Friday 30 September 2016

On the front line - defenders of human rights chosen for award

Laura Larkin

Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30

From left: Members of the jury panel Noeline Blackwell of Front Line Defenders, TD Brendan Smith, founder of Front Line Defenders Mary Lawlor, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Senator Ivana Bacik, who selected six finalists for the 2016 award Photo: Leon Farrell
From left: Members of the jury panel Noeline Blackwell of Front Line Defenders, TD Brendan Smith, founder of Front Line Defenders Mary Lawlor, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Senator Ivana Bacik, who selected six finalists for the 2016 award Photo: Leon Farrell

Campaigners working to promote human rights around the world, despite persecution and death threats, have been selected for a prestigious Irish award.

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Six finalists have been selected for the 2016 Front Line Defenders award for their contributions to the fight for women's rights, land rights and educational reform in their respective countries.

Those selected for the award have all faced hardship and persecution for their work, including a Honduran activist who, as the nominees were being unveiled in Ireland, was believed to have been subject to an armed raid. Ana Mirian Romero is a land rights and indigenous rights defender in Honduras.

The latest attack comes after her house was burned to the ground and her children were forced to leave school due to ongoing harassment.

The other finalists are Maanda Ngoitiko, a women's rights, pastoralist rights, and land rights defender in Tanzania; Phyoe Phyoe Aung, who is a student rights defender in Burma/Myanmar, while human rights campaigner Mohammed Khatib works with protesters across Palestine.

Ingrid Vergara Chavez, a land rights defender working with the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) in Sucre, Colombia, was also selected as a finalist.

Khalid Bagirov has been chosen to represent a group of under-threat human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan.

Mary Lawlor, the founder of the group, said Ireland had an important role to play in promoting human rights and protecting those on the front line.

"We're a small country, we don't have much political weight. We're not going to be able to solve all of the major human rights problems around the world but the one thing we can do is protect brave individuals who are building a civil and just society in their own country," she said.

Irish Independent

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