Since 2013, Civil Rights Defenders annually awards a prominent human rights defender who, despite the risk to his or her own safety, strives to ensure that people’s civil and political rights are recognised and protected. Their work is carried out without the use of violence and within an independent human rights organisation.
Civil Rights Defenders has worked for more than 30 years with defending people’s civil and political rights. One of our main tasks is to empower our partners, those human rights defenders who work in repressive societies around the world. Our aim is that the award will highlight the situation of human rights defenders at risk. Through international recognition and support to the organisations represented by the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award recipient, the award enhances long-term human rights work.
The first Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award was handed out on 4 April 2013 to one of the world’s most prominent human rights defenders. Ms. Nataša Kandić from the Humanitarian Law Center in Serbia received the award for her persistent and fearless work in documenting war crimes and serious human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia and for supporting war crimes trials by providing courts with evidence and witnesses.
In 2014, the winner of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award was Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. For over 30 years, Ales Bialiatski, has pursued a path of continuous struggle to campaign for democracy and human rights, first in the Soviet Union and then in Belarus.
In 2015, Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. At great personal risk, Me Nam has been right at the forefront of human rights activism in Vietnam. With creativity and openness, she is a source of inspiration as she breaks new ground for freedom of expression and speaks out for those who can’t.
In 2016, the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award was handed out to Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev for his tireless work to protect and promote human rights. Over two decades Intigam Aliyev has defended numerous individuals and organisations in Azerbaijan. He has inspired a generation of young Azerbaijanis, both as a teacher and as a devoted human rights lawyer.
In 2017, Edmund Yakani was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year. He is among the most tenacious and vocal voices in the country when it comes to defending and promoting human rights, democratic transition and justice. He particularly stands out in his effort to ensure respect for rule of law and justice, and the inclusion of civil society in the ongoing peace talks.
This year, the recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2018 is the Turkish human rights defender and journalist Murat Çelikkan. He has laid the foundation of several prominent human rights organisations and, to this day, continues to be a symbol of justice and a role model for other human rights defenders. The human rights situation has deteriorated significantly in Turkey over the last couple of years, in particular since the failed coup in July 2016. Murat Çelikkan has himself been targeted on several occasions. Despite the increasingly difficult situation for the country’s civil society, he continues to fight for a more open Turkey.
The recipient of the award is appointed by the Civil Rights Defenders Board, which chooses between three candidates presented by the organisation’s secretariat. The secretariat makes their choices based on nominations submitted by Civil Rights Defenders’ worldwide network of human rights defenders and human rights organisations. Nomination for the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award is by invitation only.
-Should have a central role in the human rights movement in the country or region where the person is active.
-Should have a long experience of working with the protection of civil and political rights in the country or region where the person is active.
-Could be in need of international attention to improve the person’s protection.
Eligibility for Nomination:
-Only individuals, not organisations, can be nominated.
-Self-nominating is not allowed.
-Incomplete application forms will not be considered.
The prize consists of a specially designed statuette and a diploma.