Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2017 – Edmund Yakani

Human rights defender Edmund Yakani from South Sudan is the recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2017. Despite the many risks to his own security, he continues to strive to ensure accountability, justice and respect for human rights in a context of conflict, violence and severe human rights violations.

Edmund Yakani is the Executive Director of the human rights organisation Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), based in South Sudan’s capital city Juba. He is among the most tenacious and vocal voices in the country when it comes to defending and promoting human rights, democratic transition and justice. He particularly stands out in his effort to ensure respect for rule of law and justice, and the inclusion of civil society in the ongoing peace talks.

“For me, this award symbolises motivation and recognition of the efforts and hard work to protect human rights defenders in South Sudan. This is a call for more efforts to engage in further protection for human rights defenders and their families,” said Edmund Yakani.

South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, gained its independence as recent as in July 2011. By many social, economic and political standards, the country is among the poorest in the world. Respect for civil and political rights has never been established to the level its citizens wished for at independence.

Also read Civil Rights Defenders country report on South Sudan: New Country, Old Beginnings.

The situation for human rights worsened following the outbreak of inter-ethnic and armed conflicts in 2013. Since then, human rights defenders and outspoken critics have been increasingly targeted by the government, security forces and other armed actors, and Edmund Yakani has himself been threatened on several occasions due to his work.

“State authorities see human rights work as part of a politically motivated agenda against them, and hence human rights defenders are seen as enemies of the state. In addition, the rule of law is compromised to the level that impunity has become a norm in the South Sudanese society,” said Edmund Yakani.

Despite facing enormous challenges and risk, Edmund Yakani stands his ground and continues to promote and ensure respect for human rights.

“Edmund Yakani has, on a countless number of occasions, demonstrated his commitment in promoting genuine dialogue and efforts among social and political actors. He is active in calling for a greater inclusion of civil society in the peace talks. His contribution in promoting human rights and its defenders has been of paramount importance, in particular as he is working in the context of weak institutions and ongoing conflict. I am proud to announce him as this year’s recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

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