Justine Ijeomah the Per Anger-Prize winner 2013
Justine Ijeomah, founder of the Nigerian human rights organisation HURSDEF (Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation), has been awarded this year’s Per Anger prize. The prize ceremony will take place during the Human Rights Days (14-16 November) at Kulturhuset in Stockholm.
“For, in a context of brutal police violence, abuse, death threats and assassination attempts, steadfastly fighting against human rights abuses, particularly among the poor and lower-educated, and for single-mindedly working to abolish the death penalty, we award Justine Ijeomah of Nigeria the 2013 Per Anger Prize.”
Justine Ijeomah founded the Nigerian human rights organisation Human Rights, Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURS¬DEF). He works under difficult circumstances in his home town of Port Harcourt and is a driving force for human rights.
In Nigeria, the police are often brutal and there is little respect for the rule of law. In emergency situations, Justine Ijeomah and other activists in HURSDEF go to detention facilities and police stations in order to reduce the risk of maltreatment through their very presence, and to try to get the person released on bail. Those who are arrested are often street children with no other form of representation at all. Justine Ijeomah also works to initiate investigations when people have disappeared or been arrested. This work can also include getting bodies released from morgues or attending court proceedings.
Although Nigeria is a democracy, illegal arrests, extrajudicial executions, torture and disappearances are relatively common. In 2013, Amnesty reported on how police violence occurs systematically and those responsible are never investigated or charged. HURSDEF works actively for the abolition of capital punishment. Another strong focus is safeguarding the rights of children. The organisation consists of just over 60 human rights activists with personal experience of torture or arbitrary arrests. Many of them have themselves previously been helped by HURSDEF.
Working for human rights under these conditions means taking on considerable risk. On many occasions, Justine Ijeomah has received death threats and been forced to go underground. He has been arrested, severely beaten and tortured and survived several serious attempts on his life. Justine Ijeomah has also continuously earned the increasing trust and respect of the legal system and the police corps that he scrutinises.
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Tags: Justine Ijeomah, Nigeria, and Per Anger Prize.