(New York, December 5, 2003)
Chechen Human Rights Advocate Lida Yusupova wins 2004 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
Human Rights Watch today applauded the announcement that the Martin Ennals Foundation had selected Lida Yusupova, a lawyer who provides assistance to victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya, as the winner of the 2004 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
For the past three years Lida Yusupova has worked as the coordinator of the small Grozny office of the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial. She gathers testimony from victims about human rights abuses, and presses their concerns with law enforcement and military agencies.
As the armed conflict in Chechnya moves into its fifth year, people in Chechnya face a daily threat of torture, forced disappearances, and arbitrary detention at the hands of Russian forces.
“In a place where impunity is assumed, Lida Yusupova is a courageous advocate for justice,” said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “She sends a firm message to the Russian government that people expect accountability for human rights violations.”
Human rights defenders face extraordinary danger in Chechnya. Last year the Memorial office was the target of a direct attack by the army, but the staff has continued its indispensable monitoring work. Memorial is one of the very few civil society groups that is able to gather information on the ground in the republic. As the Russian government has spared no effort to close Chechnya to scrutiny, people around the world have come to rely on Memorial to provide crucial information on violations of human rights there.
The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, called Lida one of the most courageous women in Europe today. He stated "there is complete consensus among all human rights organizations that Lida deserves the award for her tireless efforts in a situation of war and extreme danger, with increased risk for women".
(The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world's leading non-governmental human rights organizations. The Jury is composed of the following: Amnesty International, Defence for Children, German Diakonie, Human Rights Watch, Huridocs, International Alert, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture. The previous 10 recipients of the MEA are: Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia (2003); Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International, Immaculée Birhaheka, DRCongo; Natasa Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz García; Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China (1994).
Martin Ennals (1927-1991) was instrumental to the modern human rights movement. He was the first Secretary-General of Amnesty International and the driving force behind many other organisations. His deep desire was to see more cooperation and solidarity among NGOs: the MEA is evidence that this is possible.
by Amnesty International