For Immediate Release: October 15, 2009
NEW YORK– Human Rights First today praised the U.S. Department of State for granting Colombian activist Gabriel Gonzalez’s visa request to enter the country next week to receive the organization’s 2009 human rights award inNew York. Gonzalez’s request had languished in a bureaucratic limbo for more than four months, a delay that spurred media attention, Congressional inquiries, and other diplomatic advocacy efforts.
“We are thrilled that Gabriel will have the opportunity to come to the United States and receive this well-deserved honor. We encourage the Department of Homeland Security’s cooperation respecting his visa status and permitting his entry into the United States,” noted Human Rights First’s Andrew Hudson. “The U.S.government made the right call in granting his request, a decision that is a sensible extension of their longtime support for Gabriel’s effort to defend human rights in Colombia. It is an honor to support Gabriel’s important work that strengthens both Colombia and the U.S.”
Gonzalez is a groundbreaking student activist and regional coordinator of the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee in Colombia, where he has worked to promote access to justice for prisoners and victims of Colombia’s conflict. Ironically, Gonzalez’s advocacy led to his own arrest and detention on the false charge of being a guerilla leader. He was detained for more than a year, lived in exile to escape judicial harassment, and now faces seven more years in prison on trumped-up charges if his test-case appeal to Colombia’s Supreme Court is unsuccessful. In 2007, the State Department included Gonzalez in its human rights country report citing his baseless prosecution as being emblematic of “the government’s attempts to harass human rights defenders.”
Gonzalez was chosen by Human Rights First for the 2009 Human Rights Award in recognition of his courageous defense of human rights inColombia. He will be honored at an event hosted by legendary newsman Tom Brokaw on Thursday, October 22 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards for more than 20 years. Former recipients include Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam from Darfur; Ludmilla Alexeeva from Russia; Helen Mack from Guatemala; Archbishop Pius Ncube from Zimbabwe; Saad Eddin Ibrahim from Egypt; Albie Sachs from South Africa; Hina Jalani from Pakistan; and Mary Robinson from Ireland.
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