Award ceremony to be held on 25 April at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, Germany

BERLIN, 25 January 2016 Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne will be awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award, which will be presented at an official ceremony on 25 April at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights.

“For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organization’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” said Selmin Çalýþkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany.

“Henri Tiphagne and his organization People’s Watch, are fighting to ensure the rights of others and yet they themselves are being harassed and hampered by the authorities. There are many other civil society organizations in India that are in a similar position. This award is therefore intended to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement.”

Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organization People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organizations in India. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organization also actively supports human rights education. In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.

In recent years, many organizations have come under intense pressure from the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organization’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012 with the result that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes abandoned. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending.

Successive governments in India have similarly used the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act - which imposes restrictions on foreign funding for civil society organizations - for political ends. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organizations as well as activists and protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions linked to mining projects.

Whenever activists and organizations are forced to limit the scope of their work due to this kind of harassment, human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are under threat.

The Human Rights Award is presented by Amnesty Germany every two years in recognition of individuals or organizations campaigning for human rights under very difficult conditions.

Through the award, Amnesty International aims to honour and support the awardees’ exceptional human rights commitment and raise awareness of their work amongst the German public. The award comes with 10,000 Euros, provided by Amnesty Germany’s foundation Stiftung Menschenrechte, Förderstiftung Amnesty.

The Human Rights Award will be presented for the eighth time in 2016. Former award recipients include: Monira Rahman from Bangladesh (2006), Women of Zimbabwe Arise from Zimbabwe (2008), Abel Barrera from Mexico (2011) and Alice Nkom from Cameroon (2014).

Photo: Brian Tronic / American India Foundation