On June 2, the Martin Ennals Award Ceremony 2022 took place in Geneva, Switzerland to honor three human rights defenders for their “courage and unique contributions” to the international human rights movement. The ceremony was hosted and live-streamed directly from Salle Communale de Plainpalais, Geneva.
The Martin Ennals Award laureates in 2022 are Pham Doan Trang from Vietnam, Dr. Daouda Diallo from Burkina Faso, and Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja from Bahrain. Bui Thi Thien Can, Doan Trang’s mother, was present at the ceremony and received the award on her daughter’s behalf. Pham Doan Trang has been sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly “distributing anti-State propaganda.”
In her speech, Can said she was “happy and proud” of Doan Trang’s achievement and that she thought her daughter is “a courageous woman who was persistent to follow the dangerous and arduous path [of being a human rights defender.]”
“As a mother, I have had to sacrifice a mother’s love so that my child could become an activist. I hope that one day, the sooner the better, Vietnam will have real democracy and human rights so that our people can truly be free and happy,” Can says, adding that she has not been able to see her daughter for nearly 20 months.
Just before the award ceremony, Michèle Taylor, U.S. ambassador at the UN Human Rights Council, met with Bui Thi Thien Can in the U.S. Mission in Geneva. “I was honored to have met with the mother of Pham Doan Trang, one of this year’s Martin Ennals Award recipients, an inspiring human rights defender & journalist who has been unjustly detained in Vietnam,” Ambassador Taylor wrote on Twitter. “Today was a vivid reminder of the importance of the work we do in Geneva,” she added.
In a short documentary about Doan Trang’s activism shown during the ceremony, the journalist explained that she chose to become an activist because “being a reporter or a journalist was still not enough” to push for social change in an authoritarian country like Vietnam. “[Being an activist] means that someone can take the matter into their own hands and not wait for someone else to pick up the fight,” she said.
In an opinion article published on the Martin Ennals Award website on May 30, Saman Zia-Zarifi, secretary-general of the International Court of Justice, wrote that the human rights situation in Vietnam “continues to degenerate despite the country’s increasing engagement with the global economy.”
Zia-Zarifi added that Vietnam “should be held accountable to its international human rights obligations” and he urged the Vietnamese government to “immediately release Pham Doan Trang and all political prisoners like her.”
The Vietnamese government’s mouthpieces, on the other hand, have criticized and defamed the Martin Ennals Award. An article in Nhan Dan, the official mouthpiece of the Vietnamese Communist Party, accused the Martin Ennals foundation of cooperating with other human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to “interfere in several countries’ internal affairs” and give the awards to those who “violated their country’s own laws and were given the prison sentences.”
Another article in the local Nghe An Newspaper wrote that there are “malicious purposes behind the human rights awards” and that these awards have been “used by hostile forces” to “inflict damages and interfere in the internal affairs of socialist countries, including Vietnam.” “The arguments and statements of the aforementioned organizations and individuals are groundless, unobjective, and blatantly distorted the situation in Vietnam,” it wrote.
Source: The Vietnamese