and that we as civil society organisations will continue to defend democratic values”, said Márta Pardavi.

Márta Pardavi, Civil Rights Defender of The Year 2019

“For many years, human rights lawyer Márta Pardavi has courageously defended civil and political rights in Hungary. She is leading the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s work in the field of refugee protection, and with dignity and professionalism, confronts those who attempt to systematically dismantle civil society and normalise xenophobia and hate crimes. For her dedication and exceptional contribution to resist inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable, Márta is awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2019”, , said the Board of Civil Rights Defenders in its motivation.

During the first two decades of Hungary’s post-communist history, the country was a young but stable democracy, and a role-model of successful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been in power almost a decade, a period during which Hungary has undergone dramatic changes. Too many posts in this blog have been devoted to this, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/hungary/.

….But despite this climate, human rights defenders and human rights organisations continue to challenge state policies and propaganda, and the public support for their activities is growing.

“Many civil society organisations are working to address this and while it was probably both unwanted and unintended, the Hungarian government’s pressure has made us better at working together, making us stronger. And the same is true for the government’s anti-NGO campaigns – we have seen that civil society support is growing as an unintended consequence of the state propaganda”, said Márta Pardavi.

For  more on the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award

https://crd.org/2019/04/04/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-2019-marta-pardavi/

 

Turkish human rights defender Veysel Ok receives Thomas Dehler Medal

March 24, 2019

Human rights Lawyer Veysel Ok, who is also the Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, will be awarded the Thomas Dehler Medal 2019 “for his work in advocating for freedom of speech and the rule of law in Turkey.”

For more on this and other awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/thomas-dehler-medal

The medal will be awarded to Ok in a ceremony to be held in Munich on April 5. Ok will receive his medal from Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the former Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany. In an announcement made by the Thomas Dehler Foundation, it has been stated, “Human rights lawyer Veysel Ok fights for the rule of law in Turkey like no other. He became known in Germany above all because he represented Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel in court. He also defends many other lesser known journalists. Veysel Ok fights fearlessly and also faces consequences, now he himself has been indictment.”

About Veysel Ok

Formerly a lawyer for many journalists in Turkey, including imprisoned former Taraf Editor-in Chief Ahmet Altan and columnist Şahin Alpay, Veysel Ok currently faces “denigrating the Turkish judiciary system” charges as per the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for an interview that he gave in 2015. As part of the Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) work, where he is a co-founder and currently co-director, Ok continues to defend 11 imprisoned journalists including Nedim Türfent, Ziya Ataman, Salih Turan, İdris Yılmaz and İdris Sayılgan and many other journalists and academics.

https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/206658-lawyer-veysel-ok-to-be-awarded-thomas-dehler-medal

https://ahvalnews.com/freedom-speech/german-rights-prize-turkish-lawyer-defending-journalists

Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson winner of 2019 Thomas Dodd Prize

March 20, 2019

Bryan Stevenson (Paul Robertson Photo)

The selection committee was singularly impressed by the commitment, courage, and creativity of Bryan Stevenson and his colleagues at the Equal Justice Initiative,” said Glenn Mitoma, Director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. “I look forward to welcoming Bryan and Equal Justice Initiative to UConn, both to honor them and to draw inspiration for our own work at the Dodd Center.”

Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has successfully argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including a recent historic decision that found mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

Under Stevenson’s direction, the organization has won major legal challenges to excessive sentencing and illegal convictions, including reversals, release, or relief for over 145 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. The group’s education and advocacy efforts include the Community Remembrance Project, which seeks to recognize the victims of lynching by erecting historical markers at lynching sites, and the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. The museum and memorial are part of Equal Justice Initiative’s work to advance truth and reconciliation around race in America and to more honestly confront the legacy of slavery, lynching, and segregation.

Stevenson is the winer of at least6 other awards including the 2000 Gleitsman award and the Wallenberg medal [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/07/human-rights-lawyer-bryan-stevenson-to-receive-michigans-wallenberg-medal/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/04/physicians-for-human-rights-gets-dodd-human-rights-award/

Equatorial Guinean human rights defender Alfredo Okenve gets house arrest instead of award ceremony

March 17, 2019

Alfredo Okenve, a leading rights activist in Equatorial Guinea, was arrested at Malabo's airport on Friday night

AFP reported on 16 March 2019 that Alfredo Okenve, a leading human rights defender in Equatorial Guinea was arrested in the capital Malabo after travelling there to receive an award for his work, his NGO and a police source said Saturday. Okenve had arrived in Malabo on Thursday, a day ahead of a ceremony at the French Institute where he was to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law from French and German ambassadors. He was arrested at Malabo airport on Friday night when he was about to board a flight to Madrid after the cancellation of the awards ceremony earlier in the day.

