NEW YORK (October 17, 2017) — On October 18, Burundi’s most prominent human rights defender and 2010 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) speaker, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, will be awarded the Train Foundation’s 2017 Civil Courage Prize. The Civil Courage Prize recognizes individuals who demonstrate “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.” Mbonimpa has won the prize for his work with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), an organization that records the abuses committed by Burundi’s authoritarian regime, in its effort to crush dissent and advocates for justice for its victims. Mbonimpa, who currently lives in exile, has earned a reputation as the most vocal advocate pushing the regime to end its violent campaign against its political opponents.
“Mr. Mbonimpa turned his own horrific experience in prison into a relentless campaign for justice for Burundi’s prisoners, who continue to suffer abuse, torture, and inhumane conditions. His passion for freedom and contributions toward peacebuilding rank him among historic human rights champions like Václav Havel and Thích Quảng Độ,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen. “We urge the international community to continue supporting him in his struggle to end the violence in Burundi.”
Mbonimpa started APRODH after undergoing torture and abuse while serving a two-year sentence on politically-motivated charges. Yet, Mbonimpa's prominence has come at a great cost to him. In 2014, he was arrested and jailed for allegedly endangering state security after making anti-government remarks during a radio interview. In August 2015, he survived an assassination attempt that left him severely wounded. During that same year, both his son and son-in-law were found dead shortly after being arrested during anti-government protests.
Mbonimpa is not the first OFF speaker to receive the Civil Courage Prize. Last year, Syrian civilian journalist Abdalaziz Alhamza received the 2016 Civil Courage Prize months after speaking at the 2016 OFF. In 2013, 2009, and 2006 respectively, OFF speakers Denis Mukwege, Aminatou Haidar and Rafael Marques de Morais were also awarded the Civil Courage Prize.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.