Posts Tagged ‘Sakharov Prize’

Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov wins EU’s Sakharov prize for human rights

October 27, 2018

Video by Claire PRYDE

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, jailed in Russia for opposing its annexation of Crimea and described as a “symbol of the struggle” to free political prisoners. {https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/}

“Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said.

Sentsov, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle. The 42-year-old was convicted of an alleged arson plot in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and triggered sanctions from the European Union.

Sentsov’s cousin Natalya Kaplan, who lives in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said she hopes the prize will raise his morale when he finally hears about it. “I hope (this) will help Oleg to further stay strong and of course I am happy for him. He deserved this,” Kaplan told AFP in written remarks.

Sentsov started a hunger strike on May 14 demanding the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, and his deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community. Sentsov called off the protest after 145 days to avoid being force-fed.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181025-jailed-ukrainian-filmmaker-oleg-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-human-rights

Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi awarded APS’ Sakharov Prize 2018

October 28, 2017

Only yesterday I referred to the fact that there are 3 international awards with Sakharov in the name [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/27/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-awarded-to-venezuela-opposition/], and now I see that on 27 October 2017 the American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi its Sakharov Prize 2018. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/andrei-sakharov-prize-aps. Praising Mohammadi, APS has averred that she was awarded the prize “for her leadership in campaigning for peace, justice, and the abolition of the death penalty and for her unwavering efforts to promote the human rights and freedoms of the Iranian people, despite persecution that has forced her to suspend her scientific pursuits and endure lengthy incarceration.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/narges-mohammadi/

An Indian researcher, Ravi Kuchimanchi has also been awarded the prize “for his continued research in physics while simultaneously advocating for global policies that reflect science; for leading sustainable development, human rights, and social justice efforts; and for creating a vibrant international volunteer movement that learns from, works with, and empowers communities in India.”

In 2011 Mohammadi won the 2011 Per Anger Prize for defending human rights in Iran. In September 2016, the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”

Prominent human rights organizations have repeatedly called for Mohammadi’s immediate release.

Source: Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Awarded Sakharov Prize

Profile of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo: an amazingly courageous doctor

April 12, 2016

Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and the most prominent human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He won several international awards as detailed in earlier posts [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/congolese-gynecologist-wins-europes-sakharov-prize-in-2014/https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/human-rights-first-honors-doctor-denis-mukwege-in-washington-on-21-october/]. He was in Geneva on the occasion of the 2016 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights for the screening of the documentary film The Man Who Mends Women. The ISHR met with Mukwege on 31 March 2016 and published the following profile with details of his grassroots activities to defend women’s dignity and of the threats he faces due to his work: Dr. Denis Mukwege

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Irish Students Meet Human Rights Defenders

December 19, 2014

Not a shocking story but an excellent illustration of ​​how to motivate students through meeting Human Rights Defenders in person:

Thirty three staff and students of the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), Tipperary were in Strasbourg last November as guests of the European Parliament’s Human Rights committee. The group spent three days in the French city. They were given a seminar on the European Parliament. However the main purpose of the visit was to attend a workshop with Human Rights Defenders from across the world. They met students involved in the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine and a young woman pleading for the lives of her imprisoned parents in Azerbaijan.

However the most heart wrenching and inspiring words came from Dr Denis Mukwege, a doctor from the Congo who has dedicated his life to treating women who are victims of the brutal conflict in the east of his country. Dr Mukwege was in Strasbourg to receive the Sakharov Prize for freedom of speech and the Tipperary students were part of a delegation of young people invited to meet with him and other nominees. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/congolese-gynecologist-wins-europes-sakharov-prize-in-2014/]

He told the group that it was the womens’ courage and stories of recovery that kept him motivated. All present felt honoured to be invited to such a prestigious event and urged everybody to remember those struggling against injustice. For more information on the groups visit: Social Community Studies facebook page at LIT

 

paul.jpg 20141126_EP-012284_MCH_135.jpg​​​​​​​

 

News – LIT-Tipperary-Students-Meet-Human-Rights-Defenders.

