Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
Natalia Taubina is a Russian activist who works to protect victims of police abuse and bring transparency to law enforcement.
For two decades, Taubina has dedicated herself to defending human rights in an environment rife with abuses – including many by the police that are never properly investigated. After years at the Russian Research Center for Human Rights and the Foundation for Civil Society, where she was director, Taubina assumed leadership of Public Verdict in 2004 to provide much needed legal aid to victims of police abuse.
With Taubina’s guidance, Public Verdict has achieved far-reaching success against all odds. The organization established important programs to offer free legal aid, and rehabilitation support to victims of police torture. In addition, Public Verdict works to ensure victims’ voices are heard and bring about greater transparency and accountability by law enforcement agencies. One enormous victory came in 2012, when Russia’s Chief Investigation Agency created a special division to investigate police abuses.
Taubina is also a civil society leader, courageously speaking out against the intense crackdown on Russian civil society since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012. She has publicly challenged harsh new restrictions on nongovernmental organizations, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. Public Verdict has also supported peaceful protesters by operating legal hotlines and providing representation for activists who have been detained during demonstrations. It is because of this work that the authorities now want to shut down Public Verdict, a move the organization is currently fighting in court.
Public Verdict has worked closely with Human Rights Watch to expose human rights violations in Russia and to report on threats and attacks against human rights defenders carried out with apparent governmental involvement or acquiescence.
Human Rights Watch honors Natalia Taubina for her unwavering commitment to protecting human rights in Russia.