Subject: United Nations presents rights awards to 12 Timorese individuals, groups

Also: First UN Human Rights Awards to Timorese activists

Agence France Presse

December 10, 2003 Wednesday

United Nations presents rights awards to 12 Timorese individuals, groups

DILI, Dec 10

The United Nations mission in East Timor on Wednesday presented awards to 12 individuals or organisations for their work in promoting human rights over the past year.

Among the recipients, who were chosen by the local office of the UN Development Programme, were entertainer and radio presenter Aneto Matos; Jose Belo, a correspondent for the Associated Press; and Bela Galhon, a UN radio presenter.

The local office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the East Timor prison department and groups working for women's rights, the disabled and children were among the other recipients.

"They have been chosen because in their work they have constantly campaigned for the promotion of human rights," said Kamalesh Sharma, the UN chief in East Timor, at the ceremony held on international Human Rights Day.

The UNDP, in a statement, said the struggle for human rights "is especially poignant for every Timorese."

Indonesia's frequently brutal 24-year occupation ended bloodily in 1999. At least 1,000 people were killed that year by the Indonesian military or their militia allies.

After a period of UN stewardship the country became independent in May 2002. The United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor bows out in May next year.

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UNMISET PRESS RELEASE

First UN Human Rights Awards to Timorese activists

(Dili, 11 December) ­ To mark International Human Rights Day the UN in Timor-Leste yesterday awarded several UN Human Rights Awards 2003 to Timorese individuals and NGOs for their contribution in promoting human rights in the country over the past year.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma, said that this initiative of the UN system to present Human Rights Awards in Timor-Leste for the first time had “particular meaning given what people have been through, given the suffering in this country and also because the emergence of Timor-Leste on the world stage is really a by-product of the manifestation of global concern with the human rights situation here”.

The SRSG said that he couldn’t think of any other country in the world which had adopted all the Human Rights conventions and treaties so speedily as Timor-Leste has done. He added that the government is now creating the instruments that will underpin and give expression to these ideals and is also engaged in developing a Human Rights action plan. But he cautioned that despite “total commitment from the government, human rights cannot advance sufficiently without the activism of NGOs, community-based organisations and the people themselves because it is the people who are giving expression to what they want”.

The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste and UN Resident Coordinator, Sukehiro Hasegawa, speaking on behalf of the UN agencies, funds and programmes in Timor-Leste, reiterated their commitment to continue to work on development issues and read a message from UNDP’s Administrator Mark Malloch Brown renewing its pledge to promote democratic governance, eliminate poverty and prevent violence as these “are vital to ensuring that the human rights of people are universally respected and that every individual has the opportunity to lead a life of dignity”.

The Awards recipients were: Timorese NGOs FOKUPES (Women’s Rights), FCJ (Children’s Rights), Oecussi Foundation for Women’s Rights and Timorese Red Cross (Rights of Returnees), Perkumpulan HAK and Sahe Institute (Human Dignity and Rights) and Timor Aid (Disability Rights); TV journalist José Belo and broadcasters Bela Galhós and Antônio Matos (Freedom of Expression: TV and Radio); Arte Moris arts group (Freedom of Expression: other forms of Arts); and prison guard Yelena Gomes (Rule of Law). They were selected by a 3-person panel representing UNMISET and the UN system in Timor-Leste.

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