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2008 Anwar Al-Bunni winner of the Fourth Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
On 1 May, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, presented the 2008 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk to Anwar al-Bunni of Syria. The Award was collected on his behalf by his wife Ragheda Issa Refki.
Anwar al-Bunni is currently serving a five year prison sentence because of his courageous work defending human rights defenders and opposition activists facing charges before the State Security Court. He had also set up a human rights centre in Damascus to support the work of human rights defenders and publicly denounced the use of torture in Syrian prisons.
The Front Line Award was presented to his wife Ragheda Issa Refki who flew to Dublin for the event by Ireland's President McAleese.
The presentation was made at a prestigious ceremony in Dublin's City Hall attended by leading members of the Government, the business community and the diplomatic corps.
In her speech President McAleese said "Among them are the heroic and the self-sacrificing few who refuse to accept the strangulation of freedom, the silencing of voices raised in protest against abuse and in defence of human rights. Such individuals have an extraordinary moral power, a power that is precisely what places them in danger. Their words have the ring of truth, the worst possible offence in the eyes of those who would try to resist the irresistible pressure to cultivate a vibrant, open, humanly-uplifting culture of freedom and of human rights".
Al-Bunni was selected as this year's winner by the jury of members of the Irish and European parliaments and was selected from a short list that included nominees from Indonesia, China, Honduras and Brazil.
“All of these courageous people deserve international recognition. Every one of them is directly at risk because of their human rights work and they all deserve our support and any protection we can give them”. said Mary Lawlor Director Front Line who also spoke at the event. “The jury of Irish Parliamentarians decided to Award this year's Front Line Award to Anwar al-Bunni of Syria because of his outstanding work over more than 20 years. Despite all the problems, the tragedies and the abuses he has has kept his belief in the prospect of a better future for Syria” said Lawlor.
Profile of Anwar al-Bunni winner of the Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2008 Anwar al-Bunni is currently serving a prison sentence of five and a half years because of his work as a human rights lawyer, defending human rights defenders and political prisoners and because he spoke out about the use of torture in Syrian prisons. Anwar al-Bunni is the head of the "Free Political Prisoners Committee," and a leading human rights lawyer in Syria. He estimates that the various members of his family have spent over 60 years in Syrian prisons. He defended “Damascus Spring” leaders in 2001 and continues to represent many human rights defenders in Syria. Since the 1990's he has regularly defended human rights defenders and political prisoners facing prosecution before the State Security Court.