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Global human rights prize names finalists

The annual Martin Ennals Award recognises the work of human rights defenders at risk of persecution.

Picture: Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders/Wikipedia

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A Turkish human rights lawyer, an Afro-Colombian activist, and a Sudanese refugee were nominated on Wednesday for one of the world’s most prestigious human rights prizes.

The annual Martin Ennals Award - sometimes referred to as "the Nobel prize for human rights" due to its global scope - recognises the work of human rights defenders at risk of persecution.

Among the finalists for the prize to be awarded in February 2019 is lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin, 59, who has campaigned for more than three decades against sexual violence and torture in Turkey, as well as for Kurdish, women and LGBTI rights.

Organisers of the award say her work has led to physical attacks, including two assaults and the threat of rape.
An editor-in-chief for a newspaper shut down by the Turkish authorities, Keskin was convicted in March of "insulting" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is appealing a 12-and-a-half-year jail sentence.

"I am being prosecuted with 143 charges for my solidarity with an opposition newspaper in the context of freedom of expression," Keskin said in a statement about her nomination. "Thank you for not forgetting us."

According to the P24 press freedom group, more than 170 journalists are currently detained in Turkey, most of them jailed under emergency laws following the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan.

'HUMAN DIGNITY'

Another finalist is Marino Cordoba Berrio (54) a member of the Afro-Colombian ethnic group, who has spent decades campaigning against the illegal logging and mining of his community's land in the Pacific region.

Forced to seek asylum in the US in 2002, he returned a decade later to Colombia. Award organisers say he has regularly received death threats and is under constant armed guard.

"We have historically been excluded politically, socially and economically, also affected by war..," Berrio said in a statement.

This year’s third nominee is Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a 26-year-old Sudanese refugee who has been held on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island for five years.

He is one of hundreds of asylum seekers who Australia sends to remote Pacific facilities such as on Nauru and Manus Island, and has documented allegations of abuse and cruelty through a podcast and media interviews.

"He has paid a price for this as he is seen as a 'ringleader' by both the PNG and Australian authorities," organisers of the Martin Ennals Award said.

"My work to expose this cruel system helps preserve my self-respect and inherent human dignity," Muhamat said in a statement.

"It helps me fight for the rights of every refugee around the universe, which I’ll do until my last breath."

The Geneva-based Martin Ennals Foundation is named after the first secretary general of Amnesty International, who died in 1991.

The prize is judged by 10 leading rights groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

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