GENEVA, June 8, 2021 — Russian political prisoner Alexai Navalny today won a prestigious human rights award as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, and Zimbabwe came under scrutiny at an annual assembly of dissidents and former political prisoners.
The 13th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by a cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights groups, and being held virtually for the first time, takes place ahead of the June session of the UN Human Rights Council, in a bid to place urgent situations on the world agenda.
Daria Navalnaya accepted the 2021 Moral Courage Award on behalf of her father, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was chosen for his “extraordinary courage and heroic efforts to sound the alarm about the Putin regime’s grave violations of the human rights of the Russian people,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition leader, spotlighted the Lukashenko regime’s abuses and corruption.
North Korean rights activist Jihyun Park testified about her harrowing experiences in a forced labor camp, and how she managed to escape.
Testimonies by the activists focused on issues that, under pressure by powerful UNHRC members like China and Russia, typically go ignored at that body. The Geneva Summit hopes that today’s powerful testimonies will mobilize pressure upon the council to address the plight of the victims at its upcoming session, which opens on June 21st.
|Day 2: Testimonies from 13th Geneva Summit|
|Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition presidential candidate forced to flee after rigged elections: “While Lukashenko was cracking jokes about curing COVID by drinking vodka and going to the sauna, the people of Belarus started to realize their power. They self-organized. They bought masks, they raised money for hospitals, they purchased ventilators.”
Jihyun Park, escapee and survivor of a North Korean forced labor camp: “Not once in childhood did someone ask me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ We didn’t pretend to be doctors or astronauts or movie stars. You don’t have hopes or dreams – your only thoughts are of the state.”
Daria Navalnaya, daughter of leading Putin opponent and current Russian political prisoner Alexei Navalny, recipient of the 2021 Moral Courage Award: “For all these years, he’s been showing the people in power, who are shamelessly abusing that power, that this is not going to work. That we are the majority. We – the citizens – will decide who is going to rule our country and for how long. And we will protect our human rights and our freedom.”
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Australian-British academic just freed after two years in Iranian prison as a victim of hostage diplomacy: “I was subjected to the psychological torture of solitary confinement, a method of detention designed to pressure me into making a false confession.”
Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwean protest leader, arrested six times and tortured for his human rights work: “If I could stand up and challenge the Mugabe regime and challenge the Mnangagwa regime, there is a young man and a young woman somewhere too that will spark something that will bring the kind of change for Zimbabwe that Zimbabwe needs.”
Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, survivor of Tiananmen Square Massacre and President of Initiatives for China: “When you’ve come to the point where the ordinary people can take the risk and the price, then that’s the moment of change because ordinary people can do the work done by heroes.”
Vladimir Kara-Murza, leading Russian dissident, Chairman of Boris Nemtsov Foundation, survivor of two poisoning attempts: “A lot of people ask, ‘Well, how’d you do this? You have children.’ Yes, I do have three children, and I want, in however many years it takes, for people in Russia to fully realize the truth of the Putin regime. I do not want one of my kids to come up to me and say, ‘Daddy, where were you when all this was going on? What were you doing?’”