The 2013 United Nations Human Rights Prize winners include an anti-slavery activist, a campaigner for the rights of persons with disabilities, a 16-year-old defender of girls’ and women’s right to education, a human rights defender in Morocco and a national constitutional court.
In 1966, the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights to recognize “outstanding achievements in the field of human rights.” This year’s awards will be presented during a special ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York on 10 December (Human Rights Day). It will also mark the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
This year, five individuals and one organization have been awarded the prize: Biram Dah Abeid, Hiljmnijeta Apuk, Liisa Kauppinen, Khadija Ryadi, the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, and Malala Yousafzai.
As the son of freed-slaves, Mauritanian Biram Dah Abeid is engaged in an advocacy campaign to eradicate slavery. In 2008, he founded the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, an NGO that seeks to draw attention to the issue and to help take specific cases before courts of law.
Hiljmnijeta Apuk has been an activist in Kosovo* for the rights of the disabled for over 30 years, both domestically as well as internationally. As founding director of the Little People of Kosovo non-governmental organization, Apuk acts as national coordinator of an awareness campaign for employment possibilities of persons with disabilities. Hiljmnijeta is also an artist working to promote authentic culture of persons with disabilities through her artwork.
Dr. Liisa Kauppinen, Finland, has been a ‘voice’ for the human rights of deaf people since 1970. She was effective in securing the inclusion of references to signed languages, Deaf Culture, Deaf Community and the identity of deaf people within the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. Dr. Kauppinen's work has also focused on the rights of women and women with disabilities.
Having been a human rights activist since 1983 when she joined the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, Khadija Ryadi has been at the fore-front of several human rights causes, including justice for human rights violations, full equality between men and women, self-determination and freedom of expression regardless of sexual orientation.
The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice provides legal protection for the constitutional rights of Mexican citizens and residents. The national Supreme Court has made considerable progress in promoting human rights through its interpretations and enforcement of Mexico’s constitution and its obligations under international law.
Already a symbol for young women’s rights the world over, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, 16,was initially a vocal and well-known advocate for education and women’s rights, speaking out on the girls’ crucial right to education, women’s empowerment and the links between the two. After surviving an October 2012 assassination attempt in retaliation for her actions and advocacy, Yousafzai has demonstrated her courage and commitment by continuing to speak out on behalf of the rights of girls and women.
The Prize has been awarded every five years since 1968. Previous laureates have included Amnesty International, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The 2013 laureates were selected by a committee comprising the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and of the Human Rights Council, as well as the Chairpersons of the Commission on the Status of Women and of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights, which led to the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and the establishment of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to oversee the international human rights framework, promote human rights and protect individuals against abuse.
* Reference to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
9 December 2013