Syrian Human Rights Defender in prison honored with major human rights award in Geneva

October 14, 2010

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders will be officially presented to the 2010 Laureate Muhannad Al-Hassani by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay  at 18h00 on 15 October 2010 in the Victoria Hall of Geneva, during a one hour ceremony.

Muhannad Al-Hassani is the second laureate in the 18-year history of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) not to be able to receive his prize in person. Thus the ceremonyunderlines the undemocratic situation in Syria. The Chairman of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, stated in this context: “Muhannad Al-Hassani is an exemplary lawyer in prison for having challenged the oppressive legal framework. The Government must be given to understand that Syria’s efforts to gain respect in the international community lack credibility as long as it keeps imprisoning those defending human rights”. 

Exclusive film images will also be shown from a filmmaker who contacted the Laureate in prison and filmed in Syria. Concert lute player Yousra Dhahbi will perform in his honour. The mayor of Geneva, Sandrine Salerno, concludes the event.

Muhannad Al-Hassani is a lawyer and outstanding defender of human rights. He is President of the Syrian Organization for Human Rights (Swasiya), which has been denied official registration. On 23 June 2010 the Damascus Criminal Court sentenced Al-Hassani to three years in prison after convicting him of “weakening national sentiment” and “conveying false news that could debilitate the morale of the nation”. In fact Al-Hassani had only publicised the unfair trials of political prisoners calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

The event is co-organised with the City of Geneva, the human rights capital of the world. Swiss Television will record the ceremony led by the journalist Michel Cerutti. As a novelty the ceremony will also be broadcast worldwide on the internet in both Arabic and English (broadcast as from 18h00 GMT at: This added visibility is crucial for the cause of human rights in Syria, and for the protection of the human rights defenders in the region.

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.