Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyer’

Nicholas Opiyo Laureate of the 2021 Tulip award

December 7, 2021

Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was awarded the 2021 Human Rights Tulip. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs awards the honour, which is accompanied by a cash prize of 100,000 euros to help the recipient continue or expand their work. For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/D749DB0F-1B84-4BE1-938B-0230D4E22144

Opiyo opposed a controversial anti-gay law that included a life sentence for homosexuality. According to the ministry, the human rights defender also played an important role in criminalizing torture in his country. His work often leads to him being accused of criminal violations with no evidence to back up the charges, and he is often closely monitored by security forces. “Human rights activists see the charges against Nicholas as a way to hinder his work as a human rights lawyer. Even in jail, he used his time to talk to prisoners who sought advice,” the ministry stated. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/23/ugandan-human-rights-defender-nicholas-opiyo-arrested-like-a-criminal/]

His work has made the LGBTI community in Uganda feel stronger, knowing that there are allies who support them,” said caretaker Foreign Minister Ben Knapen.

Opiyo beat out two other finalists for the prize. Nunca Más and Russian lawyer Mari Davtyan. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/22/the-3-nominees-for-the-2021-tulip-are-known/

Last year the Human Rights Tulip went to Lilit Martirosyan [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/11/armenian-lilit-martirosyan-receives-human-rights-tulip-2020/] who said: “Since winning the Human Rights Tulip in 2020 I’ve felt stronger and more protected, knowing that the Dutch government is on my side and that I’m no longer on this journey alone“.

https://nltimes.nl/2021/12/06/ugandan-lawyer-receives-dutch-human-rights-prize

https://chimpreports.com/ugandas-nicholas-opiyo-wins-global-human-rights-award/

Humaira Rasuli is the recipient of the 2021 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award

December 7, 2021

The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) has named Afghan human rights lawyer and feminist Humaira Rasuli as the recipient of the 2021 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. [For more on this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/607BB850-4813-489B-A47D-3965F2078E1F]

It is hoped that the award will “further inspire the world to pay closer attention to human rights in Afghanistan, especially women’s rights” and “encourage human rights defenders and those who have been deprived of human rights,”

According to the TFD, Rasuli has been actively involved in social activism and the promotion of women’s rights at a young age and thorough her years of work, “Afghan women have gradually been able to receive justice from judicial procedures.”

As the co-founder and executive director of the Women for Justice Organization, Rasuli has led lawyers, gender experts and activists in efforts to increase women’s access to justice, uphold the rule of law in Afghanistan, and investigate some of the most emblematic sex crime cases in the country over the years, the TFD said in its statement.

She also previously served as director of Medica Afghanista, another organization that provides psychosocial counseling and legal support to female survivors of sexual violence. However, in an interview with the European public broadcaster, Arte, aired in September, Rasuli revealed that she has relocated to the U.S. following the U.S. military pull-out from Afghanistan.

The TFD on Tuesday declined to confirm Rasuli’s current whereabouts, but said she would deliver her acceptance speech in a pre-recorded video that would be published on its website on 10 December.

The foundation said it would not host a physical award ceremony this year due to COVID-19.

https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111300019

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

German Africa Prize 2021 goes to Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele

September 28, 2021

Ethiopian lawyer Daniel Bekele is the winner of the 2021 German Africa Prize. The human rights defender is being honored for his unceasing commitment to monitoring and speaking out against injustice.

Daniel Bekele, currently Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), will receive the German Africa Award for his fight for democracy and human rights. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/08/human-rights-defender-daniel-bekele-now-commissioner-of-the-ethiopian-human-rights-commission/

For more on this prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7bdd4070-5958-11e9-90d9-57c8733f3136

I am delighted that the independent jury has selected an outstanding human rights defender,” said Uschi Eid, President of the German Africa Foundation, which presents the prize.

“[Daniel Bekele] deserves this prize for his lifelong advocacy of human rights. I sincerely hope that the award will encourage [him] and his colleagues at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to be fearless and impartial advocates for human rights in Ethiopia,” she added. 

