Human Rights Champions Gather at UN to Spotlight Situations in China, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela & more

Human Rights Champions Gather at UN  to Spotlight Situations in China, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela & more

UN opening session sponsored by U.S., Canada & Czech Republic  

GENEVA, February 22, 2016 — Covered by major media from around the world, the UN human rights headquarters in Geneva was the site today of a rare gathering of courageous dissidents from Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and Eritrea, together with family members of famous political prisoners in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, united for the 8th annual Geneva Summit of Human Rights and Democracy, organized by 25 non-governmental organizations, including UN Watch and Human Rights Foundation.

Today’s opening UN session was co-sponsored by the U.S. Canada, and the Czech Republic.

Click here for key quotes from today’s speakers


The two-day Geneva Summit, whose main public session takes place tomorrow, features presentations by noted right activists, former political prisoners and victims from human rights hotspots, with the aim of placing key issues on the global agenda days before UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the world’s foreign ministers gather to open the 10th anniversary session of the UN Human Rights Council.

World political figures and diplomats are also participating. Today’s keynote address was delivered by Maria Leissner, Secretary-General of the Community of Democracies. Tomorrow the summit will hear from Anne Brasseur, the outgoing president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Program & Media Interviews

For journalists, this week’s Geneva Summit provides a one-stop opportunity to hear from and interview frontline human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies today have called on UNHRC delegates not to allow politics to override the cries of human rights victims.

Speakers today and tomorrow include:

· Antonietta Ledezma, daughter of Caracas mayor and political prisoner Antonio Ledezma
·   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.

– All sessions will be available via live webcast at

– For press credentials, interviews or other press inquiries, contact: Leon Saltiel, Coordinator,




Twitter | Hashtag: #GS16


Photos (high resolution)

Facebook Photos (quick uploads)

Blog Post Summaries of the Speeches

Webcast: Live on Feb. 23rd from 9:15 am to 5:30 pm CET at

Videos (to be posted after the panels)

Media Coverage of the Geneva Summit