Finalists for the Martin Ennals Award 2016 for Human Rights Defenders are Zone 9 Bloggers, Ilham Tohti and Razan Zaitouneh

The Human RightsDefenders selected as Finalists for the Martin Ennals Award 2016 are:

Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia)

Kality prison inEthiopia, which holds many journalists and political prisoners, has 8 zones.Zone 9 selected their name as a symbol for Ethiopia as a whole where politicalfreedoms are severely restricted. They write opinion pieces and featurearticles that focus on the constitution, economic, educational and culturalissues. They document human rights abuses and violations of law by both stateand non-state actors. Furthermore, they shed light on the situation ofpolitical prisoners in Ethiopia. Two weeks after creating their blog, it wasblocked. Two years later six of its members were arrested and charged withterrorism. Although they have now been released, three are in exile while thosestill in Ethiopia are banned from travel.

They stated: “We are extremelyhumbled to be nominated for the Martin Ennals Award. This recognition raisesour visibility enough to increase our safety, and also shows that the World isthe home of the same family. It is proof that when one part of the world issilenced, the rest will speak on behalf of it. This recognition will definitelymotivate us to push forward on our struggle to create a better Ethiopia wherehuman rights are respected.”

Ilham Tohti (China)

A renowned Uyghurintellectual in China, he has worked for two decades to foster dialogue andunderstanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism andsought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture. Beginning in 1994,he began to write about problems and abuses in Xinjiang, which led to official surveillance.From 1999 to 2003 he was barred from teaching, after posting information onUyghurs who had been arrested, killed and “disappeared” during and afterprotests. Ilham Tohti was arrested on January 15, 2014. He was charged withseparatism and sentenced to life imprisonment after a two-day trial.

From his daughter, “My father Ilham Tohti has used only oneweapon in his struggle for the basic rights of the Uyghurs of Xinjiang: Words.Spoken, written, distributed, and posted. This is all he has ever had at hisdisposal, and all that he has ever needed. And this is what China found sothreatening. A person like him doesn't deserve to be in prison for even a day.”

Razan Zaitouneh (Syria)

A prominent humanrights lawyer, activist, and journalist in Syria, Razan has dedicated her lifeto defending political prisoners, documenting crimes against humanity, andhelping others free themselves from oppression. This resulted in a travel banin 2002. Following the beginning of the conflict in 2011, she founded theViolations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents the death toll andill-treatment in Syria's prisons. With the VDC, she compiled lists of thedetained, the executed, and the disappeared. On December 9, 2013, a group ofmasked gunmen stormed the VDC office in Douma, near Damascus, and kidnappedRazan along with her husband, Wael Hamada, and two colleagues. Theirwhereabouts remain unknown.

Her sister, RanaZaitouneh said, "Despite herabsence, Razan continues to make an impact, inspiring others to stand againsttheir oppressors in the quest for freedom. Her allegiance is to freedom fromoppression and fear. And now her own freedom has been taken. Her voice has beensilenced. Razan has always believed that all people are equal. She wasdetermined that no one should be forgotten. I am resolved that she will not beforgotten."

The Award will bepresented on October 11th at a ceremony hosted by the City ofGeneva.

The main award of thehuman rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a uniquecollaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organisations. Itis given to human rights defenders who have shown deep commitment and couragein the face of personal risk. The aim of the award is to highlight their workand protect them through increased visibility. The Jury is composed of thefollowing NGOs:

- Amnesty International,

- Human Rights Watch,

- Human Rights First,


- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),

- Front Line Defenders,

- International Commission of Jurists,

- EWDE Germany,

- International Service for Human Rights,


For further information, please contact: Michael Khambatta +41 79 4748208

khambatta@martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org