Ugandan lawyer receives Dutch human rights prize
Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was awarded the 2021 Human Rights Tulip. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs awards the honor, which is accompanied by a cash prize of 100,000 euros to help the recipient continue or expand their work.
Opiyo opposed a controversial anti-gay law that included a life sentence for homosexuality. According to the ministry, the human rights defender also played an important role in criminalizing torture in his country. His work often leads to him being accused of criminal violations with no evidence to back up the charges, and he is often closely monitored by security forces. "Human rights activists see the charges against Nicholas as a way to hinder his work as a human rights lawyer. Even in jail, he used his time to talk to prisoners who sought advice," the ministry stated.
"His work has made the LGBTI community in Uganda feel stronger, knowing that there are allies who support them," said caretaker Foreign Minister Ben Knapen.
Opiyo beat out two other finalists for the prize. Nunca Más is the name of a group of activists who defend human rights in Nicaragua. Together, they documented over 400 instances of serious human rights violations, the ministry said. The other finalist is Russian lawyer Mari Davtyan who stands up for the safety of women in Russia. Aside from representing women in challenging and complex domestic violence cases, she also heads the Consortium of Women's NGOs. "The organisation gives courses on women’s rights to lawyers and the police and helps victims with their legal cases," the ministry continued.
Last year the Human Rights Tulip went to Lilit Martirosyan who fights for transgender people and sex workers in Armenia. "Since winning the Human Rights Tulip in 2020 I’ve felt stronger and more protected, knowing that the Dutch government is on my side and that I’m no longer on this journey alone," she said in a press release from the ministry.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.