Press release, 10/11/2005
Aktham Naisse, President of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic
Liberties and Human Rights in Syria will receive the prestigious 2005 Martin
Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) for his work for over 30 years
in the democratic movement in Syria. The award will be presented by Louise
Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a ceremony on 12
October 2005 at the Batiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva, within the
framework of the International North South Media Festival.
Aktham Naisse is one of the founding members of the Committees for the
Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (CDF), created in 1989, and
the publication Sawt al-Dimokratiyyah (the Voice of Democracy). Aktham
Naisse has written articles and courageously spoken out in national,
regional and international forums. He was arrested six times for publicly
demanding respect for human rights.
In recent years Aktham Naisse was charged with “opposing the objectives of
the revolution” and “disseminating false information aiming at weakening the
State”, risking a prison sentence of 15 years. Thanks to international
pressure, he was finally acquitted on Sunday 26 June 2005 by the Supreme
State Security Court.
A few days before his trial Aktham Naisse wrote to the Martin Ennals
Foundation: “I feel more motivated and happy because there are people
interested in our problem, people that care for us and support us in our
fight for human liberty. I have a great emotion because I know now that we
are not struggling alone against human rights violation.”
A unique collaboration among eleven of the world's leading non-governmental
human rights organizations makes the MEA the main award of the human rights
movement. The jury is composed of the following: Amnesty International,
Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human
Rights, World Organization Against Torture, International Commission of
Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights,
International Alert, HURIDOCS and DCI.
The MEA, created in 1993, is granted annually to an individual or an
organization who has displayed exceptional courage in combating human rights
violations. The previous laureates are: Lida Yusupova, Russia (2004); Alirio
Uribe Muñoz, Colombia (2003); Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (2002); Peace
Brigades International (2001); Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo (2000); Natasa
Kandic, Yugoslavia (1999); Eyad El Sarraj, Occupied Palestinian Territories
(1998); Samuel Ruiz García, Mexico (1997); Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria (1996);
Asma Jahangir, Pakistan (1995); Harry Wu, China (1994).
Martin Ennals (1927-1991) was an influential figure in 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.