Update: Because Salah Marghani was appointed Libya's justice minister on October 31 he is unable to accept the Alison Des Forges Award.
(New York) - Two courageous and tireless advocates for human rights have been selected as recipients of the prestigious Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. Abbé Benoît Kinalegu from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Salah Marghani from Libya are leading voices for justice in their countries, working relentlessly to protect the rights and dignity of others. They will join four other international recipients of the award as they are honored at the Human Rights Watch Voices for Justice Annual Dinners in 15 cities worldwide in November 2012.
The award is named for Dr. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division for almost two decades, who died in a plane crash in New York on February 12, 2009. Des Forges was the world's leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide, and its aftermath. Human Rights Watch's annual award honors her outstanding commitment to, and defense of, human rights. It celebrates the valor of people who put their lives on the line to create a world free from abuse, discrimination, and oppression.
“These human rights defenders have spoken out and helped people who needed protection in some of the most dangerous and difficult situations in the world,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They show that courage and persistence can make a difference even during periods of conflict and violent transition.”
The recipients of Human Rights Watch's 2012 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism are:
Abbé Benoît Kinalegu, a Congolese priest and director of the Dungu-Doruma Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace, who exposes abuses committed by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and works to rehabilitate its victims.
Salah Marghani, a Libyan human rights activist and lawyer, who has worked to reveal the truth about human rights atrocities under Muammar Gaddafi and abuses still happening.
They will be honored at dinners in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, with Kinalegu traveling to Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and Marghani to Beirut.
Recipients of the 2011 award, who will also be touring North America and Europe this year, are:
Sihem Bensedrine, a Tunisian journalist and activist who heads the Arab Working Group for Media Monitoring and serves as a spokesperson for the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, traveling to Amsterdam and Geneva.
Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, a leading Indonesian organization working to protect the rights of millions of migrant workers, traveling to Oslo and Zurich.
Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Natural Resource Governance in eastern Zimbabwe and a leading voice against the abuses taking place in the Marange diamond fields, traveling to London, Munich, and Paris.
Consuelo Morales, director of Citizens in Support of Human Rights, based in Monterrey, which brings abuses in Mexico’s “war on drugs” to light, traveling to Chicago, New York and Toronto.
Human Rights Watch staff members work closely with the human rights defenders as part of the organization's research into some 90 countries around the world. The defenders will be honored at the 2012 Voices for Justice Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners in Amsterdam, Beirut, Chicago, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Oslo, Paris, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, Toronto, and Zurich.
Abbé Benoît Kinalegu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Abbé Benoît Kinalegu exposes abuses committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and works to rehabilitate its victims. The LRA rebel group terrorizes citizens in central Africa by killing, raping, and abducting civilians, including children. Kinalegu helped establish an Early Warning Network to report suspected LRA activity via radio, and he also works on rehabilitation programs for LRA abductees who have escaped. He has become a powerful voice urging the international community to bring LRA commanders to justice. Human Rights Watch honors Kinalegu for his commitment to protecting civilians and ending the threat posed by the LRA.
Sihem Bensedrine, Tunisia
Journalist and activist Sihem Bensedrine has worked for more than two decades to expose human rights violations in Tunisia and defend freedom of expression. She co-founded the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia; the Observatory for Freedom of the Press, Publishing, and Creation; and Kalima, an independent news website and radio station. Despite being imprisoned, beaten, and continually harassed by the Ben Ali government before its ouster in January 2011, Bensedrine’s her public commitment to human rights has never faltered. Human Rights Watch honors Bensedrine for her tremendous courage and perseverance in speaking out against abuses and championing human rights reform in Tunisia.
Anis Hidayah, Indonesia
Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, speaks out on behalf of the millions of Indonesian women and men who seek work abroad to feed their families and who face serious risk of abuse. As Migrant Care and Human Rights Watch have both documented, Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait often work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Many are not paid; some are confined, beaten, or raped by their employers. Human Rights Watch honors Hidayah for her dedication to exposing and ending egregious abuses against Indonesian migrant domestic workers.
Farai Maguwu, Zimbabwe
As director of Zimbabwe’s Center for Research and Development, Farai Maguwu has conducted extensive research documenting horrific abuses taking place in the Marange diamond fields. After Maguwu met with a monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (the world’s diamond control body) in May 2010 to discuss the abuses he uncovered in Marange, he was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured on charges of providing false information. Human Rights Watch honors Maguwu for his tremendous courage in working to end the rampant violations of human rights throughout the region.
Salah Marghani, Libya
Salah Marghani is a human rights activist and lawyer in Tripoli, Libya, who has worked to reveal the truth about human rights atrocities under Muammar Gaddafi and about abuses still happening today. During last year’s conflict, when a popular uprising led to a revolt against Gaddafi, Marghani assembled a group of lawyers to document violations and to get victims and witnesses to safety. During the war, he founded the Libyan Human Rights Violations Detection Group, which pushes for free speech, visits prisoners, interviews victims of abuse, and presses for reforms. He is a leading voice in Libya for rights and justice. Human Rights Watch honors Marghani for his commitment to revealing the truth and pressing for freedoms in Libya both in the past and today.
Consuelo Morales, Mexico
Consuelo Morales works in Mexico to defend victims of human rights violations and hold their abusers accountable. Security forces there have committed widespread violations against civilians – including torture, rape, and “disappearances” – yet their crimes are virtually never investigated. In the face of persistent threats, Morales’s organization has led efforts in the state of Nuevo León to document these abuses, litigate key cases, and provide critical support for victims of both security forces and violent drug cartels. Human Rights Watch honors Morales for her courageous efforts to end impunity and aid victims of abuses in Mexico’s “war on drugs.”