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Sec. Rice At 2007 Int'l Human Rights Day Awards

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 10, 2007

Remarks At the 2007 International Human Rights Day Awards Ceremony

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much, Jonathan. It's a pleasure to be here. And I am especially to be joined by Senator Lugar, who is a tireless defender of human rights and I might say also a tireless defender of diplomacy. Thank you so much for being here, Senator.

This week, we join in solidarity with nongovernmental groups and other human rights defenders across the globe in making the 59th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As President Bush has said, "Respect for the inherent right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

Today, on every continent, men and women are working, often against great odds and at great risk, to secure their fundamental rights. Regrettably, some governments have responded to growing demands for personal and political freedom not by accepting their obligations to their people, but by oppressing those seeking to exercise fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. If the great promise of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to be fulfilled, the United States and other democratic nations must align ourselves with those who defend human rights and advocate for peaceful democratic change.

To that end, last year, in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, I announced the creation of a set of annual human rights awards. The Freedom Defenders Award goes to a foreign individual or nongovernmental organization that has shown exceptional courage and leadership. The Diplomacy for Freedom Award goes to a U.S. Chief of Mission who has shown exceptional ability in promoting democracy and working to end tyranny.

I now have the privilege of presenting the awards to our first recipients. The honorees were chosen out of an impressive group of nominees across the globe. The recipient of the 2007 Freedom Defenders Award is the NGO Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. In Zimbabwe, civil society remains under siege amid political and economic crises caused by the irresponsible policies of the regime. Over the past several months, the authorities have engaged in an intensified campaign of repression, characterized by harassment and intimidation, arrests and violent assaults against peaceful opposition activists, professionals, independent labor leaders, and other members of civil society.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has worked tirelessly and fearlessly to advance democratic principles, and in particular, it has taken on the dangerous task of providing legal representation to persecuted human rights and democracy defenders. Mr. Arnold Tsunga, the current President of this organization, has traveled from Harare to accept the award on behalf of his fellow members. Mr. Tsunga, we thank you and your colleagues for your courage, your commitment to securing the rights of your fellow citizens.

(The Award is presented.)


SECRETARY RICE: The recipient of the 2007 Diplomacy for Freedom Award is Karen Stewart, our Ambassador to Belarus. Ambassador Stewart inspired her entire embassy to provide encouragement to embattled defenders of freedom. The Belarus regime has stepped up persecution of the opposition and ordinary citizens pressing peacefully for change. Karen has ensured that U.S. assistance is targeted to democracy initiatives, and she has found innovative ways to bring the message of U.S. support for freedom directly to the people of Belarus. Ambassador Stewart, you and your dedicated embassy team exemplify what transformational diplomacy is meant to be. Last week, I had the honor to receive several Belarusian human rights and democracy advocates, who were greatly heartened by the efforts of the United States, represented by our Ambassador there, Karen Stewart. Thank you for your outstanding leadership in this important cause.

(The Award is presented.)


SECRETARY RICE: Ladies and Gentlemen: I have no doubt that the brave men and women around the globe who are working for the cause of freedom will prevail, as the Havels and the Mandelas did before them -- for the great mover of history is the power of the human spirit. So as we join men and women throughout the international community in marking the anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we resolve to work with other free nations worldwide to defend the defenders of human dignity and democracy. Thank you for joining us. (Applause.)

Released on December 10, 2007

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