The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for 2005 is awarded to the Chechnyan lawyer and human rights advocate Ms Lida Yusupova, in recognition of her brave and unrelenting efforts to document human rights violations and act as a spokeswoman for the forgotten victims of the war in Chechnya. Ms Yusupova struggles to defend human dignity in a chaotic war situation and in a context where the working conditions and security of human rights advocates and journalists are increasingly compromised.
Lida Yusupova – Russia / Chechnya
Lida Yusupova is the coordinator of the Grozny office of the Moscow-based human rights organisation Memorial. This small group is one of the few human rights organisations still operating in Chechnya, providing the world with crucial information on violations of human rights in this Russian republic.
Lida collects testimonies from those victims who dare to come to the Grozny office but also goes herself out to the places where killings and disappearances have occurred. She accompanies the victims in their claims to the Russian Army and Security Services and provides legal assistance to the extent that the judicial system still functions in that part of Russia. (See the rest on ‘Martin Ennals Award (MEA)‘).
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique
collaboration between ten of the world’s leading non-governmental human
rights organisations. The jury is composed of the following: Amnesty
International, International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights
Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, German Diakonie, International
Service for Human Rights, International Alert, Huridocs, Defence for
Children, and the International Commission of Jurists. The previous 10
recipients of the MEA are: Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia (2003); Jacqueline
Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International, Immaculée Birhaheka,
DRCongo; Natasa Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel
Ruiz García; Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan;
and Harry Wu, China (1994).
Martin Ennals (1927-1991) was an influential figure in the modern human
rights movement. He was the first Secretary-General of Amnesty
International and the driving force behind many other organisations. His
deep desire was to see more cooperation and solidarity among NGOs: the MEA
is evidence that this is possible. (Read the rest on hrea.org).
Human Rights Watch today applauded the announcement that the Martin Ennals Foundation had selected Lida Yusupova, a lawyer who provides assistance to victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya, as the winner of the 2004 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
For the past three years Lida Yusupova has worked as the coordinator of the small Grozny office of the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial. She gathers testimony from victims about human rights abuses, and presses their concerns with law enforcement and military agencies.
As the armed conflict in Chechnya moves into its fifth year, people in Chechnya face a daily threat of torture, forced disappearances, and arbitrary detention at the hands of Russian forces.
“In a place where impunity is assumed, Lida Yusupova is a courageous advocate for justice,” said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “She sends a firm message to the Russian government that people expect accountability for human rights violations.”
Human rights defenders face extraordinary danger in Chechnya. Last year the Memorial office was the target of a direct attack by the army, but the staff has continued its indispensable monitoring work. Memorial is one of the very few civil society groups that is able to gather information on the ground in the republic. As the Russian government has spared no effort to close Chechnya to scrutiny, people around the world have come to rely on Memorial to provide crucial information on violations of human rights there. (Read the rest on universalrights.net).
The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, called Lida Yusupova one of the most courageous women in Europe today. He states that “there is complete consensus among all human rights organisations that Lida Yusupova deserves the award for her tireless efforts in a situation of war and extreme danger, with increased risk for women”. Moreover, the Grozny office has to function in almost complete isolation, the access to Chechnya for international NGOs, intergovernmental organisations and independent media being very restricted. Last year Lida Yusupova’s office was the target of a direct attack by the army but the staff has continued its indispensable monitoring work. (Read the rest on International Commission of Jurists).