ANNOUNCEMENT NOMINEES MEA 2010
On 13 March 2010, Mr. Eric Sottas, as representative of the World Organisation Against Torture on the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award, announced the names of the four nominees of the Martin Ennals Award 2010 during the closing of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva:
Mr. Sottas recalled the objectives of the Martin Ennals Award, gave a detailed definition of a Human Rights Defender (HRDs) and the increasing difficulties of HRDs to continue their work in today’s world. He ended his presentation by some information about each nominee stressing the reasons for their selection and why they are in urgent need of protection.
CEREMONY OF THE MEA 2008 – SPEECHES OF HANS THOOLEN AND MUTABAR TADJIBAEVA.
Speaking Notes Hans Thoolen, chair MEA
Excellencies and dear friends, This is an exceptional meeting for an even more exceptional woman. It is not for nothing that the Jury of the Award – composed of the 10 most significant human rights organizations in the world – came very quickly to an unanimous decision to grant her the award for 2008. We did so on 15 May, and two weeks later she was freed from prison. And I know that it was not just us; many organizations and governments had been pressurizing the Uzbek government to let her go. Then we feared she would not be with us tonight in person as the conditions of her release were strict. But again, pressure from many quarters turned the tide and in October, she was allowed to come to Europe for medical care, badly needed as a result of the treatment received in detention.
I now normally start thanking people, but this year the list is too long. Moreover, it is not necessary as the Ville de Genève, has printed excellent documentation listing all the NGOs on the Jury, the donors, partners, as well as previous winners of the Martin Ennals Award.
What the MEA has always wanted to achieve is that its Laureates become better protected AND are better able to do their crucial work. This seems be very much the case this year. Mutabar has galvanized the Uzbek human rights movement. Her travel program in Europe – in spite of her medical condition – is sufficient testimony: Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brussels, Norway, Sweden and France. Everywhere she was received by ministers, high officials, NGOs and Uzbek communities. Everywhere she spoke forcefully and without fear, although she knows that she may have to pay a high price later. I want to thank all those who made these trips possible, particularly her tireless assistant Marina and our Coordinator, Luis Marreiros. Mutabar asked all hosts to contribute to her travel costs, because she wants to use as much as possible of the prize money of the MEA to set up a program for political prisoners in Uzbekistan.
I want to mention specially the partnership with the Ville de Genève which this year has become very intense. Although the Martin Ennals Award will stay fully independent as the award of the whole non-governmental human rights movement, we welcome this close cooperation as Geneva is foremost the main international centre for human rights. The most international of human rights awards belongs here. In addition to this beautiful building and tonight’s reception, the Ville de Genève is giving direct support to human rights defenders, such as precious medical assistance to Mutabar.
I also salute most warmly as new partners Swiss Television and the European Broadcasting Union, who ensure that today’s event is professionally recorded and broadcast. The Martin Ennals Award is entering its 15th year of existence with new and crucial support from local authorities and the media. This long process of maturing, like wine, makes for a potent drink, fortifying human rights defenders around the world, and so strong that it gives headaches to dictators.
The film was commissioned by the Martin Ennals Foundation to True Heroes Foundation. The images will inform and shock. We start with a close up of the Laureate, Mutabar Tadjibaeva.
Mutabar Tajibayeva's speech
Good evening Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Dear representatives of the Martin Ennals Award and representatives from others organizations, thanks to you it is not only possible to organize this honorable award, but also my participation here, in today's Ceremony as the winner of Martin Ennals Award.
My way to Geneva was long and difficult. It was through detentions, through jails, camps, through surgery rooms in prisons and hospitals, and then, house arrest.
In all honesty, during the two years and eight months spent in prison, I did not think that my suffering would lead me to the center of Europe; I did not think one day I would be with you here, in Geneva where I ca speak about human rights, without danger, something necessary and honorable.
Being in a women’s prison in Tashkent, to which I was sentenced for eight years for my human rights activity, I did not think, I could not imagine, that I would get out alive. As one of the witnesses of the events which led to the Andijan uprising in May 13th, 2005 when the government troops opened fire against peaceful demonstrators, I thought I would never be free. I believed that the government did not want us, witnesses of Andijan massacre, to be free or alive.
Several times in prison I said goodbye to my life. Especially when I was sent to a punishment cell during the frosty winters of 2006 and 2007. Also when they forced to me to the surgery room, without telling me the reason, then I was convinced that they were going to kill me.
Even during those difficult and hopeless days of my life, I was thinking about other victims, victims like me of a dictatorial regime, not ten or hundred, but thousands. Today, I can say, the whole Uzbek nation is the victim of the regime. They are absolutely not free.
According to International and Uzbek human rights organizations there are approximately a thousand political prisoners in Uzbekistan. Some are members of the political opposition, others are religious prisoners; there also human rights activists and journalists.
Dictatorial regimes can easily destroy people’s lives, families and even a whole nation. Today the world can observe this in my country, in Uzbekistan.
What can we do against this; against the repressive machine of the state? Sometimes I think we can do nothing. But, I have never surrendered; I always trusted and continue to have faith in a society where human rights are respected, where there is justice, where the person can live adequately.
It seems I am not alone, that I am not completely alone. There are so many kind people in the world, I think they are not indifferent to other people’s rights, they are not indifferent about the situation in Uzbekistan. Thanks to such people I am free now and traveling through Europe, in Geneva for receiving the prestigious Martin Ennals Award.
While expressing my profound gratitude for your help and support, I would like to tell you that, unfortunately, my release from prison doesn't show the progress of human rights in Uzbekistan. Five days after my release the journalist and human rights activist Solijon Abdarahmonov was detained. A month later another colleague, Agzam Turgunov was also arrested. Both of them were sentenced to ten years in October. I am sure the number of victims of the regime, the number of arrested people is far more, ten times more.
Nevertheless, there is also a positive sign. My release from prison proved that solidarity and unity in struggle for human rights bring results.
You have all together freed me from a torture island belonging to one of the most severe regimes in the world. I think that through continued struggle, we can get liberty for other dissidents in Uzbekistan who are still in jail.
I am again free and resolutely ready to defend all kind, human and fair people in my Uzbekistan. Thanks for it to all of you, thanks to the NGOs on the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award and to what they represent.
The Martin Ennals Foundation welcomes the appointment of Mrs Margaret Sekaggya, Chair of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (here pictured together with the Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation at a training course in Uganda on 22 April 2008)”.