Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Peace Prize’

Geneva: the right place for the world’s human rights award

October 5, 2017

Global Geneva published today, 4 October 2017, an article by me called “[Geneva] The right place for the world’s human rights award“. Rather than summarizing it, here is the full article. There are lots of other interesting pieces in the issue, see: http://www.global-geneva.com.

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The 2017 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will be announced on Tuesday, 10 October, 2017 at the University of Geneva (UniDufour) in Geneva, Switzerland. For further information, go to MEA: This article also appears in the Oct-Nov 2017 edition of Global Geneva magazine.

WITHOUT INDIVIDUAL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (HRDs), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights law risk being a dead letter. Almost all human rights organisations have a mandate to come to the succour of threatened colleagues via urgent appeals and other campaigns. Some 150 now run an award and the number keeps growing – half were created since the beginning of the 21st century.

Curiously, however, the best known of these awards, the Nobel Peace Prize, is given out annually in Oslo and not in Geneva, the international hub for human rights. Alfred Nobel died on 10 December. Decades later, the United Nations declared 10 December as International Human Rights Day and designated 21 September as the International Day of Peace. The strange result is that the Nobel Peace Prize – intended for contributions to ‘peace’, not necessarily ‘human rights’ – is awarded every year in Oslo on 10 December, which is ‘Nobel Day’ in Sweden and Norway, and International Human Rights Day for the rest of the world.

In 1992, I became involved in the creation of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA). Originally, this was meant to keep alive the memory of the first Secretary General of Amnesty International and a key figure behind the creation of the modern human rights movement. In recognition of his work, 10 global human rights organisations, (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Front Line Defenders, Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung, HURIDOCS, Human Rights First, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Service for Human Rights, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), all agreed to form the Jury. Later, a panel of regional NGOs joined the common effort.

The small volunteer secretariat operated out of Geneva, but many of the first award ceremonies were held abroad in places where the laureates are active. In 2001, it was decided to make Geneva the permanent location for the annual ceremony. By 2008, the lakeside city started offering serious support by making the award part of its “International Geneva” plan, an effort to galvanize the private and public sectors, including the rest of Switzerland, with regard to the region’s crucial importance as a hub for critical global issues. Since then, cooperation has grown into an admirable win-win partnership with the award run on a fully independent basis, while Geneva provides the infrastructure for the ceremony.

This suits all parties. The actual decisions are made by an autonomous jury of experts enabling the city to avoid having to deal with controversial aspects.

Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is one of the three finalists, and is subject to a travel ban to Geneva where he is supposed to attend the 10 October 2017 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony. Despite requests directly to Egyptian President Al-Sisi, the ban – at this time of writing – has yet to be lifted.

Presenting the awards: a matter of protection – and courage

The wisdom of this separation was reiterated in 2016 when the MEA went to an imprisoned scholar belonging to the Uyghur minority. China reacted furiously, but its target ended up being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who courageously persisted in presenting the award at the ceremony as his predecessors have done over the years.

How effective are human rights awards? To answer this, one needs to know in which way they are intended to help human rights defenders. In the first place, all awards seek to offer recognition and encouragement at the psychological level. This goal should not be trivialized as activists often have to work in difficult environments. Furthermore, they may prove unpopular even within their own social circles.

Secondly, many awards come with some financial support. Even relatively small amounts go far in cash-strapped organizations, many based in developing countries.

Finally, the most important but also elusive goal is protection. The latter is not really possible without a fair degree of publicity. An example: On 13 May 2008, Mutabar Tajibaeva, a detained human rights activist in Uzbekistan, was announced as that year’s MEA Laureate. A few weeks later, on 2 June, she was released from prison on medical grounds, and a few months later, was allowed to travel abroad. She came to Geneva to receive the MEA in person, declaring publicly that the award saved her life. However, one cannot state categorically that her release was a direct result of the award; many other actors contributed to the pressure that resulted in her release from prison.

