Three Human Right Defenders Selected as Final Nominees for the 2014 Martin Ennals Award

Washington, D.C.  – Human Rights First along with the other members of the Martin Ennals Award jury today announced Cao Shunli, Adilur Rahman Khan, and Alejandra Ancheita as the three finalists for the 2014 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. This award is given by the international human rights community to human rights defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk. The aim of the award is to highlight the work of the nominees and protect them through increased visibility.

The first nominee, Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli, died in detention on March 14th, 2014 after being denied medical attention for known health problems. She disappeared on September 14th, 2013 shortly before boarding a flight to participate in the Human Rights Council. Chinese authorities only acknowledged her detention months later. Since 2008, she vigorously advocated for access to information, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. For this, she spent over two years in the “re-education through labour” system and was subjected to repeated harassment.

The second nominee, Adilur Rahman Khan, is a human rights defender from Bangladesh. For more than two decades he has worked on a wide range of human rights issues, including illegal detention, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. His organization, Odhikar, is one of the few independent voices left in Bangladesh. He is now facing criminal prosecution for documenting the extrajudicial deaths of 61 people during demonstrations against the government. In August 2013, he was detained by police with no arrest warrant, who then denied holding him. Immediate widespread publicity is credited with saving his life. Currently, his organization is facing closure and donor funds destined for Odhikar are being blocked by the prime minister’s office.

The final nominee, Alejandra Ancheita from Mexico, is the founder and executive director of ProDESC. For more than 15 years she has worked with migrants, workers, and indigenous communities to protect their land and labor rights from transnational mining and energy companies. These disputes have resulted in violent attacks on those she is trying to protect. She is one of the pioneers in seeking accountability for transnational companies in Mexican courts where local communities’ rights are not taken into account. In Mexico, there is a clear pattern of attacks, threats, criminalization, and murders of human rights defenders. Alejandra and ProDESC have been subjected to surveillance, a defamation campaign in the national media, and a break in at her organization’s offices.

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, EWDE Germany, International Service for Human Rights, and HURIDOCS. The award will be presented on October 7th at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

For further information, please contact: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208 or [email protected], or visit


Published on April 23, 2014


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