International Bar Association/China/Turkey/Burma: Human Rights Award 2017 Shortlisted Candidates

Ramazan Demir

Ramazan Demir is a Turkish human rights lawyer, who has in his young career he has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of the human rights of all, and of the Kurdish people in Turkey in particular. Since 2009, Ramazan has continued to represent victims, journalists, and lawyers in the Kurdish areas of Turkey. Unfortunately, due to his valuable human rights work, Ramazan has faced serious personal consequences as criminal charges have been brought against him twice. The second time, in April 2016, Ramazan has been charged with terrorist related activities, because of his work for TUAD (an association for relatives of prisoners in Southeast Turkey). Furthermore, the case-file against him clearly shows that his activities as a human rights lawyer and his relationship with the international human rights community were used as grounds for the accusations against him. Despite the fact that the trial is still on-going, Ramazan took up his work for victims of human rights violations again and continues working for them up until today. The next hearing will be on 13 September 2017. Members of the judging panel noted that in terms of Ramazan’s efforts in the protection and advancement of Human Rights, he has made “significant personal endeavours” and in terms of the international impact and sustainability, Ramazan has made “a high impact on defence work in extremely challenging and threatening circumstances”. Lawyers for Lawyers, the organisation that nominated Ramazan, because they believe he is “a prominent and fearless defender of the rule of law and human rights.”


U Ko Ni

U Ko Ni was an activist, lawyer, author and academic. He worked tirelessly against the military dominance in Myanmar, contributing to the repeal of certain controversial laws and vigorously advocating for the amending of the military drafted 2008 Constitution. The 2008 Constitution reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military, empowers the military to appoint the ministers of defense, home affairs, and border affairs, and allows the military to dissolve the government during a national emergency. In private conversations, U Ko Ni was frank about the need to reform the 2008 Constitution in order to tackle Myanmar’s most serious problems and to strengthen the rule of law. U Ko Ni also became increasingly concerned about the myriad of ways in which Muslims are marginalised and discriminated in Myanmar and was eager to find ways to make a difference, notably through discussing hate speech and hate crimes in Myanmar and potential solutions. Members of the judging panel noted that he was a “significant advocate for protection of minorities in Myanmar” and had an “outstanding track record.” U Ko Ni was assassinated on 29 January 2017, several INGOs and others condemned the assassination. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), along with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada in their joint statement described U Ko Ni as somebody “who strongly advocated against religious discrimination and for inter-communal peace”, and called for “a prompt, impartial and effective investigation capable of identifying all those responsible and holding them accountable in a fair trial.”


Xie Yang

After an attempt to visit Chen Guangcheng, a laywer who was put under house arrest in Shandong province, which ended in a shocking and violent interception, Xie Yang, at the age of 38, made the decision to become a human rights lawyer. From then on, until his arrest in July 2015, Xie Yang represented dozens of human rights cases, confronted China’s human rights abuses and dictatorial ills, and spoke out fearlessly on China’s social media for his belief in democracy and universal human rights. Xie Yang was arrested during China’s ongoing crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists in July 2015, and then was subjected to 6 months of secret detention during which time he was cruelly tortured. Last November, 17 months after his arrest, Xie Yang was finally allowed to see his own lawyers where he requested that a thorough description of the torture he had suffered should be published to expose the widespread use of torture in China. The torture revelations marked a turning point, as the international outcry against torture made it impossible for China to continue its planned trials and sentences. The government signalled that it would release Xie Yang in “due time,” while since late February, Xie Yang’s lawyers have been prevented from meeting him. On May 8, Xie Yang was tried, and in the court and on camera he admitted guilty and denied torture. He was released on that day, but except for a couple of appearances in the company of police, he has been disappeared and his wife and relatives have not been able to contact him. Members of the judging panel noted Xie Yang had given an “outstanding personal sacrifice and commitment to the causes of human rights.”

https://www.ibanet.org/Committees/Divisions/Legal_Practice/IBA-Human-Rights-Award.aspx

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