Three Nominees Announced for 2019 Martin Ennals Award

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First, along with other members of the Martin Ennals Award jury, today announced Eren Kskin, Marino Cordoba Berrio, and Abdul Aziz Muhamat as the three finalists for the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award is given annually by the international human rights community to a human rights defender who has shown deep commitment and has faced great personal risk to advance human rights. The aim of the award is to highlight the work of the nominees and protect them through increased visibility.

“The shortlist is a reminder that thousands of human rights defenders working across different issues across different continents face constant threats, and that governments should do much more to protect them,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley.

The first nominee, Eren Keskin, is a lawyer and human rights activist. For more than thirty years, she has struggled for fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey, especially for the country’s Kurdish community, women, and the LGBTI+ community. Within the context of the worsening human rights situation in Turkey, Keskin is once again at the centre of intimidation attempts. As part of a solidarity campaign to support the Özgür Gündem newspaper, Keskin held the title of editor-in-chief from 2013 until 2016—when it was closed by the authorities. On March 30th, 2018, she was convicted and sentenced to 12 and a half years imprisonment for publishing articles deemed to have “degraded” the Turkish nation and “insulted” the Turkish president. She is currently free while the case is appealed.

The second nominee, Marino Cordoba Berrio, is a member of Colombia’s Afro-Colombian community, where he led the fight to prevent loss of their land to powerful commercial interests, notably the logging and mining industries. After successfully working towards legal recognition of land rights, much of his community was driven out by force in 1996. Constant threats and attacks drove Berrio to seek asylum in the United States in 2002 where he built a network of supporters. He returned to Colombia in 2012 and worked to ensure a role for ethnic communities in the peace agreement, notably as a member of the “Ethnic Commission for Peace and the Defense of Territorial Rights .” He regularly receives death threats and is under constant armed guard.

The final nominee is Abdul Aziz Muhamat (Aziz), from Sudan, is a compelling and tireless advocate for refugee 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 the Australian authorities. Aziz has seen friends die. He has been shot at by local police. He was also sent to a local prison for refusing to eat in protest of the cruelty and suffering being inflicted on others. Aziz is one of the primary public voices among the men held on Manus Island. Despite the isolated location, he has exposed the harsh conditions there 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.

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 will be presented on February13, 2019 at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

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


Published on October 24, 2018


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