The Martin Ennals Jury today announced that it has selected Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in Egypt to receive the organization's 2017 Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award is given to human rights defenders who have shown deep commitment at great personal risk, it provides protection to the winner through increased international recognition. The jury is composed of ten leading human rights organizations. The award will be presented in Geneva this evening.
Mohamed Zaree is a devoted human rights activist and legal scholar whose work focuses on freedom of expression and association. He is the Egypt country director for CIHRS, known for its human rights work across the Middle East. Zaree assumed the role after Egyptian government pressure prompted CIHRS to relocate their headquarters to Tunis in 2014.
"Zaree's work is a testament to his personal courage and proof of his excellent legal analysis. He is an outstanding human rights defender and this award is a tribute to him and the work of other civil society leaders who are carrying on their struggle from inside Egypt," said Brian Dooley, who represents Human Rights First on the Martin Ennals Award jury. “The United States government needs to increase its pressure on its military allies in Egypt to allow Zaree and other human rights defenders to work without harassment or fear of imprisonment."
The Egyptian government has been escalating its pressure on the human rights movement. Human rights NGOs and defenders are confronted with a growing wave of threats and intimidation, legal and otherwise. Despite this, Zaree is leading CIHRS’s research, human rights education, and national advocacy initiatives in Egypt and is shaping the media debate on human rights issues. During this critical period for civil society, he is also leading the Forum of Independent Egyptian Human Rights NGOs, a network that unifies human rights groups in advocacy. Zaree’s initiatives have helped NGOs develop common approaches to human rights issues in Egypt.
During the Egyptian government's renewed crackdown, Zaree has become a leading figure in Egypt’s human rights movement. He is currently facing investigation under the “Foreign Funding Case,” where several dozen NGOs are being targeted for receiving funds from outside the country. Zaree is at high risk of prosecution and long-term imprisonment, and has been under a travel ban since May 2016.
The two other 2016 finalist will receive Martin Ennals prizes: Karla Avelar, a transgender woman in El Salvador who founded the country’s first organization of transgender women, COMCAVIS TRANS. She works to change national legislation and the authorities’ practices, by publicizing violations suffered by LGBTI people; and FreeThe5KH, five human rights defenders who were recently released after 427 days of pre-trial detention in Cambodia for their legal work defending human rights in an increasingly repressive environment. They are awaiting trial and are banned from travel.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The jury is composed of: Amnesty International, EWDE Germany, FIDH, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, HURIDOCS, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, and World Organisation against Torture.
Published on Human Rights First on October 10, 2017.