On December 10 in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced that the recipient of the first annual Freedom Defender’s Award is the NGO Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, chosen out of an impressive group of nominees from across the globe. The Freedom Defenders Award, announced last year in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, goes to a foreign individual or nongovernmental organization that has shown exceptional courage and leadership in the defense of human rights.
[On February 20, 2007, U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake visited Mano Ganesan at his CMC office to recognize his contributions to the defense of human rights and his other democracy-building activities.]
The First Runner-up for this award was Mano Ganesan, a leading Sri Lankan human rights activist and Member of Parliament. Mr. Ganesan has been in the forefront of those seeking an end to the abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings that afflict Sri Lanka. He has demonstrated commendable integrity in combating the climate of impunity for human rights violators.
In 2006 Mano Ganesan founded the Civil Monitoring Commission on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearances (CMC), based in Colombo, and continues to serve as the CMC Convener. He has shown enormous personal courage and dedication in exposing crimes against Sri Lanka’s several minority communities, including the country’s Muslims. Relatives of those abducted, “disappeared” and killed often turn first to the CMC to try to obtain information on their loved ones or secure their release.
Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe, Convener of the Civil Monitoring Commission Mano Ganesan at the second public meeting for ” Expression of grief of the families and friends of the disappeared”, Aug 1, 2007 – Pic by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Mano Ganesan, describing his mission as a representative of the voiceless, said: “I am speaking against injustice, and my cause is to achieve human dignity and human rights for the people of this country who are placed in a deliberate and unfortunate situation in an extremist political climate.”
The U.S. Embassy is proud to share this moment with Mano Ganesan and the many others in Sri Lanka who have worked tirelessly to defend human rights and to seek justice for the victims of human rights abuses.
[Full Text of US Embassy. COlombo, Sri Lanka Press Release]