Daniel told DW he was “truly excited and humbled to be the first Ethiopian to receive this prestigious German award.”

I know it will go a long way to encourage and inspire my colleagues at the EHRC, as well as human rights defenders in my country Ethiopia and Africa, who work for the promotion and protection of human rights in increasingly challenging environments,” he said.

As a human rights defender, Daniel Bekele has also fought for women’s rights

Daniel Bekele began his dedication to human rights early in his career.

He started representing non-government organizations as a 23-year-old lawyer, quickly becoming a much sought-after expert on democracy and human rights.

In 2004, Daniel became the Head of Policy Research and Advocacy for Ethiopia at the international charity ActionAid. At the same time, he was also highly involved in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, a network of thousands of organizations promoting an end to poverty.

As a civil society representative, Daniel assumed a leading role in monitoring Ethiopia’s 2005 parliamentary elections, marked by flawed counting and repeated incidents of post-election violence.

A critic of the election process, Daniel was attacked and injured by armed men in October 2005. He was subsequently arrested, imprisoned, and convicted on charges of trying to “overthrow the government and the constitution.”

He remained in jail from November 2005 until March 2008.

Daniel Bekele’s determination to stand up for political rights, especially those of disadvantaged groups, remains undiminished by his prison sentence.

“The human rights defender believes that economic and social recovery fails to lead to sustainable development without the enforcement of human and political rights,” Eid from the German Africa Foundation said.

“As such, [Daniel Bekele] doesn’t shy away from criticizing donor countries in the North for their cooperation with authoritarian regimes.”

Ethiopia has started a democratic opening under Prime Minister Ahmed

In the wake of Ethiopia’s democratic opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018, the country’s parliament elected Daniel to lead the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in 2019.

Daniel has not only transformed the commission, but has also successfully advocated for its greater independence, with parliament passing an amendment in 2020 strengthening the commission’s operational and financial autonomy.

The German Africa Foundation acknowledges, however, that Ethiopia’s political crisis and the civil war in the country’s northern Tigray province have cast a shadow over Bekele’s work at the Human Rights Commission. Watch video 01:52

The EHRC is currently conducting an investigation, together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, into human rights violations committed by all sides in the Tigray conflict.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/07/german-africa-prize-goes-to-kenyan-ushahidi-it-pioneer/

https://www.dw.com/en/german-africa-prize-2021-goes-to-ethiopian-rights-activist/a-59189323

Human rights lawyer I.A. Rehman passes away in Lahore

April 12, 2021

In Dawn.com of 12 April, 2021 it is reported that Dawn columnist and human rights advocate I.A. Rehman passed away in Lahore on Monday at the age of 90.

See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/F99462B1-2F8B-DFA2-A10E-7D0319CD0706

He was a founding member of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy. As director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), he contributed to raising awareness about rights and fundamental freedoms. Rehman started working at a young age, according to human rights activist and former chairperson of the HRCP Zohra Yusuf. She said that Rehman worked as editor of the Pakistan Times before joining the HRCP in the early 90s, first as director and later as secretary general.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also expressed her condolences, saying Rehman was a “unique personality … who stood by & struggled steadfastly for what he believed in“.

He was an icon of integrity, standing steadfast for every single fundamental right, every single democratic value in the worst of times. Pakistan will not be the same without him,” PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said.

In a statement, the HRCP called Rehman a “titan of human rights” and said that his “conscience and compassion were unparalleled“. “Even after his retirement from the HRCP, he remained a constant source of wisdom and advice, and a mentor to many. We will carry his legacy forward as he would have wished us to” .

Journalist Syed Talat Hussain said Rehman was to journalism what “constitutions are to civilised countries”. “Every time we needed guidance we looked him up and he showed us the way. A beautiful soul, a great man,” he said.

