On every 10th of December since 2016, France and Germany have presented the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights on Human Rights Day, in recognition of human rights defenders around the world. This year, there is even more reason to celebrate because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 70 years ago.
As part of the events marking the special anniversary, Minister of State Niels Annen and France’s Ambassador to Germany Anne-Marie Descôtes presented the award in Berlin to the Syrian recipient Anwar al-Bunni. The Syrian human rights defender, who has spent time in prison in Syria because of his work, is committed to the legal monitoring of systematic human rights violations. He has been living in Germany since 2014, which is why he was awarded the prize in Berlin. Al-Bunni is one of 15 laureates from 15 countries who work to promote respect for and enforcement of universal human rights and the rule of law.
In his speech, Minister of State Annen praised al-Bunni’s achievements in the fight against impunity in Syria:
Your work helps prevent a false understanding of reconciliation in the form of collective amnesia or silence. It points out that crimes in Syria still need to be prosecuted.
The names of the recipients had already been announced by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on 21 November. They issued the following statement:
In this 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Germany and France have chosen to honour 15 individuals who have campaigned courageously to protect human rights. They stand proxy for the many other human rights defenders whose efforts remain unrecognised and who are often subjected to great iniquities in their fight for justice.
The prizes are being awarded jointly by the German and French ambassadors in the respective home countries of the recipients.
The 2018 laureates are:
Mr Yu Wensheng (China), Ms Aminata Traoré (Côte d’Ivoire), Mr Mohamed Lotfy (Egypt), Mr Alfredo Okenve (Equatorial Guinea), Mr Nityanand Jayaraman (India), Ms Chak Sopheap (Cambodia), Ms Hessen Sayah Corban (Lebanon), Ms Mekfoula Mint Brahim (Mauritania), Mr Daoud Nassar (Palestinian territories), Ms Liz Chicaje Churay (Peru), Mr Oyub Titiev (Russia), Ms Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola (South Africa), Mr Anwar al-Bunni (Syria), Ms Sirikan Charoensiri (Thailand), Ms Susana Raffalli Arismendi (Venezuela)