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Montreal, Canada. August 31, 2006
Burmese villager wins 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award.
Burma"s Su Su Nway, who courageously challenged the ruling military junta"s use of forced labour and won a historic court ruling against the regime last year, is the winner of Rights & Democracy"s 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award.
Su Su Nway, 34, came to the world"s attention last year for her inspiring individual efforts to see the junta"s representatives in her village brought to justice for forcing her and her neighbours to repair a road without pay. Conscious of the dangers inherent to confronting Burma"s military authorities, Su Su Nway"s determination paid off last year when a judge sentenced the village Chairman and a deputy to eight months in prison under an untested law passed in 1999 that bans compulsory labour. The verdict was the first ever against the military regime"s long-standing practice of forced labour.
Su Su Nway"s legal victory, however, was met a few months later with charges that she had defamed the village"s replacement Chairman. Tried for “insulting and disrupting a government official on duty,” she was sentenced last October to 18-months in Insein Prison, a jail infamous for its horrific conditions. Su Su Nway, who suffers from a heart condition, endured nine months in Insein before authorities finally bowed to international pressure and released her on June 6, 2006 .
“I am fine but I don"t feel happy or sad about my release because forced labour in Burma still exists,” she told the Democratic Voice of Burma upon her release from prison. “I took my prison uniform with me because I know that I will have to come back to prison until Burma gains democracy.”
Su Su Nway"s defiant struggle for human rights and dignity has made her a symbol of resilience and courage to the people of Burma , who now honour her with the title, “Courageous Su Su Nway.”
“Su Su Nway"s story moved us profoundly and represents the selfless commitment to justice that the John Humphrey Freedom Award was established to honour,” said Wayne MacKay, Vice-Chair of Rights & Democracy"s Board of Directors and a member of the committee that selected Su Su Nway from more than 100 nominations. “What she has accomplished is a powerful tribute to the human spirit that we hope Canadians and the international community will join us in celebrating.”
(Rights & Democracy presents the John Humphrey Freedom Award each year to an organization or individual from any country or region of the world, including Canada , for exceptional achievement in the promotion of human rights and democratic development. Named in honour of John Peters Humphrey, a McGill University law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Award includes a speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient"s human rights work).
by Rights & Democracy

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