Journalist Asad Hashim said Rehman was one of Pakistan’s “foremost human rights defenders and a key part of all of the incredible work that the HRCP does”. “A tremendous loss for all Pakistanis, not just progressives and those who work in the human rights space,” he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1617819

https://thewire.in/south-asia/pakistan-human-rights-advocate-i-a-rehman-passes-away

Ramsey Clark, US attorney general and civil rights activist dies at 93

April 11, 2021

Ramsey Clark, who was attorney general in the Johnson administration before becoming an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of US policy, has died. He was 93. see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/6790030F-0B3B-2518-90DF-DD16787FCA9F

After serving in President Lyndon B Johnson’s cabinet in 1967 and 1968, Clark set up a private law practice in New York in which he championed civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty and represented declared foes of the US including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“The progressive legal community has lost its elder dean and statesman,” civil rights attorney Ron Kuby said. “Over many generations, Ramsey Clark was a principled voice, conscience and a fighter for civil and human rights.”

Clark defended antiwar activists. In the court of public opinion, he charged the US with militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam war and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama and the Gulf war. When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the US of war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf

Clark said he only wanted the US to live up to its ideals. “If you don’t insist on your government obeying the law, then what right do you have to demand it of others?” he said.

The Dallas-born Clark, who was in the US Marine corps in 1945 and 1946, moved his family to New York in 1970 and set up a pro bono-oriented practice. He said he and his partners were limiting their annual personal incomes to $50,000, a figure he did not always achieve.

Clark’s client list included such peace and disarmament activists as the Harrisburg seven and the Plowshares eight. Abroad, he represented dissidents in Iran, Chile, the Philippines and Taiwan, and skyjackers in the Soviet Union.

He was an advocate for Soviet and Syrian Jews but outraged many Jews over other clients. He defended a Nazi prison camp guard fighting extradition and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a lawsuit over the killing of a cruise ship passenger by hijackers.

“We talk about civil liberties,” he said. “We have the largest prison population per capita on Earth. The world’s greatest jailer is the freest country on Earth?”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/11/ramsey-clark-attorney-general-critic-us-policy-saddam-hussein-dies-aged-93

Human rights lawyer Christof Heyns dies unexpectedly: tributes pour in

March 30, 2021

On 28 March 2021, respected human rights lawyer Professor Christof Heyns passed away, unexpectedly, aged 62.  

Most recently, Professor Heyns was the was the Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, and had also served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 to 2016. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/dfa7df54-3cb2-465c-9655-d139b5486591.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/30/christof-heyns-discusses-new-un-comment-on-right-of-peaceful-assembly/

His friends and colleagues pay tribute to a giant of global human rights: 

The Centre for Human Rights CHR, in its tribute, called him their “founding father, a trail-blazer, and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. He was our dynamic initiator-in-chief. He played a pioneering role in positioning the Centre as a pan-African centre of excellence. Constantly brimming with new ideas and grand schemes, plans and projects, he propelled the Centre into new directions and challenged it to explore different dimensions.  “To Christof, if something could be conceived, it could be achieved.”

On Monday, the CHR created a memorial page on Facebook in his memory which, within hours, contained hundreds of entries from all over the world. The reactions registered on Facebook, on WhatsApp groups and emails speak volumes about how highly Heyns the man, the mentor, the “rock star” and the lawyer was regarded.

Arnold Tsunga, chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

“The sudden demise of Professor Christof Heyns is a real tragedy to us as a community of human rights activists in southern Africa. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee his contribution to production of General Comment Number 37 on the right to peaceful assembly is invaluable at a time when we are experiencing democratic regression and authoritarian consolidation globally. He is irreplaceable and shall be sorely missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Raenette Taljaard, former politician and independent analyst

“Prof Christof Heyns was one of South Africa and the world’s great thought leaders and moral authorities on human rights. Beyond his contribution to academia, his work as a UN Special Rapporteur stands as a towering tribute to the right to life in a world where algorithms and lethal autonomous weapons can make life and death decisions that are core to who we are as humanity. His work will live on in the many principled human rights fighters and public intellectuals that have had the privilege to encounter him and to be mentored by him. He will be greatly missed.”

