Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights was established in 2013 by Radya al-Mutavakel and Abdulrashid al-Fakih in order to defend and protect human rights in Yemen. In this country, where the closure of air, land and sea ports have led to great difficulty in providing humanitarian aid as well as vital necessities such as food, medicine and fuel, and human rights violations such as forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and the oppression of human rights defenders are rife, the Organization carries out field visits and studies, observation and documentation work with an independent team of young women and men in order to determine and put an end to such violations, and produce accurate, impartial information regarding them. In the light of the data collected, they carry out legal evaluations in accordance with international human rights law, conduct lobbying in order for them to be accepted and put into practice.
As it supports victims of human rights violations, it works to ensure that those responsible are identified and brought to justice, and to develop legislation and policies to prevent these violations from being repeated. Using films, brochures and social media, it works to raise public awareness of rights, and train specialists in the area of human rights. It plays a very important role in informing international public opinion on what is happening in Yemen.
The fuse war was lit in September 2014 when an armed group of Houthis captured the capital of San’a and began advancing toward the country’s second-largest city of Aden. In response to this, an international coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia attacked Houthi forces by air in March 2015. The Organization has provided documentation of human rights violations occurring during this ongoing armed conflict. In the civil war, which the United Nations has identified as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” forces led by the United States and Saudi Arabia as well as Houthi attacks have killed thousands of civilians, women and children, injured countless more, and destroyed hospitals, homes, parks, marketplaces and schools. The Organization has documented these attacks and destruction and made it known to the public. In accordance with the Ottawa Treaty which Yemen signed in September 1998, it has demanded and continues working for the cessation of the use of land mines by Houthi forces, the detection of mine fields, the destruction of mines in stockpiles, the cleaning of mines still buried, and the payment of reparations to victims of the mines. It has worked to research and document the situation of journalists who disappeared in the course of duty, or were arbitrarily arrested. The reports it has prepared are used as a reference by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In a time when newly organizing civil society organizations in Yemen were silenced within the political polarization that began forming in 2011; when the country lost its independence as its capital Sana’a was captured by the Houthis in 2014, followed by the March 2015 military intervention by Saudi-led coalition forces; and a smear campaign was whipped up against independent human rights organizations by the conflicting sides social media and private networks in order to foment public bias against them, it has continued its work without interruption. In this environment, where the right to travel is severely limited, it has actively used its only remaining channel, the social media, in order to share reports of human rights violations in the country.
Murat Çelikkan
Murat Çelikkan, was born in 1957 in Ankara. He studied at Middle East Technical University, Department of Management. He was imprisoned twice, first in 1978 because of his socialist activities, and again in 1980 in the operations during the coup which targeted all opposition groups. He was exonerated in both cases.
He began working as a journalist in 1979 with the newspaper Demokrat, and continued at Nokta in 1983. He joined the Human Rights Association which was working to repair the severe damage to society brought about by the 1980 military coup. Working in the Association’s Istanbul branch, he prepared reports on freedom of expression and association, and torture crimes.
In 1990, he began working with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, which was formed to support torture victims. Representing the Foundation in meetings abroad, he spoke about the state of human rights in Turkey. That same year, together with a group of intellectuals, writers, politicians, journalists and activists, he joined the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (known today as the Citizens Assembly), which works in the areas of democracy and pluralism, and served for many years on its Board of Directors. He was among the founders of the Refugee Legal Aid Program which was Turkey’s first civil society project working on the issue of refugees and continues today as an independent institution called the Refugee Rights Center. In 1995, he joined the founding staff of Amnesty International Turkey, and served for many years as a journalist, editor, editor-in-chief, columnist and director of publications for several magazines and newspapers. He wrote articles about human rights, democracy, social struggles, the Kurdish issue, identities and freedoms, and taught journalism classes and seminars at universities and various other ventures. He also took part in the establishment and projects of the Foundation for Social Studies, Culture and the Arts, the Peace Congress and the Peace Foundation.
Since 2000 he has conducted projects focusing on the Kurdish problem, peace and coming to terms with the past. In 2011, he and a group of activists formed the Truth Justice Memory Center, the goal of which is to bring to light the rights violations experienced during wartime and under authoritarian administrations, contribute to the settlement of this past from a ‘transitional period justice’ perspective, and conduct legal efforts to allow groups subjected to rights violations to find justice. As co-director and manager of the Center’s communications program, he conducted projects to achieve recognition of human rights violations and the crime of ‘forced disappearances,’ and strengthen collective memory around these issues.
Due to his support to the campaign launched by the newspaper Özgür Gündem, which had been closed by a decree law, by serving as the paper’s chief editor for a day on 28 May 2016, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail on 16 May 2017. After turning himself in to Kirklareli E-Type Closed Prison on 14 August, he was released on probation on 21 October 2017.
In 2018, he received the human rights award presented annually by the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders .
Albie Sachs
Albie Sachs was born in 1935 in South Africa. He graduated from the Department of Law in Cape Town University and began to work as a lawyer at the age of 21. He was imprisoned, without any trial, for 168 days because he defended those who were tried by racist and repressive security laws of the Apartheid regime. He completed his Ph.D. on the legal system of the Apartheid at Sussex University in England, where he went in 1966 as an exile. In 1988, he lost one of his arms and eyes due to a bomb explosion, deployed in his car by security agents of the South Africa in Maputo, Mozambique, where he was working as a law professor. He returned to his country in 1990 and dedicated himself to the preparation of a democratic constitution in South Africa. He played an active role in the negotiations for a democratic constitution of the South Africa at the African National Congress. He was elected the member of the Constitutional Court in the 1994 elections and has worked to consolidate human rights in the country's justice system for 15 years. He received numerous awards due to his works on human rights and justice and his books.