Iranian Human Rights Defender banned from receiving major human rights award in Geneva

November 2, 2009

Emad Baghi has become the first laureate in the 18-year history of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) not to be allowed to receive his prize in person. Thus the ceremony,held in Geneva on 2 November, acquires a special urgency in drawing the attention of the international community to the situation in Iran. The Chairman of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Hans Thoolen, stated in this context: “If the Government fears already a writer who argues in favour of more respect for human rights on the basis of Islamic teachings, one can see how it deals with any dissenting voices.” A press conference is held on 2 November at 14h00 in the Palais Eynard of Geneva by the organizers.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will present the award to a representative of Emad Baghi and opera star Barbara Hendricks will perform in his honour. Exclusive film images will also be shown from a filmmaker who met earlier in Iran with the Laureate.

The event is co-organised with the Municipality of Geneva, the human rights capital of the world, and starts at 18h00 in the prestigious Victoria Hall. Swiss Television will record the whole ceremony led by the journalist Michel Cerutti.

Emad Baghi, a theologian and writer, has the courage to stand up for his conviction that the Qur’an does condone neither the death penalty nor arbitrary killings and detention. He has steadfastly tried to make public his views without ever advocating violence. He and his family have been subject to a barrage of judicial and quasi-judicial measures but the force of his argument, totally based on religious and academic discourse, has also earned him respect among the clerics and allowed some of his books and articles to be published.

The MEA, a unique collaboration among 10 of the world’s leading human rights organizations, is the award of the whole human rights movement. The JURY is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights, Front Line and HURIDOCS.