Montreal: Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk, has won the 1998 John Humphrey Freedom Award of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development for his tireless efforts to shed light on the human rights abuses committed against Tibetans by the Chinese government. Palden Gyatso will receive the Award in Montreal on December 10, 1998 at a special ceremony to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Palden Gyatso endured three decades of torture in prisons and labour camps for his participation in the 1959 uprising against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Gyatso's determination to tell the world his story helped him to survive the 33 years of torture, brutal beatings and ritual humiliation. While in prison, he kept notes and smuggled out letters describing the prison conditions. His acts of defiance brought on more beatings and longer sentences.
"He is an example of the incredible resilience of the human spirit." said Warren Allmand, President of the International Centre, upon announcing the decision of an international jury which met recently to consider more than 60 nominations from around the world.
Pressure from Amnesty International (who adopted him as a prisoner of conscience in 1991) and from an Italian human rights group led to Gyatso's release from Drapchi prison in 1992. He then fled to India, bringing with him the instruments of torture which are routinely used against Tibetan political prisoners. He now lives in Dharamsala, site of the Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile, where he works at the Tibetan Reception Centre for Newly Arrived Refugees. He continues to speak out against human rights violations in Tibet and China and has testified about his experiences before parliaments, the United States Congress, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Following the ceremonies, Palden Gyatso will travel to cities in Canada to meet with government officials and human rights groups to promote awareness of the on-going human rights abuses in China and Tibet and to highlight the often neglected human rights agenda of western governments. The preliminary itinerary is now available.
The Award, which includes a $25,000 grant and the speaking tour of Canada, is named in honour of John Peters Humphrey, the Canadian who wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The members of the jury are Reed Brody, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch; Makau wa Mutua, professor at the State University of New York; Daisy Francis, Co-Director of the Canada-Asia Working Group; Laurie Wiseberg, Executive Director of Human Rights Internet; and Canadian lawyer, David Matas, who is also a member of the Centre's Board of Directors. Palden Gyatso was nominated by the Tibetan Rights Campaign in Seattle, Washington.
Previous John Humphrey Award winners are Father Javier Giraldo and the Comision Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz of Colombia (1997); women's rights activist and lawyer Sultana Kamal of Bangladesh (1996); Bishop Carlos F. X. Belo of East Timor (1995); the Campaign for Democracy of Nigeria and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (1994), the Plateforme des organismes ha'tiens de d'fense des droits humains (1993); and the Instituto de Defensa Legal of Peru (1992).
The International Centre is an independent and non-partisan Canadian institution with an international mandate, working with citizens and governments around the world to promote human rights and democratic development through dialogue, strategic interventions, advocacy and public education.
For more information: Augie van Biljouw at (514)283-6073.