Karla Avelar 2017 FINALIST – EL SALVADOR: Karla Avelar has dedicated her life to defending, nationally and internationally, the Human Rights of LGBTI persons, HIV affected persons, migrants, persons deprived of liberty in situations of vulnerability as well as victims of discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For human rights abusers: embarrassment fueled by global press coverage 

That such impact cannot be taken for granted is shown by the case of Ahmed Mansoor from the United Arab Emirates, the 2015 Laureate. The government did not lift his travel ban and he had to address the audience via a video link.

His case received further global coverage in August 2016. Flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system were discovered by Mansoor who alerted security researchers to unsolicited text messages he had received. Apple has since released a software update that addresses the problem. Then, on 20 March, 2017, around midnight, Ahmed Mansoor was arrested at his home in a raid by a large team of the Emirates’ security forces.

His importance as a human rights defender was demonstrated by the international response to this sudden arrest. In addition to many newspapers and social media, the UN Special Procedures and the EU Parliament quickly called for his release. But today, six months later, he continues to linger in jail.

FreeThe5KH 2017 FINALIST = CAMBODIA: Mr Ny Sokha, Mr Yi Soksan, Mr Nay Vanda, Ms Lim Mony and Mr Ny Chakrya, the “Khmer 5” are Cambodian human rights defenders who face judicial harassment and had spent 427 days in pre-trial detention, as a result of their legitimate human rights work.

Some believe that human rights awards can endanger the lives of laureates. Clearly, this is a danger, but the best judge of the balance between increased risk and greater protection remains the human rights defender in question. And generally, they seem to regard public exposure foremost as a form of protection, reflecting the increased importance of the media even in tense situations. The biggest problem with seeking increased protection through publicity is perhaps that the media are not automatically interested in all human rights awards.

That the media are increasingly referring to the MEA as the “Nobel prize for human rights” is perhaps the best sign that after almost 25 years, the award has found its status and place in Geneva. With the delivery of the 2017 prize on 10 October in Geneva, it will again be in the hope to go ‘from the front line to the front page’.

Hans Thoolen is a Dutch national who has worked for various NGOs and inter-governmental organizations, including 12 years in Geneva. He is now retired but not tired. Read his blog: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/

Source: The right place for the world’s human rights award | Global Geneva

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy

Breaking: Liu Xiaobo released from Chinese prison with late-stage cancer

June 26, 2017

China’s best-known human rights defender and Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been released on medical parole after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Liu, 61, is in the late stages of the disease. Apparently he was diagnosed in May already but no announcement was made then. China has experience with such late intervention, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/15/remember-2nd-anniversary-of-the-death-of-cao-shunli/

[Liu was arrested in 2008 after penning a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, where he called for an end to one-party rule and improvements in human rights. Following a year in detention and a two-hour trial, he was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. Little has been heard from him since. When he was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010 he was represented by an empty chair.]

Liu Xia, his wife, has been under house arrest since her husband won and has reportedly suffered from depression due to her isolation.

Source: Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo released from Chinese prison with late-stage cancer | World news | The Guardian

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/

Nobel Peace Prize 2016 has strong peace content

October 8, 2016

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 is very much a traditional and clear ‘peace’ award. The news can be found in all mainstream media. So for the record, and in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end…” That the referendum rejected the proposal does not diminish the serious effort made (and perhaps shows the risk of calling referendums where ‘anger’ of different kinds tends to favor any response that has a NO element in it).

For last year’s see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/more-on-the-tunisian-winners-of-the-nobel-peace-prize/

Source: The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 – Press Release

On 14 September 3 women Nobel Laureates speak at panel at Quinnipiac University

September 12, 2016

Three women Nobel Prize laureates will discuss peace, gender issues and human rights when they participate in a panel discussion on 14 September 2016 at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA.

Nobel Laureates Hold Human Rights Panel at Quinnipiac University

 

Shirin Ebadi, the first female judge in Iran, Leymah Gbowee, a leader in Libya’s movement towards democracy and interfaith understanding, and Tawakkol Karman, a journalist who was a leader in Yemen’s movement toward democracy, will take part in the discussion which takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 September at Burt Kahn Court at Quinnipiac University, 275 Mount Carmel Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

Source: Nobel Laureates Hold Human Rights Panel at Quinnipiac University – Hamden, CT Patch

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate 1986, dies at the age of 87

July 3, 2016

ASSOCIATED PRESS Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel died on Saturday aged 87.

