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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Winners of the United Nations Human Rights Prize for 2013 announced

UN Human Rights Prize

06 December 2013

NEW YORK / GENEVA (6 December 2013) – The winners of the prestigious United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights for 2013 have been announced by the Selection Committee.

They are: Mr. Biram Dah Abeid, Ms. Hiljmnijeta Apuk, Ms. Liisa Kauppinen, Ms. Khadija Ryadi, the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico and Ms. Malala Yousafzai. The committee consisting of the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council, President of the Human Rights Council, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council, has been tasked by the General Assembly with selecting the winners.

The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is an honorary award given to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights. The Prize was established by the General Assembly in 1966 and awarded for the first time on 10 December 1968, the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on what became widely known as International “Human Rights Day”.

The Prize has been awarded every five years since 1968 (in 1973, 1978, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013). Previous laureates have included Amnesty International, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Prize is an opportunity not only to give public recognition to the achievements of the recipients themselves, but also to send a clear message to human rights defenders the world over that the international community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote all human rights for all.

The award ceremony for the 2013 Prize will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on 10 December 2013, as part of the annual commemoration of Human Rights Day that will this year include the observance of the 20th Anniversary of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

The 2013 awardees are:

1. Mr. Biram Dah Abeid (campaigner against slavery) from Mauritania
Mr. Abeid, himself the son of freed-slaves, is engaged in an advocacy campaign to eradicate slavery. In 2008, he founded an NGO, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement. His organization seeks to draw attention to the issue and to help take specific cases before courts of law. Mr. Abeid recently won a human rights defenders award for his work.

2. Ms. Hiljmnijeta Apuk (human rights activist and campaigner for rights of people with disproportional restricted growth – short stature) from Kosovo*
Hiljmnijeta Apuk has been an activist for the rights of the persons with disabilities for over 30 years, both domestically as well as internationally. She is the founding director of the Little People of Kosovo non-governmental organization and acts as national coordinator of an awareness campaign for employment possibilities of persons with disabilities. In addition to working for many years on rights of persons with muscular dystrophy and of those with disproportionally restricted growth up to the height of 125cm, Ms. Apuk is also an artist, working to promote authentic culture of persons with disabilities through her artwork. Ms. Apuk was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the UN General Assembly on drafting of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3. Ms. Liisa Kauppinen (President emeritus of the World Federation of the Deaf) Finland
Dr. Liisa Kauppinen 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 UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. Dr Kauppinen's human rights work, however, has not focused exclusively on the rights of deaf people, but also on rights of women and women with disabilities. Dr Kauppinen's passion for international work lead to a number of development co-operation projects with Deaf Communities in Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, the Balkans and North West Russia.

4. Ms. Khadija Ryadi (Former President of the Morocco Association for Human Rights) Morroco
Khadija Ryadi has been a human rights activist since 1983 when she joined the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. Ms. Ryadi has been at the fore-front of several human rights causes, including fight against impunity, full equality between men and women, self-determination and freedom of expression regardless of sexual orientation. She is a coordinator of a network of 22 human rights NGOs in Morocco.

5. Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico (Mexico’s Constitutional Court)
The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice provides legal protections for constitutional rights of Mexican citizens and residents. The national Supreme Court has accomplished very considerable progress in promoting human rights through its interpretations and enforcement of Mexico’s constitution and its obligations under international law. Additionally, the national Supreme Court has set important human rights standards for Mexico and the Latin-American region.

6. Malala Yousafzai (student activist), Pakistan
Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol for young women’s rights the world over. Initially a vocal and well-known advocate for education and women’s rights, she was already a well-known figure 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 for education and women’s rights, Ms. Yousafzai has demonstrated her courage and commitment by continuing to speak out on behalf of the rights of girls and women.

(*) Reference to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo


For more information including on how to attend the awards ceremony on Human Rights Day on 10 December 2013 please contact: Mr. Nenad Vasiæ at 212 963 5998, [email protected], or Mr. Martijn Dalhuijsen at 1 917 367 2723, [email protected].