ICJ commissioner, Muhannad al-Hassani, announced as laureate of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, 2010

The main award for international human rights for 2010 goes to a Syrian human rights defender lingering in prison. The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) announces its Laureate for 2010 The main award for international human rights for 2010 goes to a Syrian human rights defender lingering in prison. The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) announces its Laureate for 2010.

Muhannad Al-Hassani,  – a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists – is a Syrian lawyer who has bravely defended human rights and challenged the oppressive legal framework imposed by the Syrian government. He is the President of the Syrian Organization for Human Rights (Swasiya), a leading human rights organisation that has been denied official registration by the Syrian authorities for the past six years. Al-Hassani was arrested on 28 July 2009. The charges under Article 286 of the Syrian Penal code, which arise from his observation and reporting of an open trial before the State Security Court, carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.Al-Hassani is accused of “weakening national sentiments,” and “spreading false news.” The first hearing of the trial in Damascus took place on 6 April. Al Hassani is expected to appear before the criminal court again on 27 May.

Al-Hassani is being held in harsh conditions in Adhra prison and reported to be in very poor physical health. He is detained together with 70 other prisoners in a very small prison cell, and is denied access to proper medical care. International observers have visited him.

In an appalling demonstration of servility to the Government, the Damascus Section of the Syrian Bar Association, on 10 November 2009, made a ruling prohibiting him from practicing law for the rest of his life. Al-Hassani has come under increasing and undue pressure merely as a result of carrying out his lawful professional functions. He has been subjected to a travel ban over the last six years. His office and all communications have been under constant surveillance by Syrian security forces for the past six years.

The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureate as “a man of an exceptional courage, arbitrarily detained in unacceptable conditions for defending the rule of law and the right to organise a human rights organization”.

The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in the Victoria Hall of Geneva on 15 October 2010.

The main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.  The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.

Previous laureates: Emad Baghi, Iran (2009); Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan; Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole & Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.

For downloadable film images on the MEA and previous laureates please go towww.media4heroes.com.

Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Louise Arbour, Robert Fulghum, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje†.

For further information, please contact: Luis Marreiros, Coordinator, +41 22 809 49 25,  marreiros@martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org

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