Jason Brickhill, human rights lawyer and former director of the Constitutional Litigation Unit at the Legal Resources Centre 

“So very shocked and sad to hear that Christof Heyns has passed on. Such a gentle, wise and self-deprecating soul. I was lucky to be taught by him (about the African regional human rights system) and he supervised my master’s dissertation just over a decade ago.  “He did so much to advance human rights in very real, meaningful ways, especially with his work on the African regional system (he was a true pan-Africanist!) and on the right to life at the UN.  “He shared with me and other classmates his ‘struggle approach’ to human rights, which is still the foundation for how I think about the law’s role in the world. We will remember you, Christof, and carry with us the ideas that you shared.”

Faranaaz Veriava, head of the Basic Education Rights programme at SECTION27

“Around 1995 I was young and green in my first job, working in the Idasa Pretoria office. Ivor Jenkins, our director, talked me into meeting with a Moroccan delegation visiting the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to discuss human rights law. Prof Christof Heyns hosted the delegation. I was probably terrible in that meeting but Prof Heyns was warm and encouraging and I became very interested in the work of the Centre. The next year I registered in the LLM programme at the centre which was a pioneering programme at the time for students all over Africa interested in human rights law. Later I would teach annually in that same programme. Much later, complete my doctorate through the UP law school and then teach at the law school myself. If Ivor Jenkins had not thrown me in at the deep end that day, I wonder if I would have any history with UP – a historically Afrikaans university – and that is now such a positive part of my life. RIP Prof Heyns, a warm and inspiring man and pioneer in human rights law.”

Alice Brown, former resident coordinator, Ford Foundation

“What sad news. I met Christof in the late 1980s through my work with the Ford Foundation. Christof was an innovative human rights academic who was a trailblazer for a number of important rights-focused training programs. In addition, in all my interactions with him over the years, I found him to be a very decent human being.”

Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector, current law trust chair in social justice, University of Stellenbosch

“What a sad occasion. He was such a mensch, resolutely devoted to developing leaders to advance democracy and human rights in this continent. “The news of the passing of Christof Heyns hit me like a ton of bricks. I have known Christof for all my grown-up life.  “A quintessential professional, Christoff invested a lot in developing leaders that are anchored in a sound knowledge and values system regarding human rights and democracy. He was passionate about the African continent and building scholarship in the continent on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  “The country, the continent and the entire world is poorer because of Christof Heyns’ untimely passing, yet richer because of the legacy he leaves behind. It is said leaders do not die, they multiply. Christof leaves pieces of himself among the many scholars he nurtured and policymakers he touched. May his great soul Rest In Peace.” Christof Heyns and the Outlaws — the rock and roll band of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria. Formed in 2007, they always played at the annual Faculty Festival. (Photo: Yolanda Booyzen)

Bongani Majola, Chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission

“We deeply mourn the untimely passing of Prof Christof Heyns, a giant in the promotion of human rights. Empowering young people has always been his passion. I first met him in the late 1980s/early 1990s when he and I ran a project that sought to open opportunities for final-year law students from the then historically black universities to find placements in commercial law firms. At the time, it was hard for many black law graduates to be admitted to articles of clerkship and even harder – almost impossible to get placed in commercial law firms. 

“Another empowerment project that Christof Heyns employed significantly to empower the youth was the moot court competitions that he and his colleagues took beyond the borders of South Africa, the borders of SADC and beyond the boundaries of the African continent. Recently, he had taken the promotion of human rights to schools in the basic education environment, a project that he passed on to the South African Human Rights Commission once it had taken a firm hold among basic education schools. 

“He was a visionary who believed in investing in the youth in order to build a strong human rights culture. The country has lost a true human rights activist. He will be sorely missed.”

Edwin Cameron, former Constitutional Court judge

Really terribly shocked and saddened by Christof’s sudden death yesterday. He was a meticulous, conscientious, persistent, courageous fighter for justice and human rights.

Rose Hanzi, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

“Very very sad. Prof Heyns raised the African continent high with his contributions at the ACHPR [African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights] and UN.”

