For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460

The Main Award of the International Human Rights Movement in 2010 Goes to a Syrian Human Rights Defender Lingering in Prison

GENEVA - The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
(MEA), meeting in Geneva, announces its Laureate for 2010, Muhannad
Al-Hassani, a Syrian lawyer who has bravely defended human rights and
challenged the oppressive legal framework imposed by the Syrian
government. He is the President of the Syrian Organization for Human
Rights (Swasiya), a leading human rights organisation that has been
denied official registration by the Syrian authorities for the past six
years. Al-Hassani was arrested on 28 July, 2009 for allegedly having
reported before the notorious State Security Court. A judge charged him
under Article 286 of the Syrian Penal code, with "weakening national sentiments," and "spreading false news."
Al Hassani was detained and is expected to appear again in front of a
Damascus criminal court on 27 May 2010. He is being held in Adhra
prison and reported to be in very poor condition. He is detained
together with 70 other prisoners in a very small prison cell, and is
denied access to proper medical care. In an appalling demonstration of
servility to the Government, the Damascus Section of the Syrian Bar
Association, on 10 November 2009, made a ruling prohibiting him from
practicing law for the rest of his life. Al-Hassani has come under
increasing and undue pressure merely as a result of carrying out his
lawful professional functions. He has been subjected to a travel ban
over the last six years. His office and all communications have been
under constant surveillance by Syrian security forces for the past six
years. The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the
laureate as "a man of an exceptional courage, arbitrarily detained
in unacceptable conditions for defending the rule of law and the right
to organise a human rights organisation."

The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in the Victoria Hall of Geneva on 15 October 2010.

The main award of the human rights movement. The
Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique
collaboration among ten of the world's leading human rights
organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.  The Jury is
composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights,
World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International
Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human
Rights and HURIDOCS.

Previous laureates : Emad Baghi, Iran (2009);
Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan; Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and
Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and
Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia;
Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades
International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic,
Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement
Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.


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For downloadable film images on the MEA and previous laureates please go to

For further information, please contact: Luis Marreiros, Coordinator, +41228094925, or visit



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