Posts Tagged ‘Rafto Prize’

Three NGOs urge you to nominate Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize

January 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of the Radio Free Asia

On 28 January, 2019, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Norwegian Uyghur Committee (NUK) announced that they have nominated the Chinese human rights defender Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize. With the completion of five years of his arrest, the organisations believe his peaceful trajectory in defense of the freedom and fully enjoyment of human rights by the Uyghur population in China is deserving of this prestigious prize. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/.

[Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at Minzu University in Beijing where he specialized in research focused on Uyghur-Han relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkistan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Ilham is revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Han Chinese people. Professor Tohti criticised oppressive policies against Uyghurs and wrote extensively on constructive approaches to overcome unequal treatment between ethnic groups. Notably, he called for dialogue and reconciliation, using his web platform as the primary vehicle. For his efforts, he was arrested by Chinese authorities on January 15, 2014. Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finding his detention to be arbitrary in March 2014, Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September of that year on charges of “separatism” after just a two-day trial. The legal process involving Tohti was met with significant issues throughout. His lawyers were unable to meet him for six months following the initial arrest, his defense team was not provided with complete evidence by the prosecutor, nor were their requested witnesses allowed to testify during the trial. Ilham has been serving his life sentence since December 2014 at Urumqi’s No. 1 Prison. Since then, he has been allowed very few visits from his family. Complicating this has been his continued detention in Urumqi, despite his family living in Beijing – a likely punitive move from Beijing. ChinaChange has noted that Tohti has been held in solitary confinement until at least early 2016 and has been denied the right to communicate with family and friends aside from minimal visits. The WUC gathered 132 scholars and 19 civil society organisations in an open letter to urge the Chinese government to release Ilham Tohti from his arbitrary detention of the five-year anniversary of his arrest in January 2019.]  

In 2014 Mr. Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. On October 11, 2016, Tohti was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. In 2017 he received the Weimar Prize (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/05/uyghur-human-rights-defender-ilham-tohti-wins-also-weimar-human-rights-prize/). He was also nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2016. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/

The WUC,the UNPO and the NUK encourage scholars and organisations to join in nominating Ilham Tohti. The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 1st. As the situation in East Turkistan continues to deteriorate, with more than one million innocent Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in internment camps and the Uyghur people facing unparalleled repression, Ilham Tohti’s life and work stands as an inspiration to continue the peaceful struggle for peace, understanding

https://unpo.org/article/21350

 

Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar winner of 2018 RAFTO award!

September 27, 2018

Polish lawyer Adam Bodnar – Defender of minority rights and judicial independence in Poland (Photo credit: Kluczek/RPO.GOV.PL )

The Rafto Prize 2018 is awarded to the Polish lawyer Adam Bodnar and the institution he leads, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, for the important stance taken in the face of current political developments in Poland.  A key function of the Ombudsman, or the Commissioner for Human Rights, is to ensure that the public authorities secure and respect the human rights of all members of Polish society. As lawyer and Ombudsman, Adam Bodnar (41) has highlighted the crucial role played by independent Ombudsman institutions in safeguarding human rights in Poland – and other countries – where such actors and institutions  increasingly have come under attack.

Since Law and Justice (PiS) won the Polish election in October 2015, the party has used its majority in the National Parliament to adopt legislation that reduces the independence of the courts and centralizes state powers. New laws grant the government control of state media and place severe limits on freedom of information and political lobbying. The rights of vulnerable groups have been repeatedly ignored.  “The award is not just an award to my work and the institution, but mostly a support from your community given to the Polish civil society, academia, judges and lawyers fighting for rule of law, juridical independence, pluralism and protection of minorities in Poland,” said Adam Bodnar.

The Rafto Prize for 2018 to Adam Bodnar and the Ombudsman for Human Rights highlights the rolling back of democracy and human rights protections in Poland. The conflict over the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court are important internationally because they are symbolic of an alarming tendency where the independence of courts increasingly is under political pressure. It is crucial that the international community, the EU, Norway and other European countries take a clear stance against human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law and minority rights that take place in our own region. Adam Bodnar, being the civil servant, cannot accept the prize money awarded along with the Rafto Prize. The Rafto Foundation will identify and donate the prize money to civil society working for human rights in Poland.

For more on this and other awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/rafto-prize

https://www.rafto.no/news/the-2018-rafto-prize-to-ombudsman-adam-bodnar

Nominations for the Rafto Prize close on 1 February

January 17, 2018

Mexican bishop Raul Vera ‘s continues his dangerous battle against organized crime

August 3, 2017

La Croix International carried a story on the work of bishop Raul Vera: “A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime“. Samuel Lieven described on 14 July, 2017 the priest as “an indefatigable defender of human rights in one of the most violent countries on earth,..[who] … has for thirty years denounced collusion between the Mexican government and the drug cartels. He has stood up to drug lords, traffickers and paramilitaries despite narrowly escaping death several times.” Bishop Vera, a Dominican who was awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2010, has often taken risks in denouncing endemic corruption in Mexico, where the violence has reached record levels. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/11/mexico-activists-convene-first-peoples-constitutional-assembly/]
Archbishop Raul Vera arrives at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 26, 2016. / Alfredo Estrella / Afp

At a press conference on Tuesday, 11 July, Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo in Coahuila province in northern Mexico directly accused the Mexican government of complicity in organized crime by facilitating the crimes committed by the drug cartels “by terror”. Bishop Vera’s statement accompanied a complaint lodged on July 6 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes committed by Mexican security forces in collaboration with the powerful Las Zetas cartel. For Bishop Vera, this violence, particularly the violence that has spread in Coahuila province, “is not due to chance”.

In order to establish his complaint with the ICC, Bishop Vera drew on the work of more than 100 civil society organizations as well as reports prepared by the Legal Clinic of the University of Texas. He made particular reference to prosecutions under way against “members of organized crime in American courts which illustrated close collaboration with the government of Coahuila”. In addition, there were dozens of testimonies from victims of crimes committed by Mexican forces between 2009 and 2012 as well as by armed groups of Las Zetas. Overall, 32 recorded cases illustrated the links between the authorities and the cartel with a total of 562 victims involved.

A longstanding and indefatigable defender of indigenous people, prostitutes, homosexuals, prisoners and all oppressed minorities in his own country, Bishop Raul Vera is no beginner in the field of denouncing injustice. In testimony published in 2014, he highlighted the difficulties faced by a bishop standing up to the daily pressure and death threats from local drug lords, paramilitaries or traffickers who respect neither law or religion… Bishop Vera has narrowly escaped death several times….. In the space of ten years, more than forty have been killed. Priests, seminarians, deacons and religious have all become targets. According to an observatory established by the Mexican bishops, violence against the clergy increased by 275% between 1990 and 2015. Mexico also figures along with India, Pakistan or Turkey among the countries where religious freedom is most regularly violated.

Source: A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime – La Croix International