Syrian Human Rights Defender receives 2005 Martin Ennals Award

11/10/2005
Press release
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GMTAktham Naisse, President of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, is the winner of the 2005 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA).

On Wednesday 12 October 2005, 17h00, Aktham Naisse will receive the award from the hands of Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights during a ceremony at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva, within framework of the International North South Media Festival.

The Chairman of the Jury, Hans Thoolen, called Aktham Naisse "an extraordinary example of a man who continues to fight for fundamental rights in spite of constant harassment and threats." He embodies the soul of the democratic movement in Syria and has been involved in this struggle for over 30 years. He is one of the founding members of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (CDF), created in 1989, and the publication "Sawt al-Dimokratiyyah" (the Voice of Democracy). During all these years Aktham Naisse has written articles and courageously spoken out in national, regional and international forums. He was arrested six times for publicly demanding respect for human rights.

In recent years Aktham Naisse was being charged with "opposing the objectives of the revolution" and "disseminating false information aiming at weakening the State", risking a prison sentence of 15 years. Thank to international pressure, he was finally acquitted on Sunday 26 June 2005 by the Supreme State Security Court. A few days before his trial Aktham Naisse wrote to the Martin Ennals Foundation: "I feel more motivated and happy because there are people interested in our problem, people that care for us and support us in our fight for human liberty. I have a great emotion because I know now that we are not struggling alone against human rights violation."
A unique collaboration among eleven of the world’s leading non-governmental human rights organizations makes the MEA the main award of the human rights movement. The JURY is composed of the following: 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, International Alert, HURIDOCS and DCI.

The MEA has a Committee of Patrons including Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Robert Fulghum and Theo van Boven.

The previous laureates are: Lida Yusupova, Russia (2004); Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia (2003); Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (2002); Peace Brigades International (2001); Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo (2000); Natasa Kandic, Yugoslavia (1999); Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine (1998); Samuel Ruiz García, Mexico (1997); Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria (1996); Asma Jahangir, Pakistan (1995); Harry Wu, China (1994).

For media contacts and general information on the MEA, please contact Luis Marreiros, Coordinator. Tel: +41.22.8094925 (marreiros@martinennalsaward.org) or visit our website: www.martinennalsward.org

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