Benazir Bhutto named among seven winners of UN human rights prize

26 November 2008
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto

A Congolese doctor who treats female victims of sexual violence, a nun who advocated for indigenous rights before her murder in Brazil three years ago and the slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto are among seven recipients of a prestigious United Nations prize awarded for outstanding work in human rights.

The UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded by the General Assembly every five years, will be presented this year at a ceremony in New York on 10 December to mark the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

This year’s winners, announced today, include Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ramsey Clark, ex-Attorney-General of the United States; Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director and co-founder of Jamaicans for Justice; Denis Mukwege, co-founder of the General Referral Hospital of Panzi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and Human Rights Watch.

Ms. Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, and Dorothy Stang of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are also being posthumously honoured.

An ardent advocate for democracy and for the human rights of the most vulnerable sections of society, particularly women, children and minority rights, Ms. Bhutto was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan. After returning to Pakistan late last year following years in exile, Ms. Bhutto was assassinated in an attack in Rawalpindi.

Sr. Stang defended the human rights of the poor, landless and indigenous populations of the Anapu region of Brazil for nearly 40 years, despite numerous death threats. She worked with farmers to help rebuild their livelihoods, cultivate their land and defend their rights from loggers and ranchers, becoming a symbol of the fight to preserve the rainforest before being killed in 2005.

Prior to her role as High Commissioner, Ms. Arbour served as the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and was responsible for the first indictment in history of a sitting head of state, Slobodan Miloševic.

Mr. Clark, a veteran human rights defender and rule of law advocate, played a key role in the civil rights and peace movements in the US, and more recently has spoken out against abuses committed in the name of “counter-terrorism.”

Under Dr. Gomes’ leadership, Jamaicans for Justice has become the premier human rights advocacy group in the Caribbean country, developing innovative local and international partnerships to advance the cause of human rights.

For more than 10 years Dr. Mukwege has devoted himself to helping women and girls who are victims of sexual violence in the war-torn DRC region of South Kivu, setting up specialized services for their treatment and training nurses, obstetricians and doctors so that all those who come to the hospital can be helped.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights violations across the globe and advocated for the promotion of human rights and freedoms for some 30 years. The organization has played a key role in major advocacy campaigns, such as for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and more recently the Cluster Munitions Coalition.

“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we acknowledge the tireless work and invaluable contribution of these individuals and organizations that have fought to see the rights and freedoms embodied in this historic document become a reality for people in all corners of the world,” said Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto.

“These awardees constitute symbols of persistence, valour and tenacity in their resistance to public and private authorities that violate human rights. They constitute a moral force to put an end to systematic human rights violations,” Mr. D’Escoto said in a press release issued today.

The prize was first awarded on 10 December 1968 on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR and previous recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Amnesty International.


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