fbpx Skip to main content

Announcing the 2024 Thulani Maseko Justice Prize Laureate

OSLO, NORWAY (May 27, 2024) —The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is pleased to announce this year’s recipient of the 2024 Thulani Maseko Justice Prize: the late Russian dissident and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. His wife, democracy advocate Yulia Navalnaya, will accept the award on his behalf at a ceremony at the Oslo City Hall during the 2024 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) in Oslo, Norway.

The Maseko Justice Prize recognizes courageous human rights lawyers who risk, or have risked, their lives to defend the rule of law and democracy.

“There are striking parallels between Navalny’s struggles and Maseko’s work. It is a sign of the deep and alarming crisis the world is facing against tyranny when a prize commemorating a celebrated human rights lawyer assassinated in 2023 by an African dictatorship is awarded to a lawyer killed in 2024 by the Putin dictatorship for his work opposing the kleptocracy and moral decay in Russia,” HRF Founder Thor Halvorssen said. “It is a profound honor to have his wife, Yulia, join us in Oslo this year to receive this prize that recognizes Navalny’s extraordinary bravery and indelible legacy.”

Established by HRF and the Thulani Maseko Foundation last year, the Maseko Prize honors the late Swazi human rights lawyer, renowned democracy advocate, and former Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) speaker, Thulani Maseko.

Maseko first gained prominence in 2009 when he was arrested and charged for “seditious” remarks at a public rally, after which he launched a legal petition challenging the country’s Sedition Act. In 2014, he was again imprisoned for criticizing the kingdom’s chief justice. In 2016, the same year Maseko spoke at OFF, he won a landmark legal battle when the High Court ruled two repressive laws unconstitutional. In 2018, he filed a pending lawsuit challenging the monarch’s decision to rename the nation of Swaziland “Eswatini.”

On Jan. 21, 2023, Maseko was assassinated at his home in Luhleko, 30 miles southwest of Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane. HRF posthumously awarded Thulani Maseko the first Maseko Prize at the 2023 Forum.

“Navalny, an outspoken critic of Russia’s authoritarian regime and a leading voice challenging Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic dictatorship, embodies the very spirit of the Justice award,” Tanele Maseko, widow of Thulani Maseko, said.

As a result of his unwavering activism, Navalny, like Maseko, was jailed and targeted with assassination attempts. Again like Maseko, Navalny was murdered for his boundless courage on Feb. 16, 2024. He was 47 years old.

In 2011, Navalny founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation, through which he conducted anti-corruption investigations on state companies and senior government officials. In 2013, he came in second in Moscow’s mayoral election, and in 2018, he campaigned — but was illegally disqualified from appearing on the ballot — for the presidential election.

In 2019, Navalny was imprisoned under politically motivated charges of “violating protest laws” after he called for peaceful demonstrations in response to fraudulent city council elections. In August 2020, Navalny survived an assassination attempt after Secret Service agents poisoned him with a nerve agent. After his recovery in Germany and an investigative project where Navalny unmasked his would-be killers, Navalny returned to Russia, where he was immediately arrested and subsequently sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges of “extremism.”

The Thulani Maseko Justice Prize ceremony will take place on on June 3 at the Oslo City Hall during the 2024 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF).