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Front Line Defenders in partnership with Al Jazeera Media Network announces finalists for the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award
2014 is the 10th year of the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk and this year Front Line Defenders is proud to announce the participation of Al Jazeera Media Network as our global media partner.
The involvement of the Al Jazeera Media Network will bring the stories of individual human rights defenders to a worldwide audience and will contribute to their protection. Many human rights defenders believe that an increased international profile can increase the political cost of attacks against them and thereby contribute to their ability to continue their work on behalf of others.
The Front Line Defenders Award was inaugurated in 2005 to pay tribute to one human rights defender who has made an exceptional contribution to the promotion and protection of Human Rights in the face of considerable personal risk.
Front Line Defenders also works in different ways to support the protection of human rights defenders who make a strategic choice to maintain a low profile, including through training in digital security.
This year a total of 110 human rights defenders from 51 countries were nominated and the list of 6 finalists was chosen by a jury of members of the Irish and European Parliaments, and representatives of the Board of Front Line Defenders and Al Jazeera Media Network.
The recipient of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award will be announced at a ceremony in Dublin on 7 March and the overall winner will receive a prize of Eur15,000 to enable him/her to continue their vital work defending the rights of others
“The Front Line Defenders Award allows us to focus on the unique contribution of human rights defenders to the creation of more just and equal societies. The fact that these outstanding human beings have to fight for their survival is a motivation to us all to do more on their behalf but is also a reproach to the callous indifference of so many governments” Front Line Defenders founder and Executive Director, Ms Lawlor.
 The jury members are: Minister for Education Mr Ruairi Quin TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Mr Simon Coveney TD, Ms Emer Costello MEP, Sen Averil Power TD, Ms Noeline Blackwell, Front Line Defenders Board, Mr Sami Al-Haj, Al Jazeera Media Network.
Ales Bialiatski is chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna', one of the biggest human rights groups in Belarus which campaigns against the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment and on behalf of political prisoners. The organisation was forcibly closed down in 2003 and barred from holding a bank account in Belarus. This left its members open to prosecution for working for an unregistered organisation. Ales was later arrested for using his personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to support the organisation's human rights work in Belarus. On 24 November 2011 he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in a maximum-security prison for “concealment of income on a large scale”.
Berta Caceres is a Lenca indigenous woman who has been on the front lines defending the territory and the rights of the indigenous Lenca people for the last 20 years. She is one of the most important voices for social justice, the equitable management of natural resources, and women’s rights in Honduras. Berta is one of the founding directors of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH). She has been at the forefront of a campaign against a mega-complex of four large dams in the Gualcarque River basin, called the Agua Zarca project. Berta has paid a high price for her human rights work. She has endured threats, intimidation and attacks and has seen two of her colleagues murdered. She has been the target of numerous vexatious prosecutions and continues to be at risk. Berta Caceres remains one of the most respected human rights defenders in Honduras.
The Society for Appraisal & Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA) is a women-led, grass-roots NGO dedicated to empowering women and girls in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. SAWERA operates in a region where people working on issues relating to women face extreme risks. In 2012, Ms Farida Afridi, one of the co-founders of SAWERA was shot dead while on her way to work and in 2013 the SAWERA offices were bombed, causing extensive damage to the infrastructure of the office building and the organisation's technical equipment. The staff at SAWERA continue to receive threatening telephone calls demanding that they cease their work but, despite the risks, they continue to work on issues pertaining to women's rights in one of the most traditional and culturally sensitive regions in Pakistan.
Dr Mohamed Al Roken is a leading lawyer and human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates. Despite official hostility and restrictive laws designed to curtail human rights activities, Mohamed has remained a champion of the rule of law and respect for universal human rights. He has defended those facing prosecution under arbitrary and unjust laws, especially other human rights defenders. He and his family have been subjected to ongoing harassment and intimidation to force him to give up his work. In 2012 he was forcibly disappeared, held in a secret location for eight months and tortured. Later that year, he was one of 94 human rights defenders and political activists arrested on charges of belonging to an Islamist group and plotting to overthrow the state. In 2013 he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after an unfair trial and prevented from lodging an appeal.
Adilur Rahman Khan is the secretary of the human rights organisation Odhikar. On 10 August 2013, Adilur was arrested without a warrant, held for 59 days, and later charged with 'publishing false images and information' and 'disrupting the law and order situation'. It is widely accepted that Adilur's arrest is directly related to a report published by Odhikar concerning a crackdown by security forces on a rally in May 2013. The report concluded that 61 people died in the incident while the Government continues to deny that any deaths occurred. Adilur was initially denied bail on 3 occasions, which he subsequently challenged, and on 08 October 2013 he was granted a six-month interim bail. The charges against him are still pending and it is suspected that newly fabricated charges are being compiled. Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Bangladesh work in an environment marred by judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest, fabricated charges and physical attacks.
Lydia Mukami is the chair of the Mwea Foundation, a grass-roots organisation of rice farmers in the Mwea constituency of Kirinyaga county, in the Central Province of Kenya. The Mwea Foundation has been at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to challenge the constitutionality of the 1966 Irrigation Act (Cap 347). The Mwea Foundation argues that the Act is retrogressive as it prohibits women from owning land, violates a host of socio-economic rights of the Mwea farmers and gives excessive powers to the National Irrigation Board (NIB) with regard to the administration of the area. Lydia and her colleagues at the Mwea Foundation have faced threats and direct violence as a result of their human rights work with Lydia herself being abducted, beaten and stripped of her clothes in public. She has also received threatening messages and her home has been torched.