Martin Ennals Award: 2014 final nominees announced

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The final nominees are Alejandra Ancheita (Mexico), Adilur Rahman Khan (Bangladesh) and Cao Shunli (China),  who died shortly after her nomination. The ICJ is a member of the jury.

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is the main award of the human rights movement and as such can be labelled as the Nobel Price for human rights.

It is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.

This award is selected by the International Human Rights Community (members of the jury are ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, EWDE Germany, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS).

It is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk.The aim of the award is to highlight their work and protect them through increased visibility.

The 2014 Award will be presented on Oct. 7th at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

Alejandra Ancheita (Mexico) is the Founder and Executive Director of ProDESC.

For over 15 years she has worked with migrants, workers, and indigenous communities to protect their land and labour rights vis a vis transnational mining and energy companies.

These disputes have included violent attacks on those she is trying to protect. She is also one of the pioneers in seeking accountability for transnational companies in Mexican courts when local communities’ rights are not taken into account.

In Mexico, there is a clear pattern of attacks, threats, criminalization, and murders of human rights defenders.

Alejandra Ancheita and ProDESC have been subjected to surveillance, a defamation campaign in the national media, and a break in at their offices.

“This recognition calls attention to the increasing violence being suffered by human rights defenders in Mexico, particularly women defenders,” she said. “I hope that it provides better conditions and increased security not just for me, but for all human rights defenders in my country.”

Adilur Rahman Khan (Bangladesh) has worked since the 1990’s on a wide range of human rights issues, such as illegal detention, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings.

His organization, Odhikar, is one of the few independent voices left in Bangladesh.

Personally, he is facing criminal prosecution for documenting the extrajudicial deaths of 61 people during demonstrations against the government.

In August 2013, he was detained by police with no arrest warrant, who then at first denied holding him. Immediate widespread publicity is credited with saving his life.

Currently, his organization is facing closure. Donor funds destined for Odhikar are being blocked by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Adilur Khan said: “my nomination for this prestigious award will further inspire me personally, and my fellow colleagues who shoulder the struggles for democracy and the rule of law aiming to achieve social justice in Bangladesh. As a symbol of recognition for the human rights defenders it will enhance the visibility and protection for the families of the victims of human rights abuses.”

Cao Shunli (China)’s death in detention was announced on March 14th. She disappeared on Sept 14th shortly before boarding a flight order to participate in the Human Rights Council.Chinese authorities only acknowledged her detention months later.

She died in custody after being denied medical attention for known health conditions until it was too late.Since 2008, she vigorously advocated for access to information, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

For this, she spent over two years in the “re-education through labour” system and was subjected to repeated harassment.

This is a tragic example of reprisals suffered by human rights defenders who work with international human rights mechanisms. 

“The Human Rights Council, its President and other UN Member States must now support an independent investigation into her death, and hold China accountable for this reprehensible reprisal against a committed and peaceful human rights defender,” said Michael Ineichen of the International Service for Human Rights.

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