For immediate release
Geneva, 15 May 2008
Uzbek Human Rights Defender in prison wins 2008 Martin Ennals Award
Today the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders announces as 2008 Laureate:
Mrs. Mutabar Tadjibaeva from Uzbekistan was arrested after having criticized the government's handling of the massacre in Andijan, three years ago in May 2005. On 7 March 2006 she was sentenced to eight year imprisonment on 17 different charges – including “slander” and “membership of an illegal organisation”. In 2006, she was transferred to a psychiatric detention centre and forced to undergo medical treatment. Her health condition is deteriorating due to detention conditions; she is in an extremely precarious situation because of isolation and limited access to her lawyer and relatives. Her life is in danger; she may die in prison.
The tragedy of Andijan, where hundreds of people were killed, should not be forgotten. The Government of Uzbekistan has an historical opportunity to re-establish a dialogue with the international community by releasing Mutabar Tadjibaeva. Uzbekistan 's democratic future is not served by giving priority to political and economic agendas over human rights.
The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen , describes the laureate as “an exceptionally brave woman in a country where standing up for human rights is a dangerous activity which can lead to imprisonment and death; where human rights defenders often have to choose between prison or exile.” He draws attention to the laureate's principled stand to monitor abuses committed by governmental authorities. The ten organizations on the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award demand the immediate release of Mrs Tadjibaeva and the guarantee that she will be safe. The MEA calls on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to use its good offices for this purpose.
From letters written by Mrs Tadjibaeva in prison between August and November 2007 one can see the anguish and suffering: “….I do not want to be forgotten.”; “… They are afraid of my truth, so they torture me this way.”; “… I am holding out as much as I can.”
The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in Geneva on 20 November 2008.
MEA: the main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world's leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS . Previous laureates : Pierre Claver Mbonimpa , Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka (2007); Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga , Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse , Syria; Lida Yusupova , Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina , Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka , DR Congo; Natasha Kandic , Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj , Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo , Nigeria; Asma Jahangir , Pakistan; Harry Wu , China.
Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, Jose Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Robert Fulghum, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje†.