Activist and writer Elie Wiesel, the World War Two death camp survivor who won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the life-long voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday 2 July 2016.  Wiesel, a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world, was 87.

The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in “Night,” his landmark story of the Holocaust – “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

In awarding the Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee praised Wiesel as a “messenger to mankind” and “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.” Elie Wiesel went on to receive another 6 human rights awards, including one named after himself.

Source: Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor And Nobel Laureate, Dead At 87

More on the Tunisian winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

October 13, 2015

My short post on the Nobel Peace Prize for the Tunisian quartet [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/tunisian-national-dialogue-quartet-laureates-of-2015-nobel-peace-prize/] is better understood with the post by Dan Smith: http://dansmithsblog.com/2015/10/13/the-tunisian-spring-and-the-nobel-peace-prize/.

Tunisian national dialogue quartet laureates of 2015 Nobel peace prize

October 9, 2015

The Tunisian national dialogue quartet, a coalition of civil society organisations, has won the 2015 Nobel peace prize.  The quartet is comprised of four NGOs in Tunisian civil society: the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League [the national affiliate of the FIDH – see press link below] and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

Kaci Kullmann Five, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, said the quartet had formed an alternative peaceful political process in 2013 when the country was on the brink of civil war and subsequently guaranteed fundamental rights for the entire population. Committee says the prize awarded for quartet’s decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution

The Tunisia director of Human Rights Watch, Amna Guellali said the prize was being seen in the country as a reward for sticking with democratic principles. “The Quartet enabled the democratic process to go ahead, it was a political crisis that could have led to civil war,” she said. “People here will hope the award is not just a token celebration, but will bring Tunisia real help.

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/north-africa-middle-east/tunisia/national-dialogue-quartet-in-tunisia-2015-peace-nobel-prize-mabrouk
(French:) https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/maghreb-moyen-orient/tunisie/le-quartet-tunisien-prix-nobel-de-la-paix-2015-mabrouk

Source: Tunisian national dialogue quartet wins 2015 Nobel peace prize | World news | The Guardian

Nobel Women’s Initiative: “Defending the defenders!” 24-26 April 2015

April 20, 2015

The conference “Defending the defenders!”, hosted by the six women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, will bring together 100 women human rights defenders and organizations working to support them in order to advance the global agenda to protect women’s human rights defenders. During two days, participants will examine trends of threats that women all over the world face, and the strategies they employ to address these threats.

The conference is designed for maximum interaction, learning from each other, open dialogue and strategizing. It will include panels, participant-led discussions, skill-related workshops and strategy sessions. Participants will be able to showcase their work, including relevant films and documentaries, and have time to socialize and reconnect with each other. Invited participants will be women who are:

• Civil society activists and women human rights defenders from at least 20 different countries
• Academics
• Government officials
• Corporates
• Donor organizations and philanthropists
• Media (including journalists, filmmakers, writers and social media experts)

From 24-26 April 2015 in Duin & Kruidberg, Netherlands

Participation is by invitation only!

Defending the defenders! Building global support for Women Human Rights Defenders – WO=MEN.

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi share Nobel Peace Prize

October 11, 2014

You will have learned this already from the main news media, but to bee complete in the area of human rights awards: On Friday 10 October the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 was awarded to India‘s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan‘s Malala Yousafzai for their struggles against the violations of the rights of children. As the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, “Children must go to school, not be financially exploited.

Photos: Nobel Peace Prize winners

Malala Yousafzai came to global attention after she was shot in the head by the Taliban — two years ago Thursday — for her efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan. Since then, after surgery, she has won several high level human rights awards and now the Peace Prize. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/malala-collects-another-award-sacharov-instead-of-snowden/]

Satyarthi, age 60, has shown great personal courage in heading peaceful demonstrations focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain, the committee said. Satyarthi told reporters that the award was about many more people than him — and that credit should go to all those “sacrificing their time and their lives for the cause of child rights” and fighting child slavery.

The peace aspect of the Prize is double this year: Read the rest of this entry »