WASHINGTON -- March 2 -- At the annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression awards held last night at City Hall, the legal team of the United States' Center for Constitutional Rights were presented with the inaugural Law Award for their contribution to the defense of freedom of expression.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which works to protect the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has been recognized by Index for its stance on the Guantánamo issue in a very difficult political climate. In its ground-breaking case 'Bush v Rasul', it succeeded in persuading the Supreme Court of the United States that foreign nationals held by the US outside its sovereign territories, could challenge the legality of their detention through US courts.
The award was presented to Gareth Pierce on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights by human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC.
Henderson Mullin of Index on Censorship said: 'Guantánamo has become a symbol of the progressive erosion of our rights and liberties in the name of the 'war on terror.' The Centre for Constitutional Rights are steadfast in their efforts to challenge the legality of these detentions despite a very difficult political climate'.
Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights said:
'This is a great honor for CCR. It is recognition of the remarkable partnership of CCR with lawyers and activists in the UK in our struggle to uphold the fundamental rights of the Magna Carta. We hope that recognizing our work and that of others will help end the nightmare of Guantánamo.'
The judges for the 2005 Awards are Observer journalist Jason Burke, human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC, novelist Hari Kunzru, actor Bill Nighy and educationalist Christopher Woodhead alongside Index patrons Caroline Moorehead and Geoffrey Hosking.
Also shortlisted for the 2005 Index Law Award were:
Zheng Enchong (China) The Chinese lawyer whose licence was revoked in 2001 after he advised more than 500 displaced families in Shanghai's urban redevelopment projects on their rights to fair compensation. In June 2003 he was accused of stealing 'state secrets' and sentenced to three years in prison. Sean Humber, Partner, Leigh Day & Co (UK) who has campaigned to employ the Human Rights Act and disability discrimination legislation to entitle prisoners to the same range and quality of healthcare as the general public.
Dr Nguyen Dan Que (Vietnam) a distinguished Vietnamese doctor and human rights activist who has spent more than 19 of the last 26 years in prison. He was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment in July 2004 after issuing a statement on the internet that there was no freedom of expression in Vietnam.
Other winners of the 2005 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards are:
Book of the Year
Soldiers of Light by Daniel Bergner (USA)
Film & Documentary of the Year
Final Solution by Rakesh Sharma (India)
Guardian/Hugo Young Award for Journalism
Sumi Khan (Bangladesh)
Whistleblower of the Year
Grigoris Lazos (Greece)
Notes to Editors
1. The Index Awards were established in 2000 to honour those who
have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of free expression and have broken silences and uncovered stories which would otherwise have remained untold.
2. Index was founded in 1972 by the poet Stephen Spender in response
to a plea for help from Soviet dissidents facing show trials in Moscow. It was founded on the principle that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that the international community has a duty to safeguard.
3. Index on Censorship is the only international magazine devoted to
protecting and promoting free expression. It is international in outlook, outspoken in comment and publishes some of the world's finest writers. Each edition carries a mix of reportage, comment, fiction, photojournalism, a country file, banned writing and news analysis.
4. Index is involved in monitoring hate speech in the media worldwide.
It leads media training projects in post-conflict areas such as Iraq, where it also publishes in print and on-line in Arabic. A similar project has been launched in the Central Asian republics of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Index is also involved in educational publishing and works with UK schools and universities to raise awareness of the importance of free expression to democratic societies.
Ursula Owen and Henderson Mullin of Index on Censorship are available for interview.