Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Human Rights Watch activists to be honored in Chicago Nov. 9, 2006

Annual “Voices For Justice” Dinner Highlights
Three International Defenders of Social Justice
Human Rights Watch Collaborates with Activists to Share Message of Global Equality


Katheryn Hayes/Wick Swanton – MK Communications
(312) 822-0505; khayes@mkcpr.com, wswanton@mkcpr.com
Liba Beyer – Human Rights Watch
(212) 216-1805, beyerl@hrw.org

CHICAGO (October 26, 2006) – For years those who defend human rights against violations of freedom of speech, obstructions to the democratic process or things much worse – have risked their own lives for the fair treatment of others and brought about social change on all sides of the globe. Honoring the work of three defenders, the international non-profit Human Rights Watch will hold their “Voices for Justice” dinner on Thursday, November 9th at 5:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sidney Yates Gallery, 78 E. Washington.

Exemplifying the goals of Human Rights Watch, this year’s defenders, Verónica Cruz, Arnold Tsunga and Mandira Sharma, have stood up to corrupt governments, violent rebels and years of oppression to bring about social change.

Verónica Cruz is the founder and head of Las Libres, the only organization in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato to tackle the issue of access to abortion after rape. Verónica leads the fight against this injustice by connecting rape victims with medical and legal aid, training youth to hold health workshops for peers, and challenging policy makers to ensure real access to abortion as allowed under the law. Human Rights Watch honors Verónica for her unwavering dedication to protecting the physical integrity and autonomy of women all over Mexico

Mandira Sharma is a Nepali lawyer and human rights activist who co-founded Advocacy Forum, one of Asia’s most respected and effective human rights organizations. Mandira works to publicize human rights abuses and provide legal support to Nepali activists, many of whom have been targeted by the government. Human Rights Watch honors Mandira for representing and defending the Nepali people in the midst of serious political oppression and bloody civil war.

As the executive director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Arnold Tsunga offers free legal advice and representation to human rights activists all over the Zimbabwe, where the government has recently intensified attacks on civil society in an effort to stifle criticism of its growing abuses. Though he has been beaten, arrested, and threatened at gunpoint, Arnold is fearless and always in the fray. Human Rights Watch honors Arnold for his steadfast commitment to those who fight for human rights in Zimbabwe.

The “Voices For Justice” dinner also has stops in New York, Toronto, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. All proceeds from the dinners benefit Human Rights Watch and their efforts to provide a better world for all to inhabit.

“The activists we honor have shown dedication to the cause of human rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They have worked courageously, often in life-threatening environments, to expose rights abuses in their countries.”

The preeminent Human Rights advocacy organization in the United States, Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world, investigating and exposing human rights violations and working to bring about accountability for abusers and justice to victims. The Human Rights Watch/Chicago presence was established in the spring of 2004 and is chaired by long-time Chicago activists Jerry Newton and Judy Gaynor.

For more information on Human Rights Watch, please visit www.humanrightswatch.org.

NOTE: The Defenders are available for interviews on Thursday November 9th and Friday November 10th.
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