GENEVA, February 18, 2016 — Two days after Venezuela filed charges of conspiracy against Antonio Ledezma—the 60-year-old mayor of Caracas who is under house arrest for opposing President Nicolas Maduro—an international coalition of 25 non-governmental human rights groups announced yesterday that Ledezma and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez have been selected as the 2016 co-recipients of the prestigious Geneva Summit Courage Award, representing all of Venezuela’s political prisoners.
Mitzy Capriles, the wife of Ledezma, and a Lopez family member will personally receive the awards at a major ceremony to take place on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, where they will address UN diplomats, several hundred human rights activists, and journalists from around the world attending the 8th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
Capriles and Lopez were chosen “for inspiring the world with their extraordinary courage in the defense of liberty and universal human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Liberal International, Human Rights Foundation, and more than 20 other human rights groups.
Last year’s 2015 Geneva Summit Courage Award went to imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, and in 2013 it went to blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng.
Ledezma was arrested last year in a violent police raid on his office, and thrown into prison. For medical reasons he is now under house arrest. The politically-motivated charges were only filed this week.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced last year to 13 years in prison on trumped-up charges. Tomorrow marks two years that he has been behind bars, under cruel conditions.
Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature has just declared an amnesty for all political prisoners, however this was rejected by Maduro.
Comment from Lilian Tintori, Wife of Leopoldo Lopez
“Leopoldo is honored to have been selected for this prestigious award, given by 25 human rights groups who will be assembling at the United Nations in Geneva, and to accept it on behalf of all of Venezuela’s political prisoners, who are currently being held illegally and in very difficult conditions,” said Lilian Tintori, the wife of Lopez.
“I hope this will put a spotlight on the systematic persecution of those who have dared to defy the regime and defend freedom through democratic means and will increase pressure on the Maduro regime to stop persecuting political opponents and free all political prisoners,” added Tintori.
Last month The Times of London reported that Tintori and her mother-in-law were strip-searched and humiliated in front of her children when they visited Lopez in jail.
Tintori insists that she will never give up the struggle for her husband’s freedom.
Comment from Mitzy Capriles, Wife of Antonio Ledezma
“I thank the Geneva Summit coalition of 25 human rights groups for thinking of my husband for this prize, and he feels deeply honored. This award will only reaffirm our commitment to continue working towards recovering freedom for all our political prisoners, and for our democracy. By receiving this prize, we think of all the people of Venezuela who have loved ones suffering injustice behind bars,” said Mitzy Capriles, Ledezma’s wife, who will be addressing the UN opening of the summit on Monday, Feb. 22, as well as the public session on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Geneva Summit Seeks to Influence Foreign Ministers Days Before
They Gather for 10th Anniversary of UN Human Rights Council
The 2-day Geneva Summit will feature presentations by top-name activists, former political prisoners and victims from North Korea, China, Russia, Iran and many other human rights hotspots, with the aim of placing key issues on the global agenda days before UN chief Ban Ki-moon and numerous foreign ministers gather across the street to open the 10th anniversary session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will press UNHRC delegates not to allow politics to override the cries of human rights victims.
Speakers will include:
· Svitlana Zalishchuk, Ukrainian MP and key figure in 2013 EuroMaidan movement
· Yang Jianli, Former Chinese political prisoner, survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre
· Vian Dakhil, Iraq’s only female Yazidi MP and champion of ISIS victims
· Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, German psychologist who treats female ISIS victims
· Ensaf Haidar, Wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (winner of 2015 Geneva Summit Courage Award)
· Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada 2015, advocate for human rights in China
· Jigme Golog, Tibetan monk and filmmaker recently released from jail
· Darya Safai, Campaigner for Iranian women’s rights
· Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Turkish human rights lawyer & columnist
· Daniel Mekonnen, Exiled Eritrean human rights lawyer and scholar
· Lee Young-guk, Bodyguard to former North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Il who fled to South Korea
· Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban human rights activist and daughter of late dissident Oswaldo Paya
· Polina Nemirovskaia, Russian human rights activist
· Joan Hoey, Editor of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index
· Lord David Trimble, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former First Minister of Northern Ireland
· Christopher Walker, VP, National Endowment for Democracy
· Irwin Cotler, Former Canadian Minister of Justice and lawyer for political prisoners
Now in its eighth year, the annual conferences of the Geneva Summit have enjoyed widespread coverage by CNN, Le Monde, and other major media.