by Kim Ives
The Switzerland-based Martin
Ennals Foundation and the City of Geneva have announced that
Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph of the
Port-au-Prince-based International Lawyers Office (BAI) is one
of three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award.
Since 1993, the award is given
annually by a jury of human rights organizations to “human
rights defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great
personal risk,” the foundation said in a press release. The aim
of the award is to provide protection to the awardees through
Mario Joseph, recognized by
many as Haiti's most important human rights lawyer, has worked
on some of the most important cases in Haiti, including the
current case against the former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc"
Duvalier. His family received asylum in the United States in
2004, but he chose to return to Haiti. He has faced threats and
harassment for much of his 20 years as a lawyer, although it has
intensified in recent months. “This recognition from the Ennals
Award shines a vital spotlight on my work, and on the work of
everyone who is fighting for human rights in Haiti,” Joseph
said. “That spotlight will make our work safer and more
The other two finalists are
Mona Seif in Egypt and the Joint Mobile Group in Chechnya.
Seif is a core founder of the
"No to Military Trials for Civilians", a grassroots initiative.
Since Feb. 25, 2011, Mona has brought together activists,
lawyers, and victims' families to start a nationwide movement
against military trials. As part of the recent crackdown on
freedom of speech in Egypt, she has been charged along with
other human rights activists.
Meanwhile, Igor Kalyapin
started the Joint Mobile Group after the murder of several human
rights activists working in Chechnya. To reduce risk, they send
investigators on short missions to Chechnya to document human
rights abuses. This information is then used to publicize these
abuses and seek legal redress.
The Martin Ennals Award for
Human Rights Defenders (MEA) will be presented on Oct. 8 at a
ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva. The award is made
possible by 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 organizations: Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human
Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line
Defenders, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie,
International Service for Human Rights, and HURIDOCS.
The prize also includes 20,000
Swiss Francs which the foundation specifies is “to be used for
further work in the field of human rights.”
Martin Ennals (1927 – 1991) was a British human
rights activist who served as the Secretary-General of Amnesty
International from 1968 to 1980.