For Immediate Release: June 5, 2007
NEW YORK — Human Rights First, the New York based human rights organization, today announced that Colombian human rights activist Ivan Cepeda has been awarded the prestigious 2007 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty for international human rights defenders.
“Ivan Cepeda is a courageous human rights defender who has overcome threats and intimidation to help draw greater attention to rights violations in Colombia” said Human Rights First’s Executive Director Maureen Byrnes.
Dr. Cepeda is the founder and spokesman of a number of human rights organizations including the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes, which consists of more than 200 organizations. Together with other human rights defenders he has participated in a process which has documented approximately 40,000 cases of serious human rights violations committed in Colombia since 1966. Through remarkable perseverance he has demonstrated that paramilitary groups have committed serious human rights violations often in complicity with members of the Colombian armed forces.
Dr. Cepeda’s father, a Colombian Senator, was brutally killed in 1994. Ivan has twice been forced to live in exile due to death threats. Unfortunately, Colombian government authorities have exacerbated these threats by making denigrating comments about him. He also has been the target of spurious criminal investigations.
“This Award recognizes the importance of Ivan’s human rights work and that of other Colombian human rights defenders who are unfairly stigmatized by the Colombian government,” Ms. Byrnes said. “It is our hope that the Government of Colombia will allow Mr. Cepeda to operate freely in the future, and to carry out his important human rights work.
Dr. Cepeda will be presented with the Baldwin award in New York on June 20, 2007. He will also meet with international organizations and U.S. policymakers in Washington and New York.
Human Rights First received many nominations for extraordinary human rights activists from all over the world to receive the award. An international selection committee reviewed these nominations and recommended his selection to Human Rights First’s Board of Directors.The Award is named in honor of Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International League for Human Rights. The Award is presented by Human Rights First every other year to a human rights organization or activist outside of the United States that has made a distinguished contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights.