Laureates & Finalists
Zone 9 is a collective of nine independent Amharic language bloggers who aim “to create independent narratives” in the east African country of Ethiopia. Their moto is “We blog because we care”.
Razan Zaitouneh is a prominent human rights lawyer, activist, and journalist in Syria. Razan has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting crimes against humanity, and helping others free themselves from oppression and starvation.
lham Tohti is a renowned Uyghur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, despite an environment of religious, cultural, and political repression suffered by Uyghurs.
United Arab Emirates
Ahmed Mansoor is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country.
Asmaou Diallo’s human rights work started following the events of 28 September 2009 when the Guinean military attacked peaceful demonstrators. Over 150 were killed, including her oldest son, and over 100 women raped.
Since his first year of University in 1974, Robert Sann Aung has courageously fought against human rights abuses. He has been repeatedly imprisoned in harsh conditions, physically attacked as well as regularly threatened. His education was interrupted numerous times and he was disbarred from 1993 – 2012. Throughout his career he has provided legal services, or just advice, often pro bono, to those whose rights have been affected.
Alejandra Ancheita, the founder and Executive Director of the Mexico City-based ProDESC (The Project of Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights), is a Mexican lawyer and activist who leads the fight for the rights of the migrants, workers, and indigenous communities of her native country to dramatically raise their standard of living.
Adilur Rahman Khan is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, a former Deputy Attorney General for Bangladesh (October 2001 – May 2007) and a founder and the Secretary of the human rights organisation Odhikar.
Cao Shunli was a Chinese activist who lost her life in the struggle to build a more just society. From 2008 until her enforced disappearance on September 14, 2013, Cao Shunli vigorously advocated for access to information, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
The Joint Mobile Group seeks accountability for human rights abuses in Chechnya, notably enforced disappearances, torture in custody, and extra-judicial executions. Following the murders in 2009 of Natalia Estemirova, Zarema Saydulayeva, and Alik Dzhabrailov who were investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya, it became even more dangerous to work there. The existing organizations were forced to stop their work. In response, Igor Kalyapin, who heads the Committee Against Torture (CAT), structured a new approach.
Mona was raised in a family of human rights defenders. Her father Ahmed Seif El Islam is a respected Human Rights Lawyer who spent five years in prison under the Mubarak regime. In 2011 her brother Alaa faced military trial, but refused to cooperate until his case was transferred from a military trial to a cvilian one. He was released shortly thereafter.
Mario Joseph, who has been referred to as “Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer”, has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti since 1996.
The Venerable Luon Sovath, Cambodia. In March 2009, Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk from Siem Reap, Cambodia witnessed his family and fellow villagers being forcibly evicted from their homes. Forced evictions remove families from their homes, often with no compensation.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is internationally recognized for its work on documenting human rights abuses in Bahrain.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a woman lawyer from Iran, is currently serving an 11-year sentence on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the State’, ‘collusion and gathering with the aim of acting against national security’ and ‘membership in an illegal organization’.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, is an Ugandan LGBT activist and founder/Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, one of the main lesbian, bisexual and transgender women rights organization in the country. She has been continuously fighting for the rights of the marginalized communities.
If one feature stands out in Al-Hassani’s character it is probably his resilience. The organisation he founded in 2004, Swasiya (the Syria Organisation for Human Rights), of which he is President, has been denied official registration by the Syrian authorities for the past six years. Despite knowing that he was under surveillance over the years, and risked being arrested at any moment, Al-Hassani continued to report on the State Supreme Security Court’s proceedings as these reports were vital for the UN and international NGOs monitoring human rights in Syria.
Emadeddin Baghi is a human rights defender, a theologian, a writer and journalist, based in Tehran, Iran. Since the 1980s, Baghi has advocated for the peaceful improvement to the human rights situation in Iran.
