Lawyer Alejandra Ancheita has been awarded the Martin Ennals prize, often dubbed the “Nobel prize” for human rights, for her relentless work defending migrants, mine workers and indigenous communities in her native Mexico.
Ancheita is the founder and executive director of Mexican organisation Proyecto de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC), helping local communities to stand up for their rights. She has spent the past 15 years working to protect land and labour rights from the ruthless greed of transnational mining and energy companies, often putting her her own life at risk in the process.
“It is a huge honour, not only for the recognition of my work and the work of my organization, but also in recognition of the dangerous conditions that human rights defenders are facing in Mexico,” she said on receiving the prize. “It is also a great responsibility,” she added.
The individuals and communities she helps often face violent attacks. Ancheita has been a pioneer in seeking justice in Mexican courts when companies failed to take local communities’ rights into account.
“Alejandra Ancheita’s selection by the jury highlights the array of forces facing human rights defenders,” says Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss foreign minister who chairs the Martin Ennals foundation.
“In Mexico, there is a clear pattern of attacks, threats, criminalization, and murder of human rights defenders. Ms. Ancheita and ProDESC have been subjected to surveillance, a defamation campaign in the national media, and a break