Liberty honours inspirational human rights leaders in annual awards ceremony

20 November 2012

Outstanding human rights leaders from all walks of life were honoured for their efforts at Liberty’s annual Human Rights Awards in London last night. Inspirational legal figures, young people, artists and campaigners were rewarded for their work in protecting and promoting the rights of others at the ceremony at the capital’s Southbank Centre.

The event was hosted by acclaimed writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and was attended by stars of stage and screen Benedict Cumberbatch and Rowan Atkinson, as well as the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP, Gary McKinnon’s mother and 2011 winner Janis Sharp and dedicated race relations campaigner Doreen Lawrence.

Among the winners were nine-year-old Martha Payne, for defending free expression by standing up to her local council and raising over £100,000 for charity Mary’s Meals in the process, and Hillsborough campaign groups for their unwavering dedication in seeking justice for the 96 victims, their families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster.

And there was a special surprise in store for the audience as Olympic performer and best-selling artist Emeli Sande took to the stage to bring proceedings to a close with a stunning rendition of Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“It is a joy to celebrate the dedication, commitment and achievements of all our winners and nominees, every one of whom has done so much to protect precious rights and freedoms.

“With human rights so often trashed in certain circles, and in the shadow of Secret Courts and the Snoopers’ Charter, it is all the more inspiring to reward our winners’ efforts.”

The Liberty Human Rights Awards 2012 winners and category nominees in full were:

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton – In recognition of a career dedicated to defending and upholding the rights of disabled people in the UK. She has fought hard to change attitudes towards disabled people, focusing on much-needed support as opposed to charity.

Independent Voice of the Year:

Lord Pannick – For his vocal and forensic opposition to the Justice and Security Bill as a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. Since becoming a peer, he has consistently held the Government to account on Rule of Law and human rights issues. The other nominees were Salma Yaqoob and The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones.

Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award:

Open Rights Group and 38 Degrees – For their effective campaigning work to defend freedom of expression and civil liberties in the digital age which has, in a very short time, made a huge impact in the way social change is effected – particularly their online campaigns against the “Snoopers’ Charter”. The other nominees were Change.org and Blacklist Support Group.

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Sir Nicolas Bratza – In recognition of fourteen years’ dedicated service as the UK judge of the European Court of Human Rights, culminating in his appointment as President of the Court in 2011. In addition to his judicial work, Sir Nicolas has also played a vital role in seeking to defend human rights and the Rule of Law from unjustified attack.

Human Rights Arts Award, in association with Southbank Centre:

Jenny Sealey – For her tireless work with deaf and disabled artists. Her commitment to providing audiences and actors with a true theatrical experience culminated in her co-artistic direction of over 3,000 participants at the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games this year. The other nominees were Baaba Maal, Mark Cousins and Deborah Warner, Fiona Shaw and Artichoke.

Human Rights “Close to Home” Award:

Aaron Sonson, Satwant Singh Kenth, Gregory Paczkowski – For providing important public information about individual rights and the potential abuse of police powers through their mobile app “Stop and Search”. The app itself has now had over 2,600 downloads and over 150 experiences uploaded. The other nominees were Ashley John-Baptiste and Mark Neary.

Human Rights Lawyer of the Year:

Ben Cooper – For his committed and tireless work on some of the most complex and difficult extradition cases. Ben acted for Gary McKinnon throughout his fight against extradition to the US, finally achieving justice only last month. The other nominees were Raggi Kotak of One Pump Court and Michael Oswald at Bhatt Murphy.

Human Rights Young Person of the Year:

Martha Payne – For defending free expression when she stood up to her local council after they banned her publishing pictures of schools meals on her blog, NeverSeconds. The council backed down after outcry and, since then, her website has been visited by over six million people and has raised more than £100,000 for charity Mary’s Meals. The other nominees were Scottish Youth Parliament and Eilidh Naismith and Billy Davidson.

Human Rights “Long Walk” Award:

Hillsborough Family Support Group, Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough – For their unwavering dedication to seeking justice for the 96 victims, their families and the survivors of the Hillsborough Disaster. The tireless campaigning efforts of these groups have finally led to the publication of the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The other nominees were the “Mau Mau” Litigants and Medical Justice.

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128