Global Advocates Recognized on Human Rights Day
Freedom House today marks International Human Rights Day by recognizing human rights defenders for their courageous work throughout the world.
Human rights defenders often assume great risks to document human rights violations and to advocate for justice in their own communities, often located in some of the world's most repressive states.
"Human rights defenders are the unsung heroes in the struggle for freedom," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "They are the selfless and often anonymous activists whose tireless work, at times carried out against great and dangerous odds, helps ensure that the abused of the world are not forgotten. Of all days, they deserve to be recognized today."
Deserving of particular mention is the work carried out in 2003 by defenders in Chechnya, Cuba, and Uzbekistan, who have taken enormous risks to speak out against human rights violations by some of the world's most repressive regimes.
In Chechnya, human rights defenders publicized rights violations by the Russian armed forces, helping to draw international attention to the abuses occurring in the battle-scarred Russian enclave.
In Cuba, in the midst of a brutal crackdown by the Castro regime against democracy advocates, defenders worked together to gather 14,000 new signatures for the Varela Project, a petition demanding political, civil, and economic rights. Cuban human rights defenders operate at extreme risk; Law 88, the so-called "gag law," allows the sentencing of civil society advocates and independent journalists to up to 20 years in prison for communicating with foreign media and NGOs.
In Uzbekistan, human rights defenders played an active role in gaining the freedom of jailed farmer Akrom Mahmedov, who later established his own political party. Other human rights defenders continued their work despite overt harassment by state authorities. Human rights NGOs remain unregistered in Uzbekistan and the government continues to silence critics such as Ruslan Sharipov, a journalist jailed, tortured, and sentenced on false charges.
"In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, Freedom House calls on the international community to support and protect human rights defenders," said. Ms. Windsor.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.