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International 

“So saddened to learn of the death of Prof Christof Heyns. Many of you may know him. He was my teacher and I suspect a few others on this group. What a dedicated Human Rights Activist he was. Beyond teaching, he will be remembered for drafting the General Comment on Freedom of Assembly … he was until his death after a heart attack while hiking a member of the HRC. MHSRIP”

Steven LB Jensen, Danish Institute for Human Rights

“Oh no, this is so sad and shocking news. I met him twice – first in Lund for a two-hour conversation just the two of us and again at the Danish Institute for a meeting on collaborations between our institutions. He was a wonderful person and so easy to engage with. He will be sorely missed by many all around the world.” DM/MC

From Amnesty International staff:

Dr. Agnès Callamard, the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “Christof Heyns was a brilliant human rights lawyer and thinker, gentle person…He leaves behind such an extraordinary legacy.” 

Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “A mighty baobab has fallen! The untimely death of renowned human rights law expert, Professor Christof Heyns, is a devastating loss. In Africa the Baobab Tree is considered a symbol of power, longevity, presence, strength and grace. Professor Heyns was a baobab in the human rights world. A giant in his field, he fought hard for a just world. As Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, he was involved in a number of critical initiatives. His contributions included: Chair of the UN independent investigation on Burundi, leading on the drafting of UN human rights guidelines on peaceful assembly and the use of less lethal weapons. He also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Hamba Kahle Professor Heyns, Ke a Leboga, Enkosi, Ngiyabonga, Thank you for your service to humanity. You have left indelible footprints and we salute you!”

Sam Dubberley, Amnesty International’s Head of Crisis Evidence Lab, said: “Christof’s support for establishing a hub of Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria was unequivocal. He gave time, advice and space for this project to emerge, and welcomed the Amnesty team on every visit to Pretoria despite his always frantic schedule. Christof made everyone feel valued, and was a source of energy and sage advice. How he will be missed.” 

Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director of Amnesty International, said: “Words fail me to express the profound sense of loss with the sudden passing of Professor Heyns. Like many, I had the privilege of working with him and benefited much from his wisdom, mentorship and guidance. He was a rare breed, one of Africa’s great legal minds, a passionate human rights defender and a kind, passionate, humble person. He nurtured and cultivated a cadre of human rights experts and activists in Africa, including by transforming the human rights centre at the University of Pretoria into a world class institution that produced Africa’s leading human rights scholars and practitioners. His publications on various human rights issues in leading academic journals are testament to his brilliance, wisdom and dedication. He was a true pan-Africanist, as exemplified in his work to champion and strengthen the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. His passing is also a great loss to Amnesty International. As [recently] as last week we were working with Professor Heyns on the draft report by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the use of force by law enforcement officials in Africa. We shall strive to ensure his last vision [is seen] to fruition. Rest in peace dear brother!”

Rasha Abdul-Rahim, Director of Amnesty Tech, said: “It was devastating to hear of the passing of Professor Heyns. All my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Not only was Christof a renowned human rights expert, he was fiercely justice-focused and an absolute joy and pleasure to work with. Christof wrote the seminal Human Rights Council report that put the human rights risks of autonomous weapons systems on the agenda. He was always extremely generous with his expertise and time. This is a huge loss for the human rights movement, and we will miss him deeply.” 

Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser on Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme, said: “I worked most closely with Professor Heyns on The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death in 2016. It’s a practical tool for human rights defenders and advocates around the world seeking accountability for unlawful killings; and it is now a small, but important, part of Christof’s vast legacy. As well as his importance as a brilliant legal mind, scholar and activist, I will remember Christof for actually embodying human rights values: being an incredibly warm, generous and considerate human being. His death is a tremendous loss for the human rights movement, and an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends.”

Simon Crowther, legal advisor at Amnesty International, said: “Christof was a legal giant who approached his work with kindness, humility, humour and immense intelligence. He will be greatly missed.” 

