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“Your courage inspires others with courage!”

Foreign Minister Maas and French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette with the prizewinner Luz Mely Reyes

Foreign Minister Maas and French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette  with the prizewinner Luz Mely Reyes , © photothek.net

10.12.2019 - Article

To mark the Human Rights Day, every 10 December since 2016 Germany and France have jointly presented the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law to 15 human rights defenders.

By awarding this prize, France and Germany are sending a clear signal of their commitment to human rights and their collaboration in this field.

Foreign Minister Maas and French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette presented the award to prizewinner Luz Mely Reyes from Venezuela at the Federal Foreign Office today.

Heiko Maas said during the ceremony:

Your courage inspires others with courage!

Here are some of the 2019 laureates:

El-Nadeem Center, Egypt

The El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture was founded in 1993. Four founders, psychiatrists by training, are running the center: Drs. Suzan Fayad, Magda Adly, Mona Hamed, Aida Seif El Dawla, supported by a team of administrative staff, foremost Ms. Dai Rahmy. Since its foundation El-Nadeem has provided psychological and rehabilitation support to about 5500 survivors of torture and violence in all its forms, both Egyptian, refugees and asylum seekers in addition to those who received our support outside the boundaries of the clinic, either in hospitals, at home or in prisons.  Despite the closure of the clinic by Egyptian authorities in 2017, El-Nadeem continues to support survivors, and will continue to do so in order to shed light on the scope of torture in Egypt and its effects on the Egyptian people.

Ameha Mekonnen Asfaw, Ethiopia

Ameha Mekonnen Asfaw, born in 1969, has been devoting his entire career to the defense of human rights defenders. Journalists, bloggers, activists and opposition politicians in particular can come to him for legal advice. As chairman of the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (HRCO), as well as in his position of founder and director of the two NGOs Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and Network of Digital Rights in Ethiopia (NGRE), he advocates the protection of human rights in his country. In addition, he is also a law lecturer at Unity University, Addis Ababa University and St. Mary's University College, sharing his knowledge with young lawyers.

Ales Bialiatski, Belarus

Ales Bialiatski, born in 1962, has been fighting for democracy in Belarus since the 1980s. Since 1996, he has headed the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, one of the most important human rights organizations in Belarus. Previously, he was director of the literary museum “Maxim Bogdanovich” in Minsk. Bialiatski is also a writer, author of many stories and essays and an active member of the Belarussian Literature Center PEN. As a former Vice President of the International Society for Human Rights (IGMR), he was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014 as a political prisoner. Since his release, obtained after an international solidarity campaign, he lives in Minsk.

Li Wenzu, China

Li Wenzu is the wife of Wang Quanzhang, a Chinese human rights lawyer, who has been arrested during the so called 709-crackdown, a wave of arrests directed against Chinese human rights lawyers and activists that started on 9 July 2015. After more than three and a half years detention at an unknown destination he has been sentenced to a prison sentence of four and a half years end of January 2019. Since the detention of her husband, Li works with the families of other affected lawyers and activists. She peacefully stands up with braveness, commitment and creativity for the release of Wang and the other arrested lawyers. She advocates for the respect of Chinese law and for the rule of law. During this process, Li Wenzu and other family members experienced harassment, threats and arrests. Her commitment raised also internationally awareness of the situation of the Chinese human rights lawyers.

Robin Chaurasiya, India

Robin Chaurasiya is co-founder of Kranti, an NGO which empowers girls from Mumbai’s red-light areas to become agents of social change. Kranti supports girls (ages 13-23) who are survivors of trafficking or daughters of sex workers from Kamathipura, one of Asia’s most infamous red-light areas. In 2016, Kranti's alternative school was named a Top 10 for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. Kranti girls are currently studying in Rome, Chicago, Washington, and Los Angeles. Besides living full time at the Kranti shelter home, Robin also dedicates her “spare” time to working on a range of issues for women’s, children’s, and LGBTQIA rights.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran

Nasrin Sotoudeh is an Iranian lawyer and human rights defender. Born in 1963, Sotoudeh is known for defending victims of violence, especially women and children, as well as journalists and activists. Through her personal commitment she is exposed. In 2006, she sued police officers who used violence against demonstrators on Woman’s Day. In 2017, she defended several of the so-called “women of Enghelab Street”, who had protested against forced veiling. Due to her work, Nasrin Sotoudeh has been repeatedly convicted and is currently imprisoned in Evin Prison for a 33-year prison sentence. Nasrin Sotoudeh received the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of the European Parliament.

Amina Hanga, Nigeria

Amina Hanga is the executive secretary of the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI) since the organization’s foundation in Kano, northern Nigeria, in 2009. IWEI's main focus is the empowerment of women and the education of children. Amina has also organized meetings of the BringBackOurGirls movement in Kano and campaigns against sexual and gender-based violence. In 2014, the John Diefenbaker Canadian Award distinguished the Girls not Brides Global Partnership and two members of the network: Amina Hanga received the award on behalf of IWEI.

