During the past few weeks we sent out our 100th Defender Alert Network appeal. Since beginning to build the network in June 2004 our appeals now reach over 9,000 participants. We always monitor carefully whether the demands we make in each appeal achieve the desired response, and we are pleased that in over 40% of cases we achieve some success.
Your appeals are making a difference, helping to free human rights defenders from prison or prompting progress in often sluggish official investigations into attacks on activists. But these types of successes are only part of the achievement of the DAN network over the past few years. One of the most important things we do through the DAN is to provide vulnerable activists at risk of persecution with the knowledge that people around the world care about their situation and are paying attention. Simply expressing this solidarity strengthens human rights defenders.
The DAN has also helped to raise public awareness at home and abroad about the work of human rights defenders featured in the appeals. This higher public profile often provides a degree of protection to activists, and it also provides opportunities for human rights defenders to have their voices heard in policy debates that affect human rights conditions in their countries.
Thank you for your continuing support of the Network.
Following the shutting down of the Russian Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) after losing an appeal against a closure order in the Russian Supreme Court on January 23, HRF invited Oksana Chelysheva, spokesperson of the RCFS, to New York and Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the mounting threats against independent human rights organizations in Russia.
Chelysheva told a forum on “Dissidents and the Fight for Freedom,” held in honor of former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, at The Library of Congress on February 20: “As other democratic voices have fallen silent, NGOs have become the last advocates of democracy in Russia, and now have been drawn into conflict with the state, even against their own will.” Several leading Russian human rights defenders will be visiting HRF in the coming months as we seek to mobilize a strong, coordinated response from the U.S. government and its democratic allies in Europe and elsewhere to urge the Russian government to live up to its obligations to uphold human rights and basic freedoms.
Attacks Against Women HRDs in ColombiaHuman rights defenders in Colombia operate in one of the most dangerous environments in the world; women defenders in that country often face additional, gender-specific violations of their rights. In January, HRF submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concerning gender-specific violations of the rights of women defenders in Colombia. Two staff members also attended discussions between the CEDAW committee experts and the government delegation from Colombia. They were pleased to observe that the second question posed by the experts addressed risks women human rights defenders face in Colombia, drawing directly from our submission.
The government delegation responded that every effort had been made to investigate and protect defenders. Unfortunately, reporting from within Colombia indicates that this is often not the case, and we will continue to advocate for the safety and freedom of women and all human rights defenders in Colombia.
Baldwin Award: Call For Nominations
The Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award for International Human Rights Defenders
Do you know of a human rights defender or organization overseas who has made a significant impact in advancing human rights in their country or internationally? If so, consider submitting a nomination for The Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award for International Human Rights Defenders, which honors those outside the United States who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human rights advocacy. The award will be presented by Human Rights First during a ceremony in the summer of 2007 and the winner will receive a $25,000 prize.