RANGOON — Prominent Burmese legal activist Robert San Aung has been announced as one of three nominees for this year’s Martin Ennals Award, in recognition of his work as one of the country’s leading human rights defenders.
Devised in 1993 to give visibility to prominent activists across the world, the award’s jury of 10 international human rights organizations said that the lawyer had distinguished himself for having “courageously fought against human rights abuses”.
“I feel humble and extremely honored to be nominated for this prestigious award,” Robert San Aung said in an Amnesty International press statement. “This nomination conveys the message to activists, human rights defenders and promoters who fight for equality, justice and democracy in Myanmar that their efforts are not forgotten by the world.”
Arriving at university in 1974, Robert San Aung joined that year’s demonstrations in support of a state funeral for former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, during which many students were killed or imprisoned after a crackdown by the Ne Win government.
After participating in numerous demonstrations, facing threats of expulsion and a spell in jail, he was admitted to practice law in 1980. He was imprisoned a total of six times between 1974 and 2010, with his law license revoked in 1993 for almost 20 years.
Since returning to the courtroom in 2012, Robert San Aung has been an advocate for a number of land rights demonstrators facing charges under the country’s draconian Peaceful Assembly Law. Along with his defense of villagers facing prosecution for their opposition to the Letpadang copper mining project in central Burma, he is currently representing students detained in Thayawady prison for demonstrating against the National Education Law.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders is named for the British human rights activist who served as secretary-general of Amnesty International between 1968 and 1980. During Ennals’ time at the helm of the organization, Amnesty was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its advocacy of the rights of political prisoners.
The other nominees for the 2015 award are Ahmed Mansoor, a freedom of expression campaigner in the United Arab Emirates, and Asmaou Diallo, the founder of a sexual assault support service in Guinea.
The award will be presented in Geneva on Oct. 6.