As readers of this blog know I would have readily reported on any developments surrounding the MEA especially since the Final Nominees 2013 were announced recently. A few days ago a controversy arose around the nomination of Mona Seif, the courageous Egyptian human rights defender who was selected because of her campaign against military trials for civilians. UN Watch, an NGO affiliated to the American Jewish Committee, and famous for its strident monitoring of anything that smacks of criticism of Israel, accused Mona Seif of being a terrorist sympathizer on the basis of 3 older tweets in which she strongly defended the right of Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation. The organisation started a twitter campaign to have Mona recalled as nominee.
The problem is that I am – in a personal capacity – the Chair of the Jury which is composed of ten of the world’s leading human rights NGOs (see list http://www.martinennalsaward.org). I am a non-voting chair whose only role is to facilitate the process and I do not participate in the selection. The board of the Martin Ennals Foundation also has no role in the selection as the Statutes provide for a fully independent Jury. Only the NGOs on the Jury can vote on the recipient of the MEA. Still, I feel that my capacity of Chair of the Jury obliges me to show restraint in speaking out.
Although the more serious and impartial media have hardly referred to the story, which is understandable in view of UN Watch’s reputation for wildly attacking perceived enemies (see e.g. my earlier post regarding the UN High Commissioner http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/un-watch-simply-anti-un-and-anti-pillay-ngos-should-watch-out/), there are some links that could be helpful in understanding the issue surrounding Mona Seif:
Egyptian Activist Defends Anti-Israel Tweets – NYTimes.com. (Robert Mackay blogging in the NYT)
http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/egypt-activist-mona-seif-nominated-geneva-human-rights-prize-hits-back-zionist (giving the more punchy Palestinian response), and above all
Mona Seif’s own clarification of her position on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Monasosh/posts/10151556278949454.
Kenneth Roth, Director of HRW, one of the NGOs on the Jury of the MEA, probably spoke for many of the Jury members when he emailed to the New York Times: “HRW never takes a position on whether a country or rebel group should go to war or engage in “resistance.” Our focus is on how wars are fought, and we oppose any deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. I haven’t seen anything indicating that by “resistance” Mona means attacking civilians.”
- Breaking News: Final Nominees Martin Ennals Award 2013 made public (thoolen.wordpress.com)