Finalists for the Martin Ennals Award 2016 selected

by | Apr 27, 2016 | News

The three human rights defenders selected for the award are Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia), Ilham Tohti (China) and Razan Zaitouneh (Syria). The ICJ is member of the MEA Jury.

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is the main award of the human rights movement and as such can be labelled as the Nobel Price for human rights.

It is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.

This award is selected by the International Human Rights Community (members of the jury are ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, EWDE Germany, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS).

It is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk.

The aim of the award is to highlight their work and protect them through increased visibility.

The MEA Award 2016 will be presented on October. 11th at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

Kality prison in Ethiopia, which holds many journalists and political prisoners, has 8 zones. Zone 9 Bloggers 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 (photo) 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.

They said: “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.”

A renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, Ilham Tohti 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, 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.

A prominent human rights lawyer, activist, and journalist in Syria, Razan Zaitouneh 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.

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.


Olivier van Bogaert, Director Media & Communications, ICJ representative in the MEA Jury, t: +41 22 979 38 08 ; e: olivier.vanbogaert(a)

Michael Khambatta, Director, Martin Ennals Foundation, t: +41 79 474 8208 ; e: khambatta(a)

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