On 7 October 2005, Mutabar Tadjibaeva was arrested on her way to Tashkent airport, to catch a connecting flight to Dublin, Ireland, where she was due to attend an international conference on human rights defenders. She was taken to Tashkent prison and would spend the next several months in solitary confinement.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is a Burundian human rights defender known for his defense of prisoners’ rights and relentless condemnation of torture. In December 1994, while working as police officer in Burundi, Mbonimpa was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment on false accusations.
Kopalasingham Sritharan is a Tamil Human Rights defender and co-founder of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) at Jaffna University in 1988.
Rajan Hoole is a Sri Lankan human rights defender from the northern Tamil town of Jaffna. As co-founder of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), he is known for his unbiased documentation of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
Only a year after publishing a collection of his newspaper articles entitled Dungeon of Ghosts (1999) Akbar Ganji, a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps turned investigative journalist, had become Iran’s public enemy number one. His book exposed Iran’s leading political figures at the heart of a conspiracy which had liquidated many of Iran’s intellectuals, writers and dissidents.
A Zimbabwean human rights defender and lawyer described as ‘fearless’ and ‘tenacious’, Arnold Tsunga is the founder and former Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). Under Mugabe and during the 2000s, Tsunga was the target of numerous campaigns of aggression and assault for his human rights work. He is currently the Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Africa Regional Programme.
After more than a decade struggling for human rights in Syria, on December 1989, Aktham Naisse co-founded the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (CDF). The first of its kind in Syria, CDF quickly began defending political prisoners, denouncing Syria’s longstanding 1963 Emergency Law and calling for political reforms.
Lidia Yusupova is the Coordinator of the Moscow-based human rights organization ‘Memorial’ and the former director of its Grozny office. She is an internationally recognized human rights defender known for her defense of Chechnya’s victims of war and internally displaced refugees.
Under constant harassment and intimidation, Colombian human rights defender, Alirio Uribe Muñoz, literally lives in “shadow of death” – so much so that when he gives public lectures he is accompanied by guards from Peace Brigade International (PBI).
Moudeina was severely wounded and barely kept alive in the local hospital. She would spend the next 15 months in and out of rehabilitation in France. It is remarkable that on 11 April 2002, while still in recovery, Moudeina was able to accept in person the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders at a ceremony in Geneva, in the context of the North-South Media festival.
Peace Brigades International (PBI) is an international NGO committed to non-violent social change through the promotion and protection of human rights. PBI has a dedicated network of international volunteers who accompany human rights defenders in conflict zones and provide training on conflict resolution.
Co-founder and president of the organization Promotion et appui aux initiatives féminines (PAIF), created in 1993, Immaculée Birhaheka is nowadays one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) leading women’s rights advocates.
Natasha Kandic’s unrelenting dedication to unraveling the truth behind wartime atrocities is perhaps only overshadowed by her acclaimed investigation of the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide, during which more than 8 000 Bosniak men ad boys were massacred by the Bosnian Serb Army. In September 2005 she received the honorary citizenship of the City of Sarajevo, an exceptional gesture by a Bosnian city to a Serb national.
On 17 December 2013, Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, Palestinian psychiatrist and Commissioner-General of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, passed away in Gaza.
Pablo Romo, a Dominican priest and colleague of Bishop Ruiz, said that “He made the word of God accessible to the people.” Known as the “Tatic”, meaning “father” in the Mayan language, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia was the reverend of Mexican indigenous communities and its most dedicated defender of rights and freedoms.
Clement Nwankwo, is pioneering Nigerian human rights defender and the founder of Nigeria’s first human rights organization, Constitutional Rights Project (CRP). He has worked for more than two decades promoting human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria.
Following in the footsteps of her father, Malik Jilani, a former Pakistani civil servant turned reformist politician, Asma Jahangir has dedicated her life to protecting human rights, and especially the rights of women, religious minorities and children. A lawyer by profession, she is today one of the world’s foremost human rights experts.
Harry Wu, is a former Chinese political prisoner who spent 19 years in the infamous laogai slave-labor camp. A US-citizen since 1995, he has dedicated his post-laogai life to human rights and unveiling the truth behind the bamboo curtain.