Al Mezan congratulates its director, Mr. Issam Younis, on his receipt of the prestigious Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, awarded today by Ambassador Christian Clages of Germany and Ambassador Mr. René Troccaz of France. Mr. Younis was given the prize in recognition of his thirty-year career protecting and promoting human rights, accountability and the rule of law in occupied Palestine, in particular in the Gaza Strip, his home.
Since 2016, the award has been delivered to committed human rights defenders who have done outstanding work to uphold human rights and the rule of law in their respective countries. Each year, 15 individuals are chosen from around the world, activists who Mr. Younis said he is “honored to share this award with.”
Also in his acceptance speech, Mr. Younis said that “all Palestinians are born activists – born human rights defenders. Because when the space in which you practice your fundamental freedoms and raise your voice is closed on you, you must be proactive.” He said that “Palestinians are not given peace; we have to seek it every single day, as many other peoples under occupation have done.” Mr. Younis stated that the end result is a nation made up of human rights activists, “who continue to raise their voices in the face of political division, fragmentation and occupation.”
Indeed, the humanitarian and human rights conditions in Palestine continue to decline, while the space in which to defend Palestinian rights rapidly shrinks. Meanwhile, Europe is under pressure by Israel to maintain the status quo and allow for its formal annexation of Palestine. That France and Germany have chosen to respond to Israel’s pressure—including its pressure to silence effective human rights defenders—by endorsing the work of a Palestinian human rights activist is highly significant and serves as a broader endorsement of all human rights defenders and organizations working for justice and accountability on behalf of the Palestinian people. The Center calls on France and Germany to be bold in their continued support of the work of Palestinian activists and organizations.
Al Mezan continues to face numerous barriers to its work, not least the attempts by all authorities—Israeli and Palestinian—to repress its criticism of their conduct. Yet, grounded in the Center’s firm commitment to professionalism, community participation and independence, Mr. Younis courageously leads the Center in its effective work.
Al Mezan is proud to endorse the award of its director with the significant Franco-German prize and attests not just to Mr. Younis’ exceptional body of work, but also to his character and spirit—always kind, always gracious, and unwavering in his vision of equality and dignity for all.