Human Rights First Awards Prestigious Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Yemen’s Mwatana Organization for Human Rights

Washington, D.C.Human Rights First announced today that it will award the 2018 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Yemeni human rights group Mwatana Organization for Human Rights. The award, which comes with a $30,000 prize and an all-expenses paid advocacy trip to the United States, will be presented at a ceremony in the fall.

Mwatana is an independent Yemeni human rights organization that undertakes field investigations to produce objective accounts of human rights violations in Yemen, and provides legal support to assist victims. The multi-party conflict in Yemen, which has raged for more than three years, is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world according to the United Nations. Today, more than 22 million Yemeni men, women, and children are dependent on humanitarian aid for survival, with millions at risk of starvation.

The organization documents violations by all parties in the conflict, including by Yemeni government forces, U.S.-backed coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and Houthi insurgents, who have received Iranian support. Mwatana’s reports have documented Saudi and Emirati coalition airstrikes on civilian sites; Houthi use of landmines and indiscriminate shelling; and extrajudicial executions by Yemeni government-aligned forces. Its research and legal support has focused on cases of arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, and torture committed by all parties to the conflict. Chairperson Radhya al-Mutawakel and Executive Director Abdulrasheed al-Faqih have faced detention, attacks, and harassment by both the Houthis and Saudi/UAE-led coalition in response to the organization’s unvarnished reporting.

“We at Mwatana are delighted that the Baldwin Award recognizes our work. This award will bring much-needed attention to the tragedy of what is really happening in Yemen. It also serves as a further incentive for us to tell the stories of the Yemeni victims of human rights violations, and enables us to continue to push for accountability and justice,” said Radhya al-Mutawakel, Chairperson at Mwatana Organization for Human Rights.

Mwatana’s work was recognized last year, when Ms. al-Mutawakel briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in Yemen, becoming the first Yemeni civil society actor ever to speak before the body.

As Yemeni citizens, both Ms. al-Mutawakel and Mr. al-Faqih are barred from traveling to the United States under the Trump Administration’s travel ban, which impacts nearly all travelers from five predominantly Muslim countries, North Korea, and Venezuela. Given the travel ban, it is currently unclear whether Mwatana’s leaders will be able to travel to the United States to receive the Baldwin Medal.

“The war in Yemen is deepening an already unfathomable humanitarian catastrophe, with all sides in that conflict guilty of human rights violations and heinous breaches of international humanitarian law. The world knows this because of the courageous reporting of people like Radhya al-Mutawakel, Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, and the staff they lead at Mwatana Organization for Human Rights,” said Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy at Human Rights First, who chaired the 2018 Baldwin Award jury. “Radhya and Abdulrasheed exemplify the best in what it means to be a human rights defender. The fact that these brave activists may be barred from the United States under the Trump Administration’s travel ban is a travesty of the first order.”

The Baldwin Medal of Liberty is named in honor of Roger N. Baldwin, principal founder of both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International League for Human Rights. The award, which was established in 1989, is presented in alternating years by Human Rights First, which awards international human rights advocates, and the ACLU, which awards advocates in the United States.

The 2018 Baldwin Jury was comprised of prominent activists and members of the legal and business communities, including Hala Aldosari, scholar and activist in women’s health, Harvard University; Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice-President for Policy at Human Rights First and jury chair; Diana Daniels, former Vice President and General Counsel of The Washington Post Company; Viviane Eisenberg, Executive VP for Legal Affairs, HBO; Emily Martinez, Director of the Human Rights Initiative at the Open Society Foundations; Gay McDougall, Vice Chair, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, Fordham Law; Stan Shuman, Senior Advisor to Allen & Company LLC; and Vanessa Tucker, Vice President for Research and Analysis at Freedom House.


Published on August 2, 2018


Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.