A leading figure in the country’s civil society movement, Okenve is one of the leaders of the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID-GE), which said he had been flown back home to the port city of Bata and placed under house arrest. The authorities “prevented him from flying to Spain,” said Mariano Nkogo, who is also a senior figure within the NGO. He said a military plane had been chartered to fly Okenve back to Bata.

His arrest was also confirmed by a police officer at the airport and by the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) whose members have been previously targeted in a crackdown by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the West African state for 39 years.

Friday afternoon’s award ceremony was cancelled after the Guinean government sent a formal note to the envoys’ representatives saying it did not recognise the award, a regional diplomatic source said. “Due to the lack of transparency in the awarding of this prize, the government of Equatorial Guinea cannot recognise its validity,” said the note, a copy of which was seen by AFP. The French and German embassies then postponed the ceremony. [for more on this award – authorities take note! – see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law]

In late October, Okenve was seized and beaten by unidentified men who left him in a remote area of Bata. He then went to Madrid to seek medical care, only returning home in mid-February.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/08/cartoonist-ramon-esono-ebale-freed-in-equatorial-guinea/

Human rights defender Ji Sizun- in jail – awarded 5th Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders

March 16, 2019

RFA reported on 14 March 2019 that jailed rights activist Ji Sizun was awarded the fifth Cao Shunli Memorial Award for Human Rights Defenders, for his contribution in promoting legal rights and education at the grassroots level in China. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]

The award has been given to those who carry on Cao’s grassroots advocacy while facing threats and risks in promoting human rights, protecting vulnerable social groups from abuses, pushing for civil society participation in international human rights mechanisms, and monitoring the Chinese government’s implementation of its human rights obligations,” the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said in a statement on its website.

Ji, 70, is a self-taught legal activist from the southeastern province of Fujian who was detained in October 2014 for publicly supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He was later handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” for helping petitioners to organize two protests in August and September 2014. “Ji Sizun’s health has seriously deteriorated during his incarceration, and he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2016 and has not received sufficient medical treatment for a number of severe health conditions,” CHRD said. He should be released from Putian Prison in Fujian Province on 26 April, 2019.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/un-calls-for-probe-into-activists-death-03142019112234.html

Gulf Center publishes 2018 survey of human rights in the Middle East

March 12, 2019

A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016
A Bahraini woman sits near portraits of jailed political activists, in the village of Sitra, 12 February 2016  MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) released its seventh annual report on human rights activism in 2018, entitled Breaking Boundaries. It remembers the women and men human rights defenders imprisoned for their work across the region, particularly in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The report features a summary and case updates of 145 women and men human rights defenders across the Gulf and neighbouring countries as well as the legal and political developments relevant to human rights in these countries. Additionally, it summarises GCHR’s research, advocacy and capacity-building activities with regional and international partners. [for my earlier post on the GCHR, see:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/gulf-centre-for-human-rights/]

In this 2018 report, GCHR recognises that despite increased restrictions on civic space and aggressive prosecution of human rights defenders, the boundaries crumbling since 2011 are worth celebrating. In the act of breaking these boundaries, solidarity networks nationally, regionally, and internationally have been nurtured and strengthened. With continued activism of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, GCHR foresees that governments’ disrespect for human rights and freedoms in the region will be increasingly overturned.

The main focus of the report is to shed light on human rights activism. While governments intensified their harassment and prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders, online activists, and civilians, through the advocacy efforts of civil society on different fronts, the defence of human rights in the region has been met with international recognition, including many international awards for human rights defenders from across the Gulf and neighbouring countries.

The spotlight on governments, especially in the Gulf, unveiled the extent to which governments reject accountability to their people and commitment to human rights internationally. To mention a few examples: Bahrain denied the entry of United Nations experts along with extending travel bans on human rights defenders so they continue to miss UN Human Rights Council sessions. In Iraq, peaceful assembly was met with tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protests, leaving dozens killed and hundreds arrested. In Iran, well-known lawyers were among those sentenced to prison for defending women’s rights to reject forced hijab. And notoriously, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested over 20 men and women who defend and advocate for women’s rights, even after the Kingdom formally lifted the driving ban on women.

Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of GCHR, says: “It is hard work to support human rights defenders and ensure their safety and security. Yet a success such as having the European Parliament formally and publicly denounce human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 and again in February 2019 shows the importance of diligence, solidarity and commitment to research- and evidence-based advocacy in the pursuit of defending human rights. Not to mention the attention facing Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council this month, where 36 States, including all EU Member States, called on 7 March 2019 for the release of detained women human rights defenders, sending a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable.

GCHR presented a number of recommendations at the end of this report to governments, and the international community. Emphasis is placed on guarantees of a legal framework grounded in respect for human rights, especially for the freedom of expression and opinion, to protect the safety of journalists, media workers and online activists whom governments across the region relentlessly harassed, targeted, or prosecuted. Other recommendations are made to ensure the safety of civilians such as in conflict-zones, as well as in countries in transition where respect for freedom of association and assembly are essential for peace and justice.
To download the full report, follow the link.

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2019/03/11/human-rights-activism/

Djimon Hounsou set to play Congolese Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege in new film

March 12, 2019

Djimon Hounsou (Left) set to play Congolese Nobel winner Denis Mukwege in new film. Pic credit: Fraternité Matin

On 9 March 2019, Mildred Europa Taylor reported for Face2FaceAfrica that Djimon Hounsou is set to play the roll of Congolese Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege in a new film, the   biopic ‘Panzi’, based on the book “Panzi” which was published in 2014. The 63-year-old Mukwege, a renowned Congolese gynaecologist and surgeon, has helped thousands of women and girls who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse at the hands of rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of the civil war in the early 90s. He received many human rights awards [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/]. He founded the Panzi Hospital in the South Kivu province in 1999 to provide free and comprehensive care for female victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence during the conflict. The life of the “rape surgeon” has already been documented in the film, “The Man Who Mends Women”, and a book. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/12/profile-denis-mukwege-democratic-republic-of-congo-courageous-doctor-rape-women/]

Hounsou, a Beninese-American actor and model who is best known for his Oscar-nominated performances in “Blood Diamond,” and “In America” will headline “Panzi.” The film will be produced by Cynthia Pinet at Paris-based 1divided Films. Last October, it was announced that the film was in casting and scheduled to start shooting this summer in Central Africa.

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/djimon-hounsou-set-to-play-congolese-nobel-winner-denis-mukwege-in-new-film

Does G7 set a precedent with Sotoudeh for inviting human rights defenders?

March 11, 2019

Radio Farda on 8 March 2019 reported that France’s President Macron has decided to invite jailed Iranian Human Rights Defender Nasrin Sotoudeh to the G7 Council. This is an excellent idea that deserves follow-up in other such forums. There are quite a few laureates of human rights awards who are in detention or subject to a travel ban. An invitation from a group of important world leaders is hard to ignore!

My first suggestions are:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/eren-keskin-mea-nominee-2019-speaks-out-fearlessly-turkey-more-oppressive-today-than-ever/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/10/breaking-news-egyptian-defender-mohammed-zaree-laureate-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2017/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/


Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013
Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to take part in the G7 gender equality forum. Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told Radio Farda on Friday that Macron’s invitation has been given to him in Tehran on Thursday March 7, one day before the International Women’s Day.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/16/iranian-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-arrested-again/]

Ms. Sotoudeh is to be a member of the consultative council for gender equality in Group 7. Khandan said Iranian women should be proud of Soutoudeh’s membership in the G7 council. Copies of the invitation have been handed to the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Bar Association.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has been in Jail since June 2018 with a five-year imprisonment sentence and is facing more charges for defending human rights activists in Iran. She is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and compulsory hijab.  Sotoudeh, 55, is the winner of numerous international awards, including PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write (2011), Southern Illinois University School of Law Rule of Law Citation (2011) and Sakharov Prize (2012). On 21 September 2018, she was awarded the 23rd Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/france-s-macron-invites-jailed-iranian-human-rights-lawyer-to-g7-council-/29811115.html

International Women of Courage Awards 2019 given out at the US State Department

March 11, 2019

On 7 March 2019, US Secretary of State Pompeo hosted the Annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards at the State Department to honor 10 women from around the world. First Lady Melania Trump delivered special remarks at the ceremony.

Now in its 13th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award wants to recognize women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Since the inception of this award in March 2007, the State Department has recognized more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. For more in this and other awards for women: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The names of the 2019 IWOC winners are as follows:

  • Razia Sultana of Bangladesh
  • Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma
  • Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti
  • Mama Maggie of Egypt
  • Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan
  • Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland
  • Olivera Lakic of Montenegro
  • Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru
  • Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka
  • Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania

Short bios of the 2019 awardees can be found through the link below.

https://www.state.gov/s/gwi/iwoc/2019/index.htm