Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights advocate based in Tehran, has been awarded the 2009 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) - a highly respected global award aimed at highlighting courageous and significant action for social justice.
Emad Baghi founded the Society for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights and has been a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the death penalty in Iran.
His campaigning includes a scholarly examination of Islamic law (Sharia) on the subject, in which he demonstrates the absence of any doctrinal requirement for maintaining capital punishment. In addition, Emad Baghi's inventory of death row prisoners in Iran, including juvenile offenders, has been an important resource for UN human rights bodies as well as human rights groups outside the country.
Baghi has spent four years in prison over the past decade for campaigning against the death penalty and other human rights activities. Currently out of jail, he still faces charges relating to his work in defence of prisoners rights. Emad Baghi suffers from serious heart and kidney ailments; in August 2008 prison physicians declared his condition critical.
The chair of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, said the laureate was: “an exceptionally brave man defending human rights despite imprisonment and poor health”.
The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in Geneva in November 2009. The award is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.
The jury that bestows the laureateship is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.
Previous laureates are Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan (2008); Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; and Harry Wu, China.