European Union External Action

2018 winners of the European Union Human Rights Defenders' Award announced

23/05/2018 - 14:56
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The annual European Union Human Rights Defenders Award (EU HRD), now in its seventh year, recognises the achievements of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda.

The Heads of Missions of the European Union (EU) Member States, the EU Delegation and Norway, are happy to announce Ms. Margaret Arach Orech and Mr Peter Sewakiryanga, as the winners of the EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2018. The annual European Union Human Rights Defenders Award (EU HRD), now in its seventh year, recognises the achievements of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda. The 2018 edition of the award ceremony was hosted under the auspices of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Belgium in Uganda.

Margaret Arach Orech is the Founder and Director of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA), Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a Commissioner to the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa Coalition, a board member of Uganda’s National Council for Disability, and a partner to the Uganda Mine Action Center. Through her engagement, Margaret has drawn international attention and support to survivors of land-mines and conflict in Northern Uganda - especially the last year, marking the 20th anniversary of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

In 1997 the Mine Ban Convention was adopted in Oslo, and in 2008 the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations in 2006. These treaties would not have existed without campaigners such as Margaret, and they were rightfully awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

In winning this prestigious award, Margaret is recognized for;

  • Being a strong and relentless force in fighting for the rights of persons with disability in Uganda and being a champion for persons living with a disability for decades, in particular the rights of survivors of crisis and armed conflict.
  • Being nationally active and supporting the development of 14 local landmine survivor groups in Northern and Western Uganda. Margaret is a relentless volunteer and ardent campaigner on disarmament, peace and disability since 2002.
  • Her  dedication in bringing  the reality of Ugandan land mine survivors, their families and communities onto the international stage which has led to major accomplishments for her and her fellow campaigners of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the subsequent Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).

Although much has been accomplished, many rights of persons with disability remain unfulfilled. In Uganda, there are many survivors of landmines who need recognition and assistance. We therefore celebrate Margaret to thank her for all she has done, and as an encouragement to go on!

Mr Peter Sewakiryanga is a pastor active against child sacrifice practices. The issue of child sacrifice is a very relevant topic for Uganda, often neglected and receiving too little support and visibility. This human rights defender and his organisation, the Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), provide comprehensive support to children who were victims of sacrificial practices or who are in danger of falling victim to such practices. This support includes medical and psychosocial assistance as well as schooling. Peter has also been active in anti-trafficking, nationally as well as internationally.

Regarding international trafficking, KCM has been part of the fight against labour and sexual exploitation involving Ugandan adults. For example, in 2017 Peter travelled to Oman to rescue 6 women who were victims of labour trafficking.

In winning this prestigious award, Peter Sewakiryanga and the Kympisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) are recognized for;  

  • Advocating against the practice of child sacrifice, ritual mutilations and the trafficking of children in Uganda. KCM has been involved in operations to rescue kidnapped and abused children as well as in efforts to rehabilitate and re-integrate these youngsters.
  • Facilitating medical treatment for reconstructive surgeries both locally and internationally of children who have gone through ritual practices.
  • Cooperating with police and prosecutors to stop internal trafficking of children for sacrificial purposes. For example, Peter and KCM have been working with the Ugandan police to fight against a network of people trafficking children from Mukono to different locations within Uganda where they are mutilated and used for sacrifice practices.
  • Conducting research, raising awareness and providing education in communities affected by child sacrifice to reduce both the demand and the supply of children’s body parts for witchcraft purposes. Peter has also been lobbying both the government of Uganda and the international community to join the campaign to end child sacrifice.

Speaking at the event, both the Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda, Mr. Hugo Verbist, and Deputy Head of Mission, Mr. Erwin De Wandel, stressed that ‘the EU HRD are a very important recognition from the EU Member States and Norway to a local actor whom we believe to be making a vital contribution to human rights in Uganda. Human rights and Democracy are embedded in our European project and consequently also in our relation and cooperation with Uganda.”

 

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Background

Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are individuals who, individually or with others, act to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The work of HRDs has a positive impact on a country’s development and is essential for encouraging the respect for human rights as recognised by international human rights standards and agreements. HRDs need to be protected from interference and reprisals while executing their work. The HRDs rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly need to be safeguarded to enable them to defend others.

An individual eligible for the EU HRD Award is nominated by another individual or organization. Human Rights organizations active in Uganda were invited to nominate candidates for the award. Candidates were assessed by a jury composed of human rights experts of different European Embassies and the EU Heads of Mission.

Past winners of the EU HRD Award include Mr Gerald Kankya (2012) of Twerwaneho Listeners Club,  Mr Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala (2013) former Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), the three joint winners (2014) Ms Gladys Canogura of Kitgum Women Peace Initiative, Assistant Commissioner of Police Christine Alalo, Head of the Uganda Police Family and Child Protection Unit, and Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, Director of the Human Rights Network Uganda, Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana (2015), Founder & Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and  Robert Sempala (2016) of the Human Rights Network of Journalists (HRNJ), Ms. Pamela Angwech (2017) Founder & Executive Director of the Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G).

The EU Member States, the EU Delegation and Belgium would like to thank everyone who participated in the nomination process and express their gratitude for the excellent cooperation and the outstanding work of the Ugandan Human Rights Defenders and their organisations.

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