Anja Bienert, Senior Programme Officer at Amnesty International Netherlands, said: “I first met Christof in 2013 and immediately felt connected to him: his sharp mind, the careful and perfectly articulated thoughts on the many pressing human rights issues, but more importantly, his warm and welcoming personality, with whom it was a pleasure to discuss. Since then, he was an ongoing source of inspiration to me and a great ally in the fight for greater protection of human rights. He constantly strove not just to write excellent publications, but to have a real impact for the respect of human rights across the world. We will miss him incredibly. It will be our mission to uphold his great legacy in the field of human rights.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/christof-heyns-tribute/

MEA nominee Yu Wensheng in poor health after years in prison

January 21, 2021
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Yu Wensheng was known for taking on a number of high-profile human rights cases. (AFP pic)

AFP reported on 19 January 2021 that Yu Wensheng Chinese lawyer nominated for the 2021 Martin Ennals award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8bmartin-ennals-award-finalists-2021-announced/] is in poor health after years in prison according to his wife.

Yu Wensheng was detained in Beijing in January 2018 in front of his young son just hours after he wrote an open letter calling for constitutional reforms, including multi-candidate elections.

His physical state is very poor. His right hand is deformed and trembles so much that he cannot write,” his wife Xu Yan told AFP. Last week, she was allowed to have a 25-minute video call with her husband, who is being held in a detention centre in the eastern province of Jiangsu. It was their first such meeting in three years, she said. Four of Yu’s teeth were missing and he was unable to chew food properly, Xu said, and that there was no heating in the detention centre.. “There are probably a lot of things he cannot say right now, we will only know the full extent of what he experienced after he is released,” she said.

Xu said her husband’s nomination “not only supports and honours (him), but is also  encouragement and affirmation to other human rights lawyers and defenders”. Yu’s defence lawyer Lu Siwei had his legal licence revoked by authorities last week after handling several sensitive human rights cases..

Beijing denied knowledge of either Yu or the Martin Ennals Award on Tuesday. “There are indeed some people abroad who are always using human rights as a pretext to create a disturbance,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular briefing on Tuesday. “I think this behaviour has no meaning whatsoever.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2021/01/19/imprisoned-chinese-human-rights-lawyer-in-poor-health-says-wife/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/activists-crackdown-01252021082807.html

​​Martin Ennals Award Finalists 2021 announced

January 18, 2021

Today 18 January 2021, the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that three outstanding human rights defenders based in authoritarian states are nominated for the 2021 Martin Ennals Award.

In isolated Turkmenistan, Soltan Achilova documents human rights violations and abuses through photojournalism.

Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Loujain AlHathloul is a leading advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

A lawyer, Yu Wensheng defended human rights cases and activists before his conviction and imprisonment in China.

The Finalists distinguish themselves by their bravery and deep commitment to the issues they defend, despite the many attempts to silence them by respective governmental authorities. The 2021 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony will celebrate their courage on 11 February during an online ceremony hosted jointly with the City of Geneva which, as part of its commitment to human rights, has for many years supported the AwardEvery year thousands of human rights defenders are persecuted, harassed, imprisoned, even killed. The Martin Ennals Foundation is honored to celebrate the 2021 Finalists, who have done so much for others and whose stories of adversity are emblematic of the precarity faced by the human rights movement today”, says Isabel de Sola, Director of the Martin Ennals Foundation.

For more on this and similar awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/043F9D13-640A-412C-90E8-99952CA56DCE

Authoritarian states tend to believe that by jailing or censoring human rights defenders, the world will forget about them. During the COVID-pandemic, it seemed like lockdowns would successfully keep people from speaking out. This year’s Finalists are a testament to the fact that nothing could be further from the truth, says Hans Thoolen, Chair of the Jury.

