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Newsletter 10 Dec. 2013

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NEWSLETTER 10 Dec. 2013
B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Nelson Mandela. Photo: Reuters
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Nelson Mandela 
Dear friends,
Jessica MontellEach year on December 10 the world commemorates International Human Rights Day. B'Tselem promotes the protection of human rights in the Occupied Territories every day of the year. Today, I want to look beyond our immediate surroundings to the global human rights community of which B'Tselem is proud to be a member. Thousands of organizations around the world champion human rights in their own country. Their work is amplified by international organizations who also work to ensure that the major powers make human rights a central component of their foreign as well as domestic policy.   
Human rights are based on the universal principle that everyone is entitled to the same rights and that all authorities must respect these rights. This is the concept that underlies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. The atrocities perpetrated during World War II made it clear that a state's abuse of its own citizens was not an internal matter, and that a universal commitment was required to ensure that basic rights are upheld.
It is impossible to talk about human rights without mentioning Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest defenders of human rights and liberties that the world has ever known and who passed away last week. Mandela's courageous struggle will continue to be a shining beacon to us and to defenders of human rights everywhere. His passing does not dim his legacy, nor will it be forgotten. It will continue to fuel the struggle for equality, liberty and justice. As Mandela put it so eloquently: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others".
The fight for human rights requires dedication and perseverance. In some places it also requires real courage. Many human rights organizations around the world operate in hostile environments, and human rights defenders risk their freedom and their lives to document violations, disseminate information, criticize government policy and defend victims. I am well aware of the fact that we here in Israel operate in a very different reality. We are completely free to conduct our research and documentation, and voice our criticism of government and military policy without fear of arrest, torture or potential harm to our family members, as suffered by our colleagues elsewhere. 
In honor of International Human Rights Day, we dedicate this newsletter to the struggle of courageous human rights defenders around the world, the men and women who work under impossible conditions to realize the vision of a world where everyone's rights are respected, as all are "born equal in dignity and rights".

Jessica Montell

Director, B’Tselem
Consuelo Morales In 1992 Sister Consuelo Morales founded Citizens in Support of Human Rights (Ciudadanos en Apoyo de Derechos Humanos, CADHAC) and has been its director ever since. For the past two decades CADHAC has addressed a wide range of grave violations of human rights, running the gamut from abuse in state-run orphanages to the forced displacement of people. The organization provides protection to victims of the violations and tries to ensure that those responsible for the violations be held accountable. Sister Consuelo Morales was selected as one of the 2012 recipients of the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism, granted by Human Rights Watch.
Martha Tholanah Ms. Martha Tholanah is chairperson of Gays and Lesbians in Zimbabwe (GALZ). Founded in 1990,GALZ aims to promote tolerance of sexual minorities and to have homophobic legislation in Zimbabwe rescinded. Tholanah is currently on trial in Zimbabwe on charges of running an “unregistered” organization. 
D Nyein Lin The two men are active in the campaign to achieve freedom of expression and uphold human rights in their home country of Myanmar. After having taken part in a demonstration against a copper mine which scatters toxic dust in its vicinity, endangering the health of local residents, they were charged with “protesting without prior permission”. The two were found guilty and sentenced to jail-time.
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