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Home / Press Release / Abdul Aziz Muhamat Selected as 2019 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders Laureate 
February 13, 2019

Abdul Aziz Muhamat Selected as 2019 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders Laureate 

Geneva—The Martin Ennals Award Jury today gave its 2019 Award for Human Rights Defenders to Abdul Aziz Muhamat, the Sudanese refugee advocate being held in detention on Manus Island Papua New Guinea. The award is given to human rights defenders who show deep commitment to their work at great personal risk and provides protection to the winner through increased international recognition. The jury is composed of ten leading human rights organizations. The award was presented this evening in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Migrant rights are under attack across the world—from the United States to Europe to Australia. Defending those rights is increasingly difficult and dangerous. Aziz is a modern-day human rights defender fighting for justice in one of the harshest places in the world,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, one of the jury members of the Ennals Award.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat (Aziz), from Sudan, is a compelling advocate for migrant rights. Seeking asylum, he has been held in Australian immigration detention on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea since October 2013, when his boat was intercepted by Australian authorities. Aziz has seen friends die, was shot at by local police, and was sent to a local prison for refusing to eat in protest of the cruelty and suffering being inflicted on others. He is one of the primary public voices among the men held on Manus Island, and despite the isolated location, has exposed the harsh conditions through podcasts and media interviews. He has paid a price for this as he is seen as a “ring leader” by both the Papa New Guinea and Australian authorities.

Living conditions on Manus island are denounced by human rights organizations. “People are dying, notably for lack of appropriate medical care. Some of them, including children, committed suicide. We need safety, we need freedom, we need hope. Opposing this cruel system helps preserve my self-esteem and my human dignity”, Muhamat explained. “I will continue to fight until all of us are safe and free.”

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 composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, International Commission of Jurists, Brot fuer die Welt, International Service for Human Rights, and HURIDOCS. The 2019 Martin Ennals Award was presented today at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information or to speak with Dooley contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.