  • In Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most isolated countries, freedom of speech is inexistent and independent journalists work at their own peril. Soltan Achilova (71), a photojournalist, documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting Turkmen people in their daily lives. Despite the repressive environment and personal hardships, she is one of the very few reporters in the country daring to sign independent articles.
  • In Saudi Arabia, women still face several forms of gender discrimination, so much so, that the Kingdom ranks in the bottom 10 places according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Loujain AlHathloul (31) was one of the leading figures of the Women to drive movement and advocated for the end of the male guardianship system. She was imprisoned in 2018 on charges related to national security together with several other women activists. Tortured, denied medical care, and subjected to solitary confinement, Loujain was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison on 28 December 2020. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/]
  • In China, more than 300 human rights activists and lawyers disappeared or were arrested in 2015 during the so called 709 Crackdown. A successful business lawyer, Yu Wensheng (54) gave up his career to defend one of these detained lawyers, before being arrested himself. Detained for almost three years now, Yu Wensheng’s right hand was crushed in jail and his health is failing. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]

Online Award Ceremony on 11 February 2021

The 2021 Martin Ennals Award will be given to the three Finalists on 11 February 2021 at an online ceremony co-hosted by the City of Geneva (Switzerland), a long-standing supporter of the Award. “The City of Genevareaffirmsits support to human rights, especially during these times of crisis and upheaval. Human rights are the foundation of our society, not even the pandemic will stop us from celebrating brave persons who have sacrificed so much”, says Member of the executive Alfonso Gomez.

For more information:

Chloé Bitton
Communications Manager
Martin Ennals Foundation
cbitton@martinennalsaward.org
media@martinennalsaward.org
Office: +41.22.809.49.25
Mobile: +41.78.734.68.79

Media focal point for Loujain AlHathloul
Uma Mishra-Newberry
FreeLoujain@gmail.com  
https://www.loujainalhathloul.org
+41.78.335.25.40 (on signal)

Press release

Press release (English)

Press release (French)

Press release (Chinese)

Press release (Russian)

Press release (Arabic)

Albert Ho wins Baldwin Medal 2020

December 10, 2020

Human Rights First announced today that it will award the 2020 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Hong Kong human rights defender Albert Ho. The award will be presented today 10 December in a virtual event that will include a conversation between Ho and Human Rights First Senior Advisor Brian Dooley.

Albert Ho is a veteran Hong Kong lawyer and advocate whose career in human rights and political activism stretches back almost four decades. A leading figure in the pro-democracy movement for many years, he remains prominent in the protest movement that energized Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020.

No dictatorship is too big or too strong to take on,” said Vladimir Vladimir Kara-Murza, Senior Advisor for Human Rights Accountability at Human Rights First and 2020 Baldwin Award jury member. “This decision shows who is right and wrong, and Albert Ho is in the right. There are no lost causes, and the cause of democracy in China is not lost.

Ho is now facing a dozen charges related to those peaceful protests and his law firm continues to represent many others who have protest-related charges.

I’m honored to accept this award,” said Ho, “but I do it on behalf of many colleagues who have shared the case of human rights in Hong Kong with me for so many years.”

Ho is the co-founder and senior partner of Ho, Tse, Wai and Partners (HTW), a Hong Kong law firm renown for advocacy on landmark human rights cases.  Ho and HTW have represented many arrested pro-democracy protestors and challenged many of the Hong Kong government’s dubious actions, such as the banning of face masks under a colonial-era law and the disqualification of numerous pro-democracy lawmakers.

Ho has also done extensive advocacy for human rights lawyers in mainland China. He founded the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in 2007 to provide humanitarian assistance to detained human rights lawyers and their families, advocate on behalf of detained lawyers, and share knowledge and experience with Chinese lawyers.

Despite surveillance and threats by Chinese authorities, Ho has maintained his steadfast support for his peers in mainland China in the face of the government’s crackdown on human rights lawyers, the “709 crackdown” known for the day it began – July 9, 2015. Placing the pursuit of justice before his own safety, Ho continues to raise awareness of the plight of human rights lawyers in China to see that the world holds the Chinese Communist Party accountable for human rights abuses.

For more on the Baldwin Medal of Liberty see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/F23B5465-6A15-4463-9A91-14B2977D9FCE.

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-honors-hong-kong-human-rights-defender-albert-ho-baldwin-medal