(New York, October 27, 2005) — Human Rights Watch’s highest honor in 2005, the Human Rights Defender Award, will go to three courageous human rights activists from around the globe whose efforts illustrate major human rights challenges in the world today.
The three honorees for this year illustrate the limits of freedom of _expression in the Middle East, the massive “ethnic cleansing” and injustice in Darfur, Sudan, and the plight of HIV/AIDS affected women in Africa. Human Rights Watch’s global rights defender awardees for 2005 are:
* Omid Memarian, a journalist and web-blogger from Iran,
* Salih Mahmoud Osman, a lawyer and human rights activist from Darfur, and
* Beatrice Were, an advocate for the rights of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
“Our 2005 honorees exemplify the highest ideals of the human rights cause—courage, objectivity, and an unflinching commitment to justice,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They work relentlessly, often in dangerous environments, to bring abuses to light and to fight to preserve human rights in their regions.”
Human Rights Watch staff work closely with the Human Rights Defenders as part of our human rights investigations in more than 70 countries around the world. The 2005 Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners where the defenders will be honored will take place in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Chicago and Toronto. “All three of this year’s honorees send a powerful message to governments that serious human right violations must end,” said Roth. “They are an inspiration to all of us.”
Background on the 2005 Human Rights Watch Honorees: Beatrice Were, Uganda Beatrice Were is a leading Ugandan advocate for the rights of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. One of the first Ugandan women to openly declare her HIV status, Ms. Were founded a grass-roots support organization, the National Community of Women Living with AIDS.
After she lost her husband to HIV/AIDS in 1991, Ms. Were gained first-hand knowledge of the problems of a widow living with AIDS. Having almost lost her property and children to her husband’s family, she became an activist to prevent other women suffering from this fate. Ms. Were also established the Memory Book project to help mothers with AIDS prepare their children for orphan-hood by recording family memories and talking openly about their HIV status. Ms. Were is a strong critic of U.S.-funded “abstinence-until-marriage” programs which censor factual and sexually explicit HIV/AIDS information for young people.
More information can be found at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/10/25/uganda11920.htm Omid Memarian, Iran Omid Memarian belongs to a new generation of human rights activists who creatively challenge political repression through the internet. He is a journalist, a web-blogger, and a civil society activist who has pushed the limits of freedom of _expression in Iran by using the internet, and who has been persecuted for his efforts. Mr. Memarian worked as a journalist in Iran for reformist newspapers until the Iranian government shut down these papers. He was arrested because of his defense of human rights in October 2004 and put in solitary confinement where he was tortured repeatedly and forced to make false confessions.
Following protests from the international community, including Human Rights Watch, Mr. Memarian was released in December 2004. Mr. Memarian has worked with Human Rights Watch online to expose arbitrary detentions, torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Iran.
More information can be found at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/10/26/iran11923.htm Salih Mahmoud Osman, Sudan Salih Mahmoud Osman is a Darfur-based lawyer who works with the Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT) to contest torture and arbitrary detention. For twenty years he has defended and given free legal aid to Sudanese of all ethnicities and political stances, including those who have been persecuted by the government.
Mr. Osman was arrested and detained without charge or trial for seven months in 2004 by Sudanese security forces. He was released after going on a hunger strike. Mr. Osman continues to defend civil and political rights in Darfur and Khartoum, Sudan. In investigating ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Human Rights Watch worked closely with Mr. Osman, who took on this work at great personal risk to himself and his family.
Human Rights Watch Press release