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2002 2002-11-21T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

NEW YORK - Five human rights activists - from the United Kingdom, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Sierra Leone - will be honored December 9 by the International League for Human Rights to mark Defenders’ Day at the United Nations.

Four of the five - one is jailed in Kazakhstan - will be in New York for a reception and awards ceremony and will be available for interviews. A clip from the film Bloody Sunday about struggles in Northern Ireland will be screened at the awards presentation.

“These five heroes have taken unpopular stands, challenged autocrats and lifted their voices on behalf of African women and girls, Chinese people infected with HIV/AIDS, the people of Northern Ireland and citizens resisting authoritarian rule in the former Soviet Union,” said Dr. Louise Kantrow, Executive Director of the International League for Human Rights.

The five are: Sergei Duvanov, an independent journalist recently detained in Kazakhstan; Don Mullan, a native of Northern Ireland, journalist and author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday; Christiana Thorpe of Sierra Leone, founder of an organization which empowers African women and girls; Topchubek Turgunaliev, a campaigner for democracy in Kyrgyzstan; and Dr. Wan Yanhai, an HIV/AIDS activist recently released by Chinese authorities who had accused him of disclosing state secrets about a tainted provincial blood supply.

Sergei Duvanov has been harassed regularly, and last August he was beaten and a cross carved into his chest for his reporting on corruption involving Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Duvanov edits the magazine of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and writes for Internet websites of opposition political parties. In late October he was arrested on sexual assault charges, hours before he was to fly to the United States to speak on press freedom and human rights in Kazakhstan. Duvanov’s daughter, Denissa, will accept the award on his behalf.

Don Mullan, a human rights activist, journalist, writer, lecturer and producer, was an eyewitness to the events of Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, when British troops fatally shot fourteen unarmed Catholics in Derry. That day began the violent struggles between Britain and sections of Ireland, north and south. Mullan has worked to educate people about the impact of Bloody Sunday and recently co-produced a film, Bloody Sunday, based on his book. His publications include The Dublin Monaghan Bombings and A Gift of Roses.

Christiana Thorpe of Sierra Leone, an activist for women’s and girls’ rights, founded and heads the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). It seeks to empower women and girls to become involved in decisions about rebuilding Sierra Leone following ten years of armed struggle in the West African nation. The majority of victims were women and girls, some of them as young as six, who were abducted, raped and forced to become sex slaves.

Topchubek Turgunaliev has been at the forefront of the movement for democracy in Kyrgyzstan for ten years. He founded the Institute for Human Rights and Liberties and helped draft the constitution. Since 1996 he has been imprisoned on several occasions for his political activism promoting democracy and pluralism. Turgunaliev co-founded the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan and the Erkindik (Liberty) Party and helped organize the Prisoners of Conscience Guild.

Dr. Wan Yanhai, the most visible AIDS activist in China, is the founder and coordinator of the non-governmental Aids Action Project (AIZHI). He drew the ire of Chinese authorities for disclosing a confidential report about a scandal involving tainted blood at government-supported clinics in Henan Province. Hundreds of thousands of villagers allegedly were infected with HIV through faulty blood collection practices. Dr. Wan also has fought discrimination against infected people. He was arrested in August on charges of disclosing state secrets in connection with the blood supply report.

The International League for Human Rights, now in its sixtieth year, seeks to build the capacity and support the activities of its partners and individual human rights advocates worldwide. It focuses on four major program areas: Defending the defenders of human rights, promoting human rights in countries in transition to democracy, furthering women’s and children’s rights and strengthening international institutions that protect human rights.

Defenders’ Day, December 9 each year, marks the adoption by the U.N. General Assembly in 1998 of the Defenders’ Declaration, reinforcing the right of individuals and groups to promote and protect the rights of others. It falls on the day before the December 10 anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948.

For more information and to arrange interviews with honorees, contact Victoria Graham,
212 . 740-2403, VicGraham@aolcom or Leila Sandell at the International League for Human Rights, 212 . 661-0480.

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