Geneva – The Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk from Siem Reap, Cambodia has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award. He witnessed his family and fellow villagers being forcibly evicted from their homes in 2009. Since then he has been a strong advocate against forced evictions, which remove families from their homes, often violently and little or no compensation. Despite threats to his person, of arrest and disrobing, the Venerable Sovath, a non-violent Buddhist monk, uses videos, poems and songs to defend the right to housing. His advocacy touches powerful economic interests. The threats against the Venerable Sovath are very real. Human Rights First is a member of the Jury that selected the Venerable Sovath.
Venerable Sovath was selected from among three final nominees. Also nominated was Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian Lawyer serving a 6 year prison sentence in Iran for her Human Rights work . She is known particularly for her work on behalf of women and children’s rights, especially juveniles facing execution. The third nominee was the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who report widely on human rights abuses in Bahrain. Many of their key staff are currently imprisoned for their work.
The New Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss President and Foreign Minister said: “This year’s novel format with three nominees made the Jury’s decision particularly difficult. As a Buddhist monk, Venerable Sovath has managed to raise wider attention to the issue of forced evictions in Cambodia.”
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is also composed of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.
Previous laureates include: Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (2011) Muhannad Al-Hassani, Syria, Emad Baghi, Iran; Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan; Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.
Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Louise Arbour, Robert Fulghum, Irene Khan, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje†.