Three Human Rights Defenders selected as Finalists for the Martin Ennals Award 2016

April 27, 2016

This award is selected by the International Human Rights Community (See Jury Below) and given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and courage in the face of personal risk. The aim of the award is to highlight their work and protect them through increased visibility.


Zone 9 Bloggers

They stated: “We are extremely humbled to be nominated for the Martin Ennals Award. This recognition raises our visibility enough to increase our safety, and also shows that the World is the home of the same family. It is proof that when one part of the world is silenced, the rest will speak on behalf of it. This recognition will definitely motivate us to push forward on our struggle to create a better Ethiopia where human rights are respected.”Kality prison in Ethiopia, which holds many journalists and political prisoners, has 8 zones. Zone 9 selected their name as a symbol for Ethiopia as a whole where political freedoms are severely restricted. They write opinion pieces and feature articles that focus on the constitution, economic, educational and cultural issues. They document human rights abuses and violations of law by both state and non-state actors. Furthermore, they shed light on the situation of political prisoners in Ethiopia. Two weeks after creating their blog, it was blocked. Two years later six of its members were arrested and charged with terrorism. Although they have now been released, three are in exile while those still in Ethiopia are banned from travel.


Ilham Tohti

Ilham Tohti

From his daughter, “My father Ilham Tohti has used only one weapon in his struggle for the basic rights of the Uyghurs of Xinjiang: Words. Spoken, written, distributed, and posted. This is all he has ever had at his disposal, and all that he has ever needed. And this is what China found so threatening. A person like him doesn’t deserve to be in prison for even a day.”A renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, he has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture. Beginning in 1994, he began to write about problems and abuses in Xinjiang, which led to official surveillance. From 1999 to 2003 he was barred from teaching, and arrested in 2009 after posting information on Uyghurs who had been arrested, killed and “disappeared” during and after protests. Ilham Tohti was arrested on January 15, 2014. He was charged with separatism and sentenced to life imprisonment after a two-day trial.


Razan Zaitouneh

Razan Zaitouneh 

Her sister, Rana Zaitouneh said, “Despite her absence, Razan continues to make an impact, inspiring others to stand against their oppressors in the quest for freedom. Her allegiance is to freedom from oppression and fear. And now her own freedom has been taken. Her voice has been silenced. Razan has always believed that all people are equal. She was determined that no one should be forgotten. I am resolved that she will not be forgotten.”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. This resulted in a travel ban in 2002. Following the beginning of the conflict in 2011, she founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents the death toll and ill-treatment in Syria’s prisons. With the VDC, she compiled lists of the detained, the executed, and the disappeared. On December 9, 2013, a group of masked gunmen stormed the VDC office in Douma, near Damascus, and kidnapped Razan along with her husband, Wael Hamada, and two colleagues. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The Award will be presented on October. 11th at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

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,
  • FIDH – Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders,
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights,

Electronic version:

For further information, please contact: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208 or visit