Congolese gynecologist wins Europe’s Sakharov Prize in 2014

October 22, 2014

The 2014 Sakharov Prize goes to the Congolese physician Denis Mukwege for his treatment of the victims of gang rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, will be awarded this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President Martin Schulz announced in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Mukwege has been treating rape victims at a clinic in Bukavu on the Rwandan border for decades. He has performed thousands of surgeries on women to heal their injuries sustained in violent attacks, often by local militias. The 59-year-old founded a gynaecology unit and maternity ward in Bukavu in 1996, the first of its kind in the area. He has since expanded the station to an entire hospital, which he runs. The Second Congo War began in August 1998, ravaging the region. Mukwege is said to have performed over 10,000 operations on rape victims ever since.

The other finalists were Ukraine’s pro-Western Euromaidan movement and Azerbaijani rights defender Leyla Yunus.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/more-on-the-sakharov-prize-and-the-arab-nominees/]

For more information on the award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/sakharov-prize-freedom-thought

The 2014 prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Strasbourg on 26 November.

Congolese gynecologist wins Sakharov Prize | News | DW.DE | 21.10.2014.

for our french speakers: http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2014/10/21/le-docteur-mukwege-recoit-le-prix-sakharov-pour-son-soutien-aux-femmes-violees-en-rdc_4510098_3214.html

 

More on the Sakharov Prize and the Arab nominees

October 16, 2014

A few days ago I published a piece about the little ceremonial dropping of Arab nominees for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/europes-sakharov-prize-in-trouble-with-regard-to-arab-nominees/]. The main actor in this story – Alaa Abdel Fattah – has given his own views in a piece  in Jadaliyya on 7 October, entitled “On the Sakharov Prize”. To do justice I copy it in its entirety below:

[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Dr. Andrei Dmitievich Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]
[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]

It was with joy that I received the news of my nomination for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the same joy any act of solidarity inspires.

Since my release from prison in Egypt on bail, with my fate still bound to the Special Terrorism Courts and the draconian Protest Law, I have been facing constant harassment from official and unofficial representatives of the regime. New trumped-up criminal charges pop up every few days. A horde of political talk show hosts on supposedly independent TV stations discusses old and out-of-context tweets, twisting my words and assigning sinister implications to them. There is an insistent tarnish campaign meant to prepare the general public for my eventual return to prison. Needless to say, I am banned from appearing on local TV stations, and I am forbidden to travel outside Egypt.

So it is solidarity such as that of European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) that creates the pressure to keep me out of jail and out of harm. It was also a comfort to find comrades in unexpected places; GUE/NGL’s stance against neoliberal policies and against the distortion of European democracy seemed in line with the aspirations of persecuted revolutionaries in Egypt and the broader Arab context.

I was proud to be nominated along with Tunisian rapper, Ala Yaacoubi, and Moroccan rapper, Mouad Belghouate, both imprisoned for insulting the police in their popular songs. I was relieved that the European Parliament members (MEP) who nominated us understood the point of doing symbolic/verbal violence to the image of the powerful who consistently commit systemic actual violence to the bodies, souls and livelihood of the powerless; relieved that the MEPs understood the meaning of questioning the humanity of those who derive their power from dehumanizing their opponents.

I was not surprised when a new tarnish campaign was launched in reaction against my nomination. My family has faced such campaigns before by supporters of the Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid. The latest when my sister, Mona Seif, was shortlisted for the Martin Ennals Award. But I was surprised when the president of the GUE/NGL decided to withdraw my nomination based on a two-year-old tweet taken out of context. And I was surprised that this was done without an attempt to contact me for clarification, and without any regard for how such public condemnation affects my safety and liberty. The president of the GUE/NGL has now sent a clear message to the Egyptian authorities that whatever international solidarity and support I have is fragile—easily destroyed with a tweet.

The GUE/NGL are of course free to form their opinion based on whatever sources of information they choose—including well-known neocons writing for the Wall Street Journal about an out-of-context tweet. However, since they made the nomination and made it publicly, it was their responsibility to ascertain how the manner of retreating from it would affect my safety. Other options were available to them; they could have asked me to withdraw, or they could have quietly dropped my name from the short-list.

The GUE/NGL’s president’s statement claims that I “called for the murder of a critical number of Israelis.” For what it is worth, here is what I would have said if anyone from GUE/NGL or any other MEPs had asked me to clarify.

The tweet in question is certainly shocking if taken out of context, but even then it cannot be framed as “a call” for anything. It was a “mention” to two friends, part of a private conversation—a thread spanning multiple tweets—that took place over a public medium (limited to 140 characters) on the first night of Israel’s 2012 attack on Gaza. A conversation between friends who already knew enough about each others’ views to make it unnecessary to clarify and elaborate, for instance, the distinction between civilians and combatants—as one would if one were making a public statement. As this was not a public statement, only those who follow all three of us on Twitter would have had this tweet appear on their timeline at two a.m. on 15 November 2012. And even after the tarnish campaign, it has only been retweeted four times.

To pretend that you can interpret this tweet two years later without consulting the people involved in the conversation, and to claim that it constitutes a call to action, is simply ridiculous. That I should now feel the need to explain and clarify what was not intended for a general public in the first place, and to be condemned for my thoughts, not my actions, in such a manner is clearly an attack on my personal liberty. The chilling effect of having to adapt to such harassment and condemnation should be perfectly clear for those honoring Andrei Sakharov’s legacy.

The conversation relating to the war on Gaza started with a friend expressing her doubt that the conflict would ever be resolved by local actors. The other friend in the conversation and I replied, insisting that like most such conflicts, it would be resolved locally. The tweet stated what seems to be the basic strategy of most national liberation movements, especially those that opt for armed resistance: To make the price of occupation/colonization/apartheid too expensive for the society that supports it. The strategy of the Palestinians is exactly that—via both violent and nonviolent means (boycott, divestments and sanctions, and armed resistance, for example). Since this was during a time of war, I had armed resistance in mind. Think of Vietnam or Algeria; many would say this is exactly what happened: After a critical number of casualties in asymmetric wars, the civilian population supporting the occupier refused to continue its support—despite the fact that the casualties suffered by the society resisting colonization were massively higher.

My tweet was not a call for anything; it was not even a statement of opinion. It was a statement of one of the facts of the conflict. If GUE/NGL had asked me about my views I would have directed them to my March 2012 debate on Deutsche Welle.

It should perhaps be remembered that the first laureate of the Sakharov Prize was Nelson Mandela back in 1988, when he and the African National Congress (ANC) were considered terrorists by many democratic governments. At the time, his views on the necessity of violence for resisting apartheid must have required and inspired complex debates on appropriate tactics and strategies, the rules of engagement, the moral, political and social limitations that should be put on revolutionary violence, etc. There would have been plenty of statements attributable to him or his comrades—including the famous Rivonia Trial speech in which he admits to planning sabotage—that would have looked pretty scary out of context.

Finally, I hardly ever call for any solution or action on my own. As an individual, I have always expressed my opinions and positions in the clearest and strongest language. But as an activist, I have always worked for any given cause with and through the largest united front possible. When it comes to calls for solutions or actions, and for the sake of consensus, I would make the very compromises I refuse to make when speaking only for myself.

More importantly, I do not call for anything when it is not a cause that I am directly engaged with. I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, but I never presume to tell them what to do.

If my views on violence—specifically against civilians—are what is in question, the answers can be found in my actions and my published views in my local context and my own struggle in Egypt.

 [This piece is co-published with Mada Masr]

On the Sakharov Prize.

Europe’s Sakharov Prize in trouble with regard to Arab nominees

October 11, 2014

Under provocative title “Can Arabs be Human Rights Defenders?”  the on-line newspapers Mada Masr and Jadaliyya published a piece setting out how 3 Arab nominees were suddenly dropped by their nominators in the European Parliament  over a few Israeli-bashing tweets that were indeed on the verge of acceptability (even in the context of rough twitter talk) especially when calling for or condoning killing of Zionist civilians.

I referred to the nominations in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/nominees-for-sakharov-prize-2014-announced/.

I consider the post’s title  provocative (or perhaps ironic) as even a cursory glance of human rights documentation – including this blog – shows that there are hundreds of human rights defenders in the Arab world whose credentials are not disputed or totally defensible.

Please read the whole piece for yourself as this is both a complicated and sensitive matter.

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Sakharov Freedom Award Goes to 98 Azeri Political Prisoners

October 11, 2014

October is awards season, so you should know that the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award recognizes 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. [Note : there is also the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize – of more info please go to: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards]

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Secretary General, Bjørn Engesland, announced the award in Oslo on 6 October, noting the sad fact that Azerbaijan’s political prisoners “are too numerous to all be mentioned here.” The Committee has documented 98 political prisoners, among them 13 journalists and bloggers.  In addition, the prisoners include 10 human rights defenders and civil society activists, nine youth activists, a prominent opposition leader, “and many other opposing voices and religious activists.” The Committee noted that Azerbaijan assumed the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers this year.“Just weeks after Azerbaijan took over the chairmanship in May 2014, a new wave of detention of activists started. In what appears as a sign of contempt against the Council of Europe institutions, this wave in particular hit human rights defenders who have worked hard with the Council for the recognition and release of Azerbaijani political prisoners.

via Sakharov Prize Goes to Azeri Political Prisoners.

Nominees for Sakharov Prize 2014 announced

September 22, 2014

7 nominees for the European Parliament’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, chosen by political groups and groups of MEPs, will be presented at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Development committees and the Human Rights Subcommittee on 23 September. The laureate will be decided by political group leaders and Parliament’s President on 16 October. The award ceremony takes place in Strasbourg on 26 November. The nominees in alphabetical order are [for more information on human rights awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards]

  1. Mahmoud Al ‘Asali post mortem and Louis Raphael Sako, nominated by the ECR group, Anna Záborská and 66 other MEPs,
  2. Mouad Belghouate, Ala Yaacoubi and Alaa Abdel Fattah, nominated by the GUE/NGL group,
  3. CHREDO, Open Doors, Oeuvre dOrient and Aid to the Church in Need, nominated by Philippe Juvin and 60 other MEPs,
  4. EuroMaidan, represented by Mustafa Nayem, Ruslana Lyzhychko, Yelyzaveta Schepetylnykova and Tetiana Chornovo, nominated by Jacek Saryusz-Wolski and 52 other MEPs,
  5. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, nominated by the EFDD group,
  6. Denis Mukwege, nominated by the S&D and ALDE groups and Barbara Lochbihler, and
  7. Leyla Yunus, nominated by The Greens/EFA group and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Marietje Schaake and Ramon Tremosa.

via Nominees for Sakharov Prize 2014 announced.

Glimmer of hope in Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh’s ban to practice overruled

September 6, 2014

NASRIN_SOTOUDEH_PORTRAIT The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports on 5 September that the Lawyers’ Court denied the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office request for the suspension of Sotoudeh’s license to practice, and stated in a ruling that, “In the opinion of the Lawyer’s Court, Ms. Sotoudeh’s temporary suspension was unwarranted and will be overruled”. According to this ruling Ms. Sotoudeh can continue her profession as a lawyer says her husband Reza Khandan on Facebook.

[Prominent lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh – final nominee of the MEA in 2012 and winner of the Sakharov prize- was arrested on September 4, 2010. A lower court sentenced her to 11 years in prison, a 20-year ban on her legal practice, and a 20-year ban on foreign travel, on charges of “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “membership in the Human Rights Defenders Center.” An appeals court reduced her sentence to six years in prison and a 10-year ban on her legal practice. After almost three years in prison, Nasrin Sotoudeh was released on September 18, 2013. Upon release, Nasrin Sotoudeh objected to the ruling by the Tehran Revolutionary Court to suspend her license to practice law, asserting the Court’s lack of jurisdiction over this matter. She subsequently renewed her license and announced that she would continue her legal practice. However, judges have refused to allow her to appear in court to represent her clients.]

via Ten-Year Ban on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Legal Practice Overruled: Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Returns to Law : International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

for more posts on Sotoudeh: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nasrin-sotoudeh/