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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.

Ivan Pavlov. © 2017 Alexey Spirin

Ivan Pavlov is a human rights lawyer and activist in Russia, defending those wrongly accused by security services of disclosing state secrets, high treason, and espionage. He is also well-known for his tireless efforts to ensure public access to government information and to provide guidance to activists threatened by the state. Pavlov has persevered against overwhelming odds, including intrusive government surveillance, harassment by security officials, and work-related threats of violence. He has taken on numerous high-profile cases, saving many clients from long jail sentences and political repression.

In 2004, Pavlov founded the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) – with the aim of monitoring public access to socially significant information and pressuring key state institutions to make information related to their activities available online. In 2014, the Russian government designated IDFI a “foreign agent” under the 2012 repressive law, which demonizes foreign-funded advocacy groups as foreign agents. Undeterred, Pavlov continued his work by forming Team 29, an informal association of human rights lawyers. Team 29 provides free consultations and legal aid to individuals asserting their right to receive and distribute information, defends victims abused by law enforcement and security agencies, and publishes user-friendly advice for activists and others who face harassment, arrest, searches, interrogation, and recruitment attempts by security officials. 

Ivan has relentlessly faced down the Russian security services, Kafkaesque courts, and media smear campaigns to provide a lifeline to some of Russia’s most vulnerable defendants. It’s impossible to overstate the courage and stamina that Ivan’s work takes, and that Ivan has and has demonstrated over and over.
Rachel Denber

Deputy Director, Europe & Central Asia Division

"Ivan has relentlessly faced down the Russian security services, Kafkaesque courts, and media smear campaigns to provide a lifeline to some of Russia’s most vulnerable defendants," said Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of the Europe & Central Asia Division. "It’s impossible to overstate the courage and stamina that Ivan’s work takes, and that Ivan has and has demonstrated over and over."

Human Rights Watch honors Ivan Pavlov for his unwavering commitment to defending those facing state persecution in Russia, protecting the rule of law, and tirelessly advocating for transparent government and respect for citizens’ fundamental rights.





Briefing on Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Russia (2017)

History Under Attack in Today’s Russia (Rachel Denber, 2016)


Online and On All Fronts: Russia’s Assault on Freedom of Expression (2017)

World Report 2018

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