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  • News and Notes

Geneva Summit on Human Rights

On February 23, the independent watchdog group UN Watch organized the eighth annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. The Summit, sponsored by an international coalition of 25 human-rights NGOs, was held on the eve of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s main annual session. The event brought together hundreds of dissidents, human-rights activists, diplomats, and journalists from countries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, to shed light on urgent human-rights situations around the globe.

The conference included the presentation of the annual Courage Award to two jailed Venezuelan opposition leaders—Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López. Ledezma served as mayor of Caracas until his arrest last year, and López, imprisoned two years ago on trumped-up charges, is a leading figure within the opposition.

Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, and Jan İlhan Kizilhan, a German psychologist, were honored with the prestigious International Women’s Rights Award. The award recognized Dakhil and Kizilhan for their courageous work to rescue Yazidi and other women enslaved, assaulted, and sexually abused in Syria and Iraq by ISIS.

The Summit also featured a keynote address by Nobel laureate David Trimble, member of the British House of Lords and former first minister of Northern Ireland, who highlighted the lack of international scrutiny of countries such as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, all of which have dismal human-rights records yet are members of the UN’s Human Rights Council. For videos and summaries of the speeches, visit

Human Rights in North Korea

On February 19, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, [End Page 185] the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and NED held a full-day conference on “North Korea: The Human Condition and Security Nexus.” The event commemorated the two-year anniversary of the UN Commission of Inquiry report on human rights in North Korea. The conference included panels on the link between human and national security, accountability for human-rights abuses, and policy prospects regarding North Korea.

Participants included Sonja Biserko, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia; Signe Poulsen, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul; Robert King, special envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues at the U.S. Department of State; and NED president Carl Gershman. The event concluded with the inaugural Fred Iklé Memorial Lecture, delivered by Michael Kirby, former justice of the Australian High Court, who chaired the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea. For videos of the event, visit

Democratic Governance in Latin America

On February 25–26, Forum 2000 (Prague) and the Arias Foundation cosponsored a conference in San José, Costa Rica, to examine democratic deficiencies in Latin America. Featured speakers included Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga Ramírez, former Spanish prime minister Felipe González, former Mexican secretary of foreign affairs Jorge Castañeda, former secretary-general of the Chilean presidency John Biehl del Río, and former Puerto Rican governor Sila María Calderón.

Transparency in Angola

On February 18, NED sponsored an event titled “Perspectives on Transparency, Human Rights, and Civil Society in Angola,” featuring leading journalist and democracy advocate Rafael Marques de Morais, director of the website Maka Angola. Marques shed light on what he called Angola’s “transparency of looting,” its deepening political repression, and possible scenarios for the future. To read his full remarks, visit

Comments were offered by Angolan ambassador Antonio Luvualu de Carvalho and Todd Haskell, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. Ambassador Princeton Lyman of the United States Institute of Peace chaired the discussion.

African Female Leaders Honored

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the [End Page 186] AllAfrica Global Media Group, owner of the AllAfrica online news website, presented its Female Leadership Prize to four courageous African women at a ceremony in Dakar.

The recipients of the award included Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman...


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