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Human Rights Watch - Voices of Justice

Thursday, November 11, 2004
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Event Type:
Shira Roman
Location Details:
World Affairs Council
312 Sutter St., Suite 200
San Francisco

Human Rights Watch 26th Anniversary Celebration
Voices for Justice
Honoring Human Rights Defenders From Around the World

World Affairs Council, San Francisco
312 Sutter St. Suite 200
Thursday, November 11, 2004, Check-in: 11:30/ Program Noon-1:00pm Free, and open to the public (normally requires membership)

Once a year, Human Rights Watch honors human rights defenders from around the world who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous human rights activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

On November 11 the World Affairs Council is hosting a lunchtime discussion with this years honorees. The three defenders to be honored in 2004 by Human Rights Watch are:

- MAITRE HONORE MUSOKO, Democratic Republic of Congo – Maitre Honore Musoko is a Congolese lawyer and a founding member of Justice Plus, a local human rights organization based in Bunia, a town in Ituri province in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. When documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ituri, Human Rights Watch worked closely with Justice Plus and with Maitre Honore, who demonstrated extraordinary bravery in exposing atrocities in Congo that might otherwise have gone unknown in the outside world. Maitre Honore has been arrested once for his outspoken work on human rights issues in Ituri and threatened on numerous occasions.

Last year, he was forced to go into exile in Uganda in part as he refused to be muzzled about the serious abuses taking place. His local colleagues were also arrested and were only able to come out of hiding after an intervention by Human Rights Watch. Since then, he has worked as a consultant for the International Criminal Court on war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ituri, which may be the court's first case. He has decided not to continue with this work because it could imperil the human rights work of his colleagues at Justice Plus in Bunia. Human Rights Watch could not have documented so compellingly Congo's human rights and humanitarian catastrophe, nor prompted international action to address it, without the advice, support, and knowledge of Maitre Honore and Justice Plus.

- NATALIA ZHUKOVA, Russia – Natalia Zhukova works with one of Russia's most extraordinary grassroots human rights organizations, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, which is dedicated to protecting soldiers in Russia's army from mistreatment. Each year, one million young men perform their obligatory military service in Russia, and thousands die non-combat deaths as a result of violent beatings by their superiors and deprivation of adequate nutrition and health care. The abuse is so severe, and affects so many young men, that even before a boy enters puberty, his parents start looking for ways to prevent their sons from serving.

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers saves lives every day by providing a safe haven for thousands of abused conscripts and counseling them and their families. It pushes for policy change and accountability in an institution that is known for its insularity. And it is now an important lobbying force for policy change. The organization has been Human Rights Watch's essential partner in our research on abuse of conscripts in Russia. Working with Natalia, we are pushing to create an institution in Russia that is dedicated exclusively to monitoring and investigating conditions in the army.

- HABIB RAHIAB, Afghanistan – Three years ago, Habib Rahiab, an extraordinary Afghan human rights activist, approached Human Rights Watch researchers working in Kabul and offered his help. Although it is not common for Human Rights Watch to hire the activists with whom we work, we made an exception for Habib, whose courage and skill in such a challenging environment awed our staff. Habib had directed a school for refugee girls in Pakistan and had also headed a human rights documentation group that exposed the oppression of an Afghan ethnic minority, the Hazaras. While assisting Human Rights Watch, Habib assessed the impact of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on Afghan civilians. He conducted interviews that demonstrated intensifying oppression by local warlords who were put in power after the Taliban was toppled. Habib's heroic and tireless efforts to expose human rights abuses in Afghanistan evoked the ire of the warlords.

In August 2003, as a result of his investigations, Habib's life was threatened, and he and his family were forced to flee Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch researchers obtained visas for Habib and his family to travel to the United States and found refuge for him at Harvard University, where he is supported by a "Scholars at Risk" fellowship. He looks forward to furthering his education here in the United States and to returning one day to Afghanistan. We are deeply indebted to Habib for making possible Human Rights Watch's courageous, effective, and widely recognized work in Afghanistan.
Added to the calendar on Tue, Oct 26, 2004 10:36AM
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