Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Sir Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders. The awards were presented by Lady Arden DBE, at a packed event at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on 13 November 2018. The event was organised by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk, and hosted by Lord Carnwath CVO.
These prestigious new awards are 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. They are to be presented annually to 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 awards ceremony was part of an evening of tributes to Sir Henry, which also included moving speeches by his friends and colleagues Sir Anthony Hooper and Sir Mark Potter, and readings on the theme of human rights by actors Juliet Stevenson, Samuel West and Claire Price (see full programme here and photos from the event here).
The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities, including current Alliance for Lawyers at Risk President Sir Patrick Elias and PBI UK Director Susi Bascon.
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 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.
PBI UK extends our warmest congratulations to Naomi and Daniel. It is a fitting tribute to Sir Henry's legacy to be able to honour two such courageous and inspirational individuals in his name. Sir Henry Brooke was a man of remarkable conviction and generosity who contributed enormously to PBI’s work with his expertise and his commitment to supporting human rights defenders at risk. We were deeply touched to see so many of Sir Henry's family, friends and colleagues at the event and would like to thank everybody who participated and attended for making the evening such an apt and moving celebration of his life.