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The Geuzen Medal, established by the Geuzen Resistance 1940–1945 Foundation (Stichting Geuzenverzet 1940-45) in honor of the Geuzen Dutch resistance to the Nazis, was presented to Human Rights Watch today at a ceremony in Vlaardingen, The Netherlands. In accepting the award, given for its work in exposing rights violations and pushing for action to end abuses, Human Rights Watch urged the Dutch government to take a lead in protecting human rights worldwide.

The associate director of Human Rights Watch, Carroll Bogert, who accepted the award, described the Bush administration’s attacks on basic human rights protection as “truly shocking” and said that European Union states, including The Netherlands, “can and must step into the leadership void on human rights.”

Bogert urged The Netherlands to use its position at the new United Nations Human Rights Council to press for effective protection of human rights. “We need even small countries such as The Netherlands to do everything they can to set the standards – and to live by the standards, and to make sure the standards of human rights protection are observed by others,” she said.

The Geuzen Medal was awarded for Human Rights Watch’s work in “exposing human rights violations anywhere in the world, reporting on them, taking action, and calling for effective measures.”

Opening the presentation of the Geuzen Medal in the Grote Kerk, Harry Borghouts, chairman of the foundation, paid homage to those members of the Geuzen resistance who died this past year. The Geuzen were the first resistance fighters in World War II, defying German occupation almost immediately. Since 1946, the execution of the first Geuzen has been commemorated annually on March 13. On that day in 1941, 15 Geuzen and three leaders of the “February Strike in Amsterdam” were executed by firing squad on Waalsdorpvlakte.

In 1987, the Geuzen Resistance 1940–1945 Foundation was established; since then the foundation has awarded a Geuzen Medal every year as a tribute to individuals or organizations that have, in some special way, devoted themselves to fighting for democracy or against dictatorship, discrimination and racism. “Human Rights Watch is one of those organizations,” said Borghouts. “The way Human Rights Watch goes about its work gives its reports great authority. Its efforts have been responsible for many practical results in the field of human rights.”

The medal was presented to Human Rights Watch by Jan Pronk, a former member of the Dutch parliament and the UN Secretary-General’s special representative in Sudan from 2004 to 2006, when he led the international effort on the conflict in Darfur. “Without organizations like Human Rights Watch, the world would look even worse than it does now,” Pronk said. “They are consistent in their criticism and credible in their impartiality because they only side with the victims. And they are absolute in their condemnation of human rights violations.”

In her acceptance speech, Bogert praised the Dutch for their proud tradition of tolerance and thanked the Geuzen Resistance 1940–1945 Foundation for “recognizing our efforts, for sharing our goals, and for the publicity and energy that this honor will bring to our work, here in Europe and around the world.” She also highlighted the ongoing need to safeguard the rights of immigrants throughout The Netherlands. “The 1951 Refugee Convention that protects a Sudanese child who flees from Darfur into Chad is part of the same body of international human rights law that protects the rights of immigrants in The Netherlands,” said Bogert.

The Geuzen Medal nomination committee recognized Human Rights Watch for the following achievements:

  • Protecting civilians in armed conflicts
    Human Rights Watch has fought tirelessly for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, including in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Lebanon.
  • Ensuring international justice
    Human Rights Watch was an active proponent of the International Criminal
    Court, established in 2002, with its seat in The Hague, to investigate and
    prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  • Promoting treaties on landmines and child soldiers
    Human Rights Watch has successfully promoted several international treaties, including one banning the use of child soldiers, one prohibiting enforced disappearances (detention, often by way of abduction, of a person by government agents who subsequently refuse to acknowledge the detention or provide information about the fate or whereabouts of the person), and one prohibiting the manufacture and use of landmines. In 1997, together with its partner organizations, Human Rights Watch received the Nobel Peace Prize for its campaign against landmines.

Geuzen Resistance Foundation Activities from March 13 to 14, 2007

On Tuesday, March 13, the town of Vlaardingen once again commemorated the execution of 15 Geuzen resistance fighters in 1941 and hosted the presentation of the Geuzen Medal 2007. The commemoration started with a gathering in the Bethelkerk, followed by the laying of wreaths and flowers at the Geuzen grave in the Emaus cemetery and the observation of a minute’s silence. There was then a silent procession from the Geuzen grave to the Markt. A memorial service was held at 2 p.m. at the Geuzen Monument in the Markt. The Geuzen Medal presentation ceremony in the Grote Kerk started at 3 p.m. Attendance was by invitation only.

On Wednesday, March 14, a group of Human Rights Watch researchers will talk about their work in Darfur and Chechnya at the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. Bogert will lead the discussion, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. The Resistance Museum is at Plantage Kerklaan 61, Amsterdam. Admission is free, and booking is recommended by calling +31-020-620-2535.

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