Nominees for Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2008

Anwar al-Bunni - Syria

Anwar al-Bunni is currently serving a prison sentence of five and a half years because of his work as a human rights lawyer, defending human rights defenders and political prisoners and because he spoke out about the use of torture in Syrian prisons.

Anwar al-Bunni is the head of the "Free Political Prisoners Committee," and a leading human rights lawyer in Syria. He estimates that the various members of his family have spent over 60 years in Syrian prisons. He defended “Damascus Spring” leaders in 2001 and continues to represent many human rights defenders in Syria.

Since the 1990's he has regularly defended human rights defenders and political prisoners including members of, the Democratic Ba’ath Party, the Communist Party – the Political Bureau, and the Communist Labour Party who were prosecuted by the State Security Court.

Latifah Anum Siregar INDONESIA

Latifah Anum Siregar human rights lawyer, Chair of the Alliance for Democracy in Papua (ALDP) and advocate for peace, works in the complex tribal and migrant conflicts in Papua helping communities in isolated areas to defend their rights. Because of her work as a human rights defender her office has been broken into, she receives regular threats and there have been several attempts to kidnap her. .In 2005, Latifah Anum Siregar was almost kidnapped in the office by a group of people who introduced themselves as students.

Latifah Anum Siregar and ALDP provide legal assistance to plaintiffs in the courts on a daily basis. The ALDP assists indigenous Papuans who are the victims of injustice, particularly where they have lost their civil and political rights because they are suspected of being separatists.

In 2005 another incident of harassment and intimidation occurred when a set of computers and printers in Latifah Anum Siregar's office were stolen. To date the perpetrators have not been identified despite the case having been reported to the police. In another instance some unknown people tried to burn Latifah Anum Siregar's office, but her colleagues were able to prevent it.

Liu Jie - China

Liu Jie, 55, of Beian City, Heilongjiang Province, is a veteran rural campaigner and human rights defender who has been defending human rights since the 1990s.

Liu Jie is currently serving 18 months of Re-education through Labour (RTL) in Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang province. She was the lead organiser of a public letter signed by 12,150 petitioners calling on leaders at the 17th Party Congress to implement political and legal reforms. On 11 October 2007, three days after the letter was released, Liu was seized by Beijing police.

On November 12, she was sent to RTL for "instigating trouble" and "disturbing social order" by the Heilongjiang Provincial Nongken (Military Farm Bureau) Public Security Bureau (PSB). Due to a previous beating in custody Liu Jie has suffered serious loss of vision and is likely to go blind if she does not receive the necessary medical treatment, which is not available in the labour camp.

Valdecy dos Santos – Brazil Valdecy dos Santos Gomes of ECOTTACC is a human rights defender who receives death threats and ongoing intimidation because of his work to protect the environment and the land rights of small farming communities in the Amazon.

Valdecy dos Santos Gomes lives in Santarém, Pará, Brazil. He is a farmer and the President of ECOTTACC. ECOTTACC is the Association of Rural Workers, working on the issue of land settlement and agrarian reform. INCRA is the state agency which is suposed to organise agrarian reform in Brazil, but in Pará they are in trouble because instead of serving the poor settlers they serve the timber entrepreneurs. Valdecy is leader of one of the settlments and he is in oposition to these timber companies which is one of the reasons why he receives death threats.

He has no support, either from the municipality or the State. He has said “I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of losing the Amazon. I will keep fighting to defend the Amazon and its people.”

Padre Andres Tamayo - Honduras

Padre Andres Tamayo is a member of El Movimiento Ambientalista de Olancho (the Environmental Movement of Olancho, MAO). MAO was established in 2000 in the largest county of Honduras, which has vast areas of forest. MAO has concentrated on two main issues of concern: increased poverty, as communities do not benefit from the development of their natural environment; and floods – as a result of inadequate disaster preparedness. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras plunging it into an economic crisis that set the country back 25 years.

MAO is a grass roots organisation with a social conscience. As a result it is well known both at a national and international level. The majority of its members come from rural backgrounds. The communities defend their rights and land by preventing production in logging areas, blocking roads, initiating strikes and publicly denouncing abuses carried out by logging companies.

Because the work of MAO encourages sustainable management of the resources of the rain forest they are perceived as challenging powerful economic interests and as a result have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and attack.. In December 2007 two of Padre Tamayo's colleagues, Heraldo Zúñiga and Roger Ivan Cartagena, were killed and a price of $40,000 has been put on his own head.