"The human rights activists we honor have worked tirelessly to promote basic rights and freedoms,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Their courage and dedication to the cause of human rights is an inspiration to us all.”
The global human rights defenders to be honored for the year 2003 have fought to end torture and promote women’s rights in Egypt, defended the rule of law in Liberia during wartime, and spotlighted the plight of children held in adult jails in the United States.
Human Rights Watch staff members work closely with these brave individuals as part of our defense of human rights in more than 70 countries around the world.
- Dr. Aida Seif El-Dawla, for her work to combat torture and promote women’s rights and freedom of association in Egypt;
- Tiawan Gongloe, for defending the rule of law and human rights during Liberia’s violent civil war;
- Javier Stauring, for fighting to improve detention conditions for youths tried as adults in the United States.
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Brief biographies of the three honorees follow:
Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla, Egypt:
For three decades, Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla has actively fought for human rights in Egypt and the Middle East. In 1984, Dr. Seif El Dawla was a founder of the New Woman Research Center, which played a key role in challenging the obstacles to women’s liberation in Egypt. She also fought religious fundamentalists’ efforts to force women -- literally and figuratively -- back into a veiled position in society. -Dr. Seif El Dawla is also an active advocate against female genital mutilation, a practice that in the early 1990s affected an estimated 97 percent of married Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 45. In 1993, Dr. Seif El Dawla helped found the El Nadim Center for the Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. The first and only organization of its kind in Egypt, El Nadim focuses on helping men, women and children tortured by Egyptian police and security forces, and has also developed an independent program for the treatment of female victims of all forms of violence. More recently, Dr. Seif El Dawla was named chairperson of the Egyptian Association Against Torture, a group she helped found. The association uniquely provides legal, medical, and social services to ensure victims of torture and their families receive necessary support. The association also monitors and reports on cases of torture, and presses for prosecutions and legal change.
Tiawan Gongloe, Liberia:
Tiawan Gongloe is one of Liberia’s leading human rights lawyers. During the 10 years he has worked with Human Rights Watch, he has defended political detainees, independent journalists, human rights activists and victims of abuse in Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Both in and outside the courtroom, Mr. Gongloe is a well-known voice in Liberia, regularly commenting in the media or at meetings on human rights issues. Before his August 2003 exile, Liberia’s then president, Charles Taylor, attempted to silence all critical voices. During this time, journalists, the political opposition and human rights activists were regularly subject to violence at the hands of Taylor’s security forces. Many fled for their lives. But Mr. Gongloe stayed to defend persecuted colleagues. In April 2002, he was arrested without charge and detained in police custody. By the following morning, he had been brutalized so severely he was unable to stand. Following pressure from local and international groups, the government transferred Mr. Gongloe to a hospital. Fearing that he would be rearrested and tortured again on his release from the hospital, Human Rights Watch helped organize for Mr. Gongloe and his family to leave Liberia for the United States. When the security situation in Liberia stabilizes, Mr. Gongloe intends to return to his country to help rebuild the nation’s shattered justice system.
Javier Stauring, United States:
Javier Stauring is a Catholic lay chaplain who has worked to improve the conditions in which juvenile offenders are incarcerated. Mr. Stauring has served as a chaplain at the Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles since 1995 and is now co-director of detention ministries for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He also serves as policy director for Faith Communities for Families and Children, a Los Angeles-area interfaith coalition that advocates for youths in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Shocked by abusive detention conditions for children in Los Angeles’s Men’s Central Jail, Mr. Stauring mobilized and led a local coalition to press for change. After the coalition publicized abuses in the jail, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared the Men’s Central Jail was unfit for detainees under the age of 18. However, when he spoke at a protest in front of the jail and questioned whether conditions contributed to two May suicide attempts, the sheriff’s department -- in an apparent act of retaliation -- revoked his clearance to minister to the youths at Men’s Central. Mr. Stauring has worked effectively to promote creative approaches to crime prevention, alternatives to incarceration, and systemic change of the juvenile justice system.