Auckland-Zona Damai : Social justice advocate and Pacific campaigner Keith Locke was last night named winner of Amnesty International’s Aotearoa Human Rights Defender Award.
The former Green MP was presented with the designer medallion in a ceremony at the Human Rights Commission in Auckland in recognition of a life dedicated to the promotion and protection of people’s human rights globally.
Touched by the occasion and rousing ovation by the audience, Locke said: “The award is very special and emotional for me because it’s from my peers.
“To me it’s the highest award I’ve achieved in my life because it’s from people I respect so much.”
He also paid tribute to the other award contenders and mentioned how he had worked closely with many of them on issues.
“I’m very humbled for receiving this award and it will be treasured,” Locke added.
‘Keith’s name top’
Rebecca Emery, deputy director at Amnesty International, said: “When we at Amnesty speak to communities or people here in New Zealand who have also sought our advice and help, Keith’s name is often mentioned as someone who has unfailingly assisted them.”
“He is truly a unique New Zealander who comes from a family that has shown a genuine dedication to social justice causes through generations.
“For this reason, it is a pleasure to mark our 50th birthday year by honouring him as a true expression of what it means to be a human rights defender.”
Keith Locke has played a key role in many human rights issues – especially controversial ones that other MPs have avoided – such as China, East Timor, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Tibet and also in the Middle East.
Emery also praised Locke for being a “domestic watchdog” on search and surveillance, anti-terror and refugee issues, including his tireless campaigning for the rights of unjustly imprisoned Algerian theologian Ahmed Zaoui.
“The high calibre and diverse range of nominations received this year is testament to the recognition that the defence of human rights in our part of the world is as crucial as it is to the rest of the world,” said Emery.
Other nominees included journalist/war correspondent John Stephenson, imprisoned leader of Dewan Adat Papua (DAP) in West Papua Forkorus Yaboisembut, former NZ Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Nooman, film director and academic Dr Annie Goldson and subject Rob Hamill of the film Brother Number One, barrister and founderCraig Tuck of Slave Free Seas, human rights advocate Marianne Elliott, and Asylum Access Thailand’s Michael Timmins.
Chief judge Dr Judy McGregor said: “Human rights defenders are vital in the current New Zealand fabric – it is they who help keep the government honest and give others a voice.”
The other judges included Meg Poutasi of Pacific Cooperation Foundation and Amnesty International’s Rebecca Emery. [pacific.scoop.co.nz]
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