Human Rights Watch Honors Global Rights Defenders
Efforts of Iran, Sudan and Uganda Activists Recognized
Human Rights Watch will present its highest honors, the Human Rights Defender Awards, to three courageous human rights activists from Iran, Sudan and Uganda on November 7.
This year’s three honorees challenged the limits of freedom of expression in the Middle East, the massive “ethnic cleansing” and injustice in Darfur, Sudan, and the treatment of HIV/AIDS affected women in Africa. Human Rights Watch’s global rights defender awardees for 2006 are:
- Omid Memarian, a journalist and blogger from Iran;
- Salih Mahmoud Osman, a lawyer and human rights activist from Darfur; and
- Beatrice Were, a social worker and advocate for the rights of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
“Our 2006 honorees exemplify the highest ideals of the human rights cause – courage, objectivity and an unflinching commitment to justice,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They work relentlessly, often in dangerous environments, to bring abuses to light and to fight to preserve human rights in their regions.”
Human Rights Watch staff work closely with the Human Rights Defenders as part of our human rights investigations in more than 70 countries around the world. The 2006 Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners where the defenders will be honored will take place in London, Munich, Zurich and Geneva.
“All three of this year’s honorees send a powerful message to governments that serious human right violations must end,” said Roth. “They are an inspiration to all of us.”
Background on the 2006 Human Rights Watch Honorees:
Omid Memarian, Iran
Omid Memarian represents a new and young generation of human rights defenders who challenge political repression in Iran. Memarian is a journalist, blogger and civil society activist who has sought to push the limits of freedom of expression in Iran by working on the internet. Because of his public defense of human rights, Memarian was arrested with more than 20 other bloggers in October 2004. He was detained in solitary confinement, tortured repeatedly and forced to make false confessions. He was released in December 2004, following protests from the international community. Human Rights Watch cooperated closely with Memarian’s colleagues to campaign for his release. Memarian has worked relentlessly to expose arbitrary detentions, torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Iran, often putting himself in considerable danger.
Salih Mahmoud Osman, Sudan
Salih Mahmoud Osman is a lawyer and human rights activist from the Darfur region of Sudan who for 20 years has defended and given free legal aid to people who have been arbitrarily detained and tortured by the Sudanese government. From the start of the conflict in Darfur in 2003, Osman worked with an organization called the Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT), contesting torture and impunity, and defending people whose only crime is that they oppose government policies or share the same ethnicity as the rebel movements in Darfur. A member of the Fur ethnic group, Osman was arrested and detained by Sudanese security forces and was not charged or put on trial for seven months in 2004. He went on a hunger strike and was finally released. Since 2006, Osman serves as an opposition member of parliament. In his new role, he works on legal reform and also continues to provide legal aid in Nyala and in Khartoum. Osman has contributed immeasurably to Human Rights Watch’s investigation of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Beatrice Were, Uganda
Beatrice Were is a social worker by training who has become an international advocate for the rights of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Were lost her husband to AIDS in 1991. Facing enormous stigma as a widow living with HIV, Were also nearly lost her property and her children to her in-laws. She challenged the laws that made these injustices possible and founded an organization that provides services for tens of thousands of women across Uganda. Beatrice went on to be the executive coordinator of Uganda's International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW), and as the national coordinator for HIV/AIDS for ActionAID International has worked with Human Rights Watch to call attention to Uganda’s recent and dramatic backslide in HIV-prevention policy. She is an outspoken critic of U.S.-funded abstinence-until-marriage programs, which censor factual and comprehensive HIV/AIDS information for young people. Human Rights Watch honors Were for defending the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS, and for upholding the right of all people to make informed choices about their sexual lives.