human rights defenders.jpg
Venerable Luon Sovath announced as 2012 Martin Ennals Award Laureate
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 04:14


The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), has announced the Venerable Luon Sovath as the 2012 Martin Ennals Award winner - at a ceremony held at Victoria Hall on Tuesday 3 October.


Image of the Venerable Luon Sovath - 2012 Martin Ennals Award laureateThe Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk from Siem Reap, Cambodia witnessed his family and fellow villagers being forcibly evicted from their homes in 2009. Since then he has been a strong advocate against forced evictions, which remove families from their homes, often violently and little or no compensation. Despite threats to his person, of arrest and disrobing, the Venerable Sovath, a non-violent Buddhist monk, uses videos, poems and songs to defend the right to housing. His advocacy touches powerful economic interests, and the threats against him are very real.


Venerable Sovath was selected from among three final nominees. Also nominated was Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian Lawyer serving a 6 year prison sentence in Iran for her human rights work. She is known particularly for her work on behalf of women and children’s rights, especially juveniles facing execution. The third nominee is the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who report widely on human rights abuses in Bahrain. Many of their key staff are currently imprisoned for their work.


The new chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss President and Foreign Minister said: 'This year’s novel  format with three nominees made the Jury’s decision particularly difficult. As a Buddhist monk, Venerable Sovath has managed to raise wider attention to the issue of forced evictions in Cambodia'.


About the other 2012 nominees


Nasrin Sotoudeh, a woman lawyer from Iran, is currently serving an 11-year sentence on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the State’, ‘collusion and gathering with the aim of acting against national security’ and ‘membership in an illegal organisation’. She is the former lawyer and member of the organisation of the now-exiled Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who declares Sotoudeh is ‘one of the last remaining courageous human rights lawyers who has accepted all risks for defending the victims of human rights violations in Iran’.


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is internationally recognised for its work on documenting human rights abuses in Bahrain. Despite harassment by the government, which warns of legal action against the Center’s members if they continue their activities, the BCHR provides information to international NGOs and the diplomatic community in Bahrain and advocates locally and internationally in support of demands for democratic change in the Gulf Kingdom.



The goal of the Martin Ennals Award is to extend recognition and protective publicity to those who are currently involved in front line work for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Award aims to encourage individuals and – exceptionally – organisations who are currently working for the rights of others in conditions hostile to fundamental human rights and who are in need of protection. Special account is taken of those who have demonstrated an active record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means.


The MEA is the result of a unique collaboration of ten of the world's leading human rights NGOs, including the International Service for Human Rights. The other organisations are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights First, Diakonie Germany and HURIDOCS. These organisations form the jury for the awards. 


To find out more about the award visit the official MEA website.


NB: ISHR is in no way affiliated with the 'International Service Human Rights Awards'.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 11:00

Women Human Rights Defenders

Through the prism of over 40 case studies, the Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders explores the connections between the context in which a woman human rights defender works and the nature of the violations she experiences. More...
© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2019