Three women named finalists for top human rights prize | News | DW | 26.11.2019
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Three women named finalists for top human rights prize

Three prominent human rights defenders have been put forth as candidates for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award — marking the first time the jury has nominated three women for the prize.

On Tuesday, a Geneva-based jury nominated Huda Al-Sarari, a Yemeni lawyer; Norma Ledezma, a Mexican anti-femicide activist; and Sizani Ngubane, a South African women's and indigenous activist, as the three top candidates for the Martin Ennals Award.

Sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize for human rights," the Martin Ennals Award was created in 1993 to honor and protect human rights defenders around the world. 

The winner will be announced on February 19, 2020.

Read more: Empowering women in Yemen'S civil war

Huda Al-Sarari

Al-Sarari, 42, is a lawyer who has worked with several human rights organizations to expose Yemen's network of secret detention centers operated by foreign governments since 2015.

Al-Sarari's fight for transparency began when neighboring Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen with a military coalition targeting Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who had taken control of the country's capital Sanaa. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, and millions are on the brink of starvation. 

The lawyer uncovered a number of secret prisons where "the worst violations of human rights were committed: torture, disappearances or even extrajudicial executions," prize organizers said in a statement.

She collected evidence on more than 250 cases of human rights abuse within the centers and convinced several international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to support her in the pursuit of justice. In the struggle, Al-Sarari was targeted by threats and defamation campaigns against her and family members. 

Norma Ledezma

In the country with one of the highest number of femicides in Latin America, 53-year-old Norma Ledezma began her fight for justice after her daughter, Paloma, disappeared on her way home from school in the state of Chihuahua, northwestern Mexico. 

There are more than nine femicide-related murders in Mexico every day, according to UN Women.

"In spite of having received numerous death threats, she continues with her human rights work," organizers said.

Ledezma is one of the founders and the director of Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for our Daughters), a local organisation that provides legal counsel and support to ongoing cases, and is credited for the creation of the position Special Prosecutor for Women Victims of Violence in her state.

The activist has supported over 200 investigations into cases of femicide and disappearances. 

Read more: Is France doing enough against femicides?

Sizani Ngubane

Another finalist is a 73-year-old South African activist who has dedicated her life to promoting gender-equality, women's rights and indigenous people's rights.Sizani Ngubane, founded the Rural Women's Movement at the end of the '90s. The group fights against gender-based violence and advocates for women's rights to land, education, property and inheritance in post-Apartheid South Africa. 

Abdul Aziz Muhamat (February, 13, 2019, Martial Trezzini, Keystone via AP)

Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamat won the award in 2019

About the award

The Martin Ennals Foundation in Geneva is named after the first secretary general of Amnesty International, who died in 1991.

The jury compromises of 10 prominent human rights groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

The 2019 prize was awarded to Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee advocate who has been held on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, as part of Australia's immigration border policy. 

mvb/stb (AFP, EFE)

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