Alison Des Forges Prize awards four outstanding human rights defenders

NEWS.- Four relentless and courageous human rights defenders have been awarded the Alison Des Forges Prize during a ceremony held by Human Rights Watch on 10 August 2015, in New York.


Human Rights Watch organized the ceremony attributing the renowned Alison Des Forges Prize which pays tribute to a few remarkable activists who have devoted their lives to the defence of human rights.

The 2015 laureates for this esteemed prize were: Nisha Ayub, famous activist for the defence of transgender rights in Malaysia; Yara Bader, journalist and activist who courageously denounced the detention and torture of journalists in war-torn Syria; Khadija Ismayilova, a well-known investigative journalist who dedicated her life to the defence of human rights in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan; and Nicolas Opiyo, a renowned human rights lawyer and founder of the NGO Uganda Chapter Four, who tirelessly fights for civil liberties in Uganda. It is important to highlight that Ismayilova is currently imprisoned and a victim of government’s prosecution in retaliation for her reporting.

"The Alison Des Forges Prize honors individuals who defend human rights with courage and altruism, in tremendously difficult conditions and at great personal cost," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. He congratulated "[t]he winners [who] have devoted their lives to defend the people who are among the most oppressed and the most vulnerable on the planet."
This prize was first intended to honour Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser who worked for Human Rights Watch for nearly twenty years and died in February 2009 in a plane crash in the state of New York. She was the world's leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide and its aftermath. The prize, awarded annually by Human Rights Watch, is meant to honor her remarkable commitment to human rights. Today, it celebrates the courage of individuals who risk their lives to build a world free of violence, discrimination and oppression.

In addition to those four human rights heroes, the prize also paid tribute to two 2014 winners, Father Bernard Kinvi, a Central African priest and Dr. Rajagopal, an Indian doctor. An annual dinner organized by Human Rights Watch, called "Voices for justice", will be held in more than twenty cities worldwide between November 2015 and March-April 2016. Nisha Ayub will be honored in Amsterdam; Yara Bader in London and Paris; Khadija Ismayilova in Munich and Geneva; and Nicholas Opiyo in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Father Kinvi will tour in North America and will be honored at dinners in New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Toronto. Dr. Rajagopal will be honored in Hanover.

The 2015 laureates’ achievements

Nisha Ayub, Malaysia

For over ten years, Nisha Ayub campaigned for the rights of transgender people in Malaysia, with the introduction of personal assistance programs for their inclusion in legal and political agendas, and for the promotion of public awareness campaigns. Human Rights Watch honors Nisha Ayub for the fight against discriminatory laws that prevent transgender Malaysians to lead a life free of violence, fear and oppression.

Yara Bader, Syria
In a war-torn Syria, Yara Bader, journalist and activist, is working to denounce the detention and torture of activists - including her husband. She
herself experienced the way the Syrian government uses its intelligence and security services to repress independent voices with brutality. Human Rights Watch honors Yara Bader for the extraordinary courage with which she speaks on behalf of Syrian detainees, despite serious threats to her own safety.

Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan
Khadija Ismayilova, famous investigative journalist in Azerbaijan, has dedicated her life to the fight against corruption, the promotion of human rights and the release of political prisoners in a country which is ruled by an authoritarian regime. Human Rights Watch honors Khadija Ismayilova for the extraordinary courage she demonstrated as a journalist and activist facing a growing repression of freedom of information in Azerbaijan.

Nicolas Opiyo, Uganda
Nicolas Opiyo is a renowned human rights lawyer and founder of the NGO Uganda Chapter Four. He successfully claimed the unconstitutionality of several laws, including the famous 2013 anti-homosexuality law deemed null and void in August 2014. Human Rights Watch honors Nicolas Opiyo for his tireless commitment to the defense of rights human of all Ugandans and the promotion of universal access to justice.

Father Bernard Kinvi, Central African Republic
Father Bernard Kinvi is a Catholic priest who heads the hospital's Catholic mission Bossemptele in the Central African Republic. In early 2014, when sectarian violence erupted and generated abuses against Muslims civilians, Father Kinvi saved the lives of hundreds of persecuted Muslim by retrieving them in the Catholic mission. Despite numerous death threats, Kinvi continued to protect them until they could be evacuated to a safer place. Human Rights Watch honors father Bernard Kinvi for his unflinching courage and dedication to the cause of protecting civilians in the CAR.

Dr. R. Rajagopal, India
Dr. R. Rajagopal is a renowned Indian physician, a palliative care specialist, who struggled for more than twenty years to improve the lives of patients in severe pain. As a clinician, academic and activist, MR Rajagopal plays a leading role in efforts to promote palliative care and to recognize it as a human right. He set up a hospice program in local communities and, with his organization Pallium India, played a key role in the campaign with the Indian government to make morphine more accessible. Human Rights Watch honors Dr. R. Rajagopal for his commitment to defending the right of patients in severe pain to live and die with dignity.

Human Rights Watch. Hommage à des défenseurs des droits humains. Le Prix Alison Des Forges est décerné à quatre lauréats d’Ouganda, de Syrie, de Malaisie et d’Azerbaïdjan. Published on August 10th 2015.