December 10, 2008
The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), delivered the keynote address this evening as Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) presented its John Humphrey Freedom Award to Irene Petras and Andrew Makoni, representing the organization Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Minister Kent participated in the ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"The John Humphrey Award recognizes those who put the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into action," said Minister Kent. "The courageous work of Irene Petras, Andrew Makoni and their colleagues in Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights involves great sacrifice. They risk their lives on a daily basis to defend the rights of the Zimbabwean people. Their struggle is national, but the rights and principles they defend are universal.
"This is the vision that John Peters Humphrey and others brought to the world 60 years ago."
"Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights demonstrates determination, bravery and the faith that Zimbabwe can look forward to a future without fear and repression," added Minister Cannon. "We encourage the redoubling of efforts to ensure that these courageous members of civil society are protected and free to continue their efforts on behalf of a vulnerable population whose rights have been violated."
Violence directed at the political opposition and human rights defenders continues unabated in Zimbabwe. Canada condemns the recent return to a pattern of human rights abuses and abductions, including that of Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and two of her colleagues.
Canada is also deeply concerned by the increasingly precarious humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure humanitarian needs are met.
This evening marked both the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-a landmark declaration conceived by a great Canadian, the late John Peters Humphrey-and the 20th anniversary of Rights & Democracy, a leading Canadian centre supporting human rights and the development of democracy internationally.
Rights & Democracy presents the John Humphrey Freedom Award annually to an organization or individual for exceptional achievement in the promotion of human rights and democratic development.
For more information on Rights & Democracy and the John Humphrey Freedom Award, please visit: www.dd-rd.ca/site/humphrey_award/index.php.
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