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Address by Ms. Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the occasion of the 2010 Martin Ennals Award ceremony

15 October 2010

Ms. Mayor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to participate once again in the Martin Ennals Award ceremony. This prestigious award celebrates the ideals and work of women and men who risk their lives to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  They are at the forefront of our struggle for human rights. We must always stand by human rights defenders.  In this spirit, at the opening of the 15th session of the Human Rights Council last month, I urged the Council and the international community to support squarely and vocally these brave advocates.

This year’s laureate is Mr. Muhannad Al-Hassani, a lawyer from Syria, , who, very regrettably, cannot be present with us tonight because he was arrested on 28 July 2009, and sentenced on 23 June 2010 to three years’ imprisonment.  His crime? He had monitored and reported on hearings before the State Security Court.  The conditions of detention of Mr. Al-Hassani are reportedly unacceptable. This evening, we all express our solidarity with him. I hope this award will give him and his colleagues of the Syrian Organization for Human Rights, a human rights organization which has been denied official registration by the authorities for the past six years, further strength and motivation to pursue their remarkable work. Mr. Al-Hassani’s courage and commitment to human rights inspire human rights defenders from around the world.

Finally, allow me to share with you the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day (10 December), which is “Speak Up… Stop Discrimination”.  Every one of us can and should be a human rights defender, and make a difference by speaking out against all forms of discrimination. I look forward to celebrating this special day with you.

Thank you.