Global Human Rights Defenders ‘claiming the democratic future’


The U.S. Department of State has announced the winners of the annual Global Human Rights Defender Awards, determined by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. From working to combat slavery denialism to promoting election and labor rights, all ten honorees embody the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it reports. This year’s awardees are:

  • Mohammad Nur Khan – Bangladesh: Over the past three decades, Mr. Khan led two of Bangladesh’s best-known domestic rights organizations and partnered with international organizations to document human rights abuses and promote accountability in Bangladesh.
  • Elaize de Souza Farias – Brazil: Ms. Farias is a cutting edge Indigenous investigative journalist based in Manaus, Amazonas who co-founded in 2013 the independent news agency Amazônia Real.
  • Chhim Sithar – Cambodia: Ms. Sithar leads the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at one of the most politically connected businesses in Cambodia, the lucrative NagaWorld Resort and Casino.
  • Nino Lomjaria and Team – Georgia: Ms. Lomjaria served as Public Defender of Georgia from 2017 through 2022.  Under her leadership, the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) was widely considered the most independent democratic institution in Georgia.
  • Rosa Melania Reyes Velásquez – Honduras – has spent decades fighting violence against women in Honduras, confronting aggressors, abusers, gang members, and at times, representatives of her own government.
  • Credit: defendlawyers

    Nasrin Sotoudeh – Iran – a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 pro-democracy protests, religious and ethnic minorities suffering persecution, as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors.

  • The legal team of the Badinan detainees, led by Bashdar Hassan – an Iraqi human rights lawyer who headed a group of lawyers who served as defense counsel for the “Badinan detainees” – a group of journalists, activists, and protesters that Amnesty International stated were “arbitrarily arrested” and “forcibly disappeared” in Badinan (Duhok Province) in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
  • Mohamed Ely El Her – Mauritania – won hard-fought land battles in the years when the government of Mauritania refused to admit slavery existed, and today continues to share best practices to help other communities of former slaves and Afro-Mauritanians to overcome their own land ownership issues.
  • Ding Jiaxi – People’s Republic of China – helped begin the New Citizen’s Movement, which supported independent candidates to run in local elections, launched campaigns calling for government officials to disclose their personal finances, called for property rights, and demanded educational access for migrant children.
  • Ekoue David Joseph Dosseh – Togo – has been active in building capacity of Togolese civil society, fighting against injustice and impunity, and promoting democratic advancement across the region for over 15 years.

The World Movement for Democracy in partnership with the US Department of State, Humanity United, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and the Center for Victims of Torture today hosted a discussion on “Claiming the Democratic Future: Role of Human Rights Defenders” with recipients of the awards at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).


  • Lisa Peterson joined the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in December 2020.
  • Damon Wilson is the President and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an independent, nonprofit, grant-making foundation supporting freedom around the world.
  • Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, a national of Togo, was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and took up his functions in April 2018.
  • Tess McEnery, POMED’s Executive Director, served two tours as a Director for Democracy and Human Rights at the White House National Security Council.
  • Nicholas Opiyo is a leading human rights lawyer and founder of Chapter Four Uganda, an organization that provides research, advocacy, and outreach services to influence laws, policies, and practices in the interest of civil liberties and human rights.
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