The Sir Henry Brooke Award for Human Rights Defenders is awarded jointly by the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and Peace Brigades International, in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and dearly-missed patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. The Award is presented annually to human rights defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised.
The inaugural award was presented by Lady Arden DBE at a packed event on 13 November 2018 at the Supreme Court, hosted by Lord Carnwath CVO, and organised by PBI UK and the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.
The winners of the inaugural awards were Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado.
Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.”
Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander.
Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.”
PBI UK Director Susi Bascon said: “Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry Brooke most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. Presenting them with the first ever Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders is a fitting tribute to Sir Henry’s remarkable legacy.”
Peace Brigades International provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.
Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado with Alliance members and PBI UK Director Susi Bascon (Photo: Manu Valcarce)