In commemoration of International Human Rights Day on December 10, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored two exceptional human rights champions and released the following statement:
“As people across the globe mark International Human Rights Day, let me reaffirm the deep commitment of the United States to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration are the birthright of every human being. They are the basis of human dignity, and they underpin international peace and progress. The Obama Administration is dedicated to upholding the tenets of the Universal Declaration at home and championing them abroad through a policy of principled engagement.
On this International Human Rights Day, we are honoring two remarkable champions of human rights. I also want to recognize the many quiet heroes around the world who have also stood up for human rights this year, often against great odds and at high personal risk. Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the international commission that drafted the Universal Declaration, emphasized that it was intended to be a tool placed in the hands of ordinary citizens to help them secure their liberty and dignity. And in the six decades since its adoption, courageous men and women around the world have used the Declaration to defend and advance the human rights of their fellow citizens so that every human being has the opportunity to fulfill his or her God-given potential. The Obama Administration and the American people stand in solidarity with them.”
Every year, the Department of State presents awards for extraordinary actions in support of universal human rights principles.
The 2009 recipient of the Human Rights Defenders Award is Maksharip Aushev of Russia (awarded posthumously). This award is given to individuals or non-governmental organizations who show exceptional valor and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression. In an increasingly deadly environment for journalists and other human rights defenders, activist and independent Web site editor Maksharip Aushev bravely continued to train a spotlight on abductions, torture, killings and other serious human rights abuses in Russia’s North Caucasus, even after one of the web site’s previous owners was killed in police custody in 2008. On October 25, 2009, unknown assailants fired more than 60 bullets into his car, killing him. Mr. Aushev was 43 years old.
The Diplomacy for Human Rights Award will be presented to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch of U.S. Embassy Yerevan. This award recognizes a U.S. Chief of Mission who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to defending human rights and advancing democratic principles of government in his or her host country. Ambassador Yovanovitch’s principled leadership and innovative use of a full range of diplomatic tools underscores that defending human rights and democracy is an essential component of U.S. policy in our bilateral relationships. Ambassador Yovanovitch and her embassy team pressed for due process of those arrested after contentious February 2008 elections, advocated for transparent investigations, and worked to improve the electoral process, all while maintaining a positive relationship with the government of Armenia.
The awards will be presented early next year.