Miluska del Carmen Luzquiños Tafur, Peru

Miluska del Carmen Luzquiños Tafur, born Ricardo Antonio, is a human rights advocate for transgender people at the local, national and regional levels. Victim of transphobia and gender-based violence, she decided to become a well-known activist and figure of the LGBTI community. She began by coordinating local networks in Peru and by raising awareness among the judicial and legislative authorities to questions of gender identity, hate crimes and the dynamics of the transgender population. She is the founder and director of several organizations committed to the rights of transsexuals in Latin America.

Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Philippines

Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso was the Secretary-General of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) from June 1998 to July 2019, and the contact person for International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance (ICAED) from 2010 to 2019. From 1992 to 2001, she also served as secretary-general and later deputy chair of the Philippine non-governmental organization Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND). Ms. Diez-Bacalso's husband disappeared in November 1988 at the height of an anti-communist campaign led by the Philippine government. She was detained, severely tortured and later released. This inspired her to work with victims of violent disappearance. In 2013, she received the Patrick Rice Human Rights Award from the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition and the Argentine Government's Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize.

Delphine Djiraïbé Kemneloum, Chad

Delphine Djiraïbé Kemneloum, born in 1960, is a Chadian lawyer and human rights activist. On June 16, 1991, she founded the Chadian Association for the Propagation and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH), and in 2004 she received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her work. In 2006, she founded her law firm and the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) with the aim of making justice accessible to all and providing training for lawyers in women's rights, children's rights and marriage and inheritance law. She has been working on the Chad-Cameroon Oil and Pipeline Project since its inception and has been advocating social, economic, and environmental rights in Chad and for World Bank accountability and corporate responsibility in the disbursement of oil revenues. In 2014, the French ambassador to Chad awarded Dolphine Djiraïbé the French National Order of Merit Ordre national du Mérite in the rank of an officer. Since 2012, she has also been President of the Chadian Committee for Peace and Reconciliation (CSAPR).

Asena Günal, Turkey

Asena Günal, born in 1973, is a human rights defender and an activist of women’s rights, memory work and artistic freedom of expression. Günal was an editor at İletişim Publishing House and has been working as the Program Coordinator of Depo since its foundation, a center for arts and culture in Istanbul. She is a co-founder of Siyah Bant, a documentation platform on arts censorship cases, and was a fellow at Columbia University in 2014. Günal has served as the Executive Director of Anadolu Kültür after the arrest of Osman Kavala, the founder and former director in 2017. Anadolu Kültür has been carrying out projects on cultural diversity and rights, by supporting local initiatives and international dialogue including with Armenia and creating spaces for Kurdish language and culture.

Luz Mely Reyes, Venezuela

Luz Mely Reyes was born in Petare, one of the poorest districts of Caracas. After her studies in journalism, she became the first woman to be publisher and head of a national newspaper in Venezuela. She is currently the director of a team of investigative journalists for the online media Efecto Cocuyo. This independent media reports rigorously on current investigations and politically sensitive topics. In 2018, she received in New York the International Prize of the freedom of the press granted each year by the committee for the protection of journalists and she was designated as one of the “personality of the year” by Time Magazine. Luz Mely Reyes contributes to the improvement of the right to information in Venezuela, despite difficult conditions in a dangerous context.

Vu Quoc Ngu, Vietnam

Vu Quoc Ngu has been working for the Defend the Defenders organization since 2013, in which he continuously campaigns for the rights of human rights defenders. In 2015, he becomes the director of this authors' collective, which publishes reports on topics such as the rule of law, corruption and environmental protection, as these are only passed on to a limited extent by the state media. In October 2017, Ngu decides to leave his country because of increasing pressure. Abroad, he continues his work for Defend the Defenders. He is also involved with the Vietnam Independent Civil Organizations Network and the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam. Ngu also supports multilateral human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review and the ICCPR Review from a civil society perspective.

Irina Biryukoya, Russia

Since 2013, Irina Biryukoya has been accredited to the Russian Ministry of Justice as an independent expert in the fight against corruption for draft legislation. She specializes in the protection of the rights of foreigners and stateless persons, refugees and asylum seekers as well as victims of state violence. She worked with the NGO Civil Assistance for 10 years to support refugees and migrants, in cooperation with the UNHCR. Since October 2016, she has been working for the Public Verdict Foundation, a non-profit organization providing legal assistance for the protection of human rights for citizens who have suffered unlawful acts by Russian law enforcement agencies. In 2019, she received the Moscow Helsinki Group Award for courage in the protection of human rights.

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