On Monday, 11 January 2021, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) and the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) hosted a reception in honor of Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s Director-General and ICHR’s Commissioner-General, upon his receipt of the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law on 8 December 2020. Since 2016, this joint French and German prize has been awarded annually to human rights defenders who have made an exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law in their respective countries.
Dr. Kamal al-Sharafi, Al Mezan’s chairman of the board of directors, Mr. Talal Okal, ICHR board member, and Mr. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, spoke at the ceremony, praising Mr. Younis’ exceptional professionalism and dedication throughout his thirty-year career protecting and promoting human rights, accountability, and the rule of law in occupied Palestine.
The speakers stressed that the recognition of Mr. Younis’ work serves as a broader endorsement of all Palestinian human rights defenders working for justice and accountability, at a time of shrinking civic space and escalating defamation campaigns. The speakers also commended the work of the human rights organizations in the oPt that continue to persevere despite the mounting obstacles.
Mr. Younis thanked the participants and expressed his gratitude for this recognition. He dedicated the award to the Palestinian people, particularly Palestinian human rights defenders who continue to push back against incessant attacks and smear campaigns perpetuated by the Israeli government and affiliate organizations. He further acknowledged that such campaigns aim at delegitimizing the Palestinian human rights movement, particularly the work led by human rights organizations before the International Criminal Court, and other international justice bodies, to hold apparent Israeli war criminals accountable.
In conclusion, Mr. Younis reiterated his calls for concrete action to be taken to uphold and protect the rights of the civilian population, specifically women, youth, and persons with disability.