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Nominees for the Front Line Award 2009
On Friday 17 April 2009 members of the Irish and European Parliaments joined Front Line to announce the nominees for the Front Line Award 2009. Among the attendees were the Ambassadors of Sweden, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the Representative of Taiwan and the Deputy Head of Mission of the Norwegian Embassy as well as representatives of leading Irish NGOs. To read the full text of the Front Line Press Release link to Nominations Press Release April 2009
The 4 nominees are:
1. Danilo Rueda - National Coordinator Paz Y Justicia - Colombia To be a human rights defender in Colombia is to put your own life in danger - to risk the lives of your family or becoming another victim of the conflict between the armed forces, their paramilitary allies, and the armed opposition groups.
Danilo Rueda is one of those who have demonstrated great courage in challenging the perpetrators of human rights abuses. He is National Coordinator of Justicia Y Paz (Justice and Peace), a church-based human rights organisation and works tirelessly to expose human rights violations committed in the conflict regions of Colombia by security forces and their paramilitary allies. This has made him a target for those who aim to silence the vital work carried out by human rights defenders.
Danilo Rueda has developed protection and physical accompaniment strategies for the communities affected by grave human rights violations. His capacity for work and his perseverance in the fight for human rights for nineteen years has meant that, despite threats and challenges to his work, such as unfounded prosecutions, he has succeeded in developing the victims’ movement at an international level through the creation of the Red de alternativas a la Impunidad (Network of Alternatives to Impunity). He has also developed the Comisión Ética (Ethics Commission) and both these bodies document and safeguard evidence and testimonies from Colombian victims of human rights violations, so that in the future when conditions are appropriate, they may make the most of a Truth Commission.
2. Dr Yuri Giovanni Melini - Director of CALAS – Guatemala On Thursday, September 4 2008, Yuri Melini, Director of CALAS (Center of Legal Action in Environment and Social issues) survived an attempt on his life in which he was shot four times. On the same day as the assassination attempt, 50 other environmental activists received threats relating to their work. In June 2008, CALAS had won a case in the Constitutional Court of Guatemala to change the mining law that permits opencast mining for gold and other metals. Yuri Melini had led the campaign against the contamination of water sources and occupation of land in nature reserves. The attack against Yuri Melini is linked to his courageous campaigning to protect the environment and uphold the rights of the indigenous people.
As Director of CALAS Yuri Melini is an inspirational and respected leader challenging the mining companies and demanding accountability for the attacks and killings of environmentalists in Guatemala.
He has led the campaign for an investigation into the murders of environmentalists Erwin Ochoa Lopez and Julio Armando Vasquez who were assassinated because of their work to save supposedly protected areas of the forests. He has succeeded in having this case presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the case is currently pending before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Since 2006 he has published two reports on human rights abuses against environmentalists in which he has documented 128 cases. Yuri Melini continues to be in danger because of his human rights and environmental work which challenges the interests of commercial developers.
3. Yaena Solaemae, Thailand Yaena Solaemae is the main coordinator of the families of the victims of the Tak Bai killings in their campaign to have the perpetrators brought to justice. Yaena Solaemae facilitates the families of the victims to contact relevant government officers, lawyers and civil society organisations. She helped the families of the 59 charged, to observe the trial. and continues to support them in their campaign for justice despite the threats she regularly faces.
On October 25, 2004, security personnel from the army and police were mobilised to disperse Muslim protesters in front of a police station in the Tak Bai district in the southern province of Narathiwat. Seven protesters were shot dead on the spot, while 78 others were suffocated or were crushed to death as they were being transported to an army detention facility. Some 1,200 people were held in army custody for several days without appropriate medical attention. Yaena Solaemae was present at the time of the shootings and her son was among the 59 protesters who were charged because of their participation in the demonstration, although the charges against him were later dropped. To date there has been no criminal prosecution of the military personnel who carried out the killings, despite overwhelming evidence.
Despite the climate of impunity and the high levels of harassment and intimidation Yaena Solaemae has continued her struggle for justice for the families of Tak Bai. On 10 October 2007 unidentified gunmen shot and killed Ma-usoh Malong, Yaena Solaemae's husband. Witnesses report that the men who shot him came in a green pick-up truck and used an M-16 submachine gun. It is believed that the killing was intended to intimidate Yaena and other human rights defenders seeking justice over the Tak Bai killings. She has 8 children.
4. Samuel Mohochi, Executive Director, IMLU, Kenya Samuel Mohochi is the Executive Director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) in Kenya which provides medical and psychological care to survivors and victims of torture. It conducts postmortems and forensic documentation of torture cases. IMLU’s vision is to promote a torture free society -to promote the rights of torture victims and protect Kenyans from all forms of state perpetrated torture. They do this by advocating for legal and policy reforms, monitoring government adherence to human rights, rehabilitating victims of torture and building the capacity of key stakeholders.
Under Samuel Mohochi's leadership, IMLU has documented the most egregious human rights violations in Kenya in recent times. Recently, Samuel Mohochi collaborated in the investigations carried out by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) on extrajudicial killings by the police and the military.
While IMLU has on several occasions received threats and intimidation, its most recent work on Mount Elgon, the post-election violence and the extrajudicial killings has exposed its staff to particularly serious risks. The security situation for Samuel worsened after the publication of the KNCHR report on extrajudicial killings and after the visit in March 2009 by Mr Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
As a result of this escalation of risks, in March this year Samuel Mohochi had to go into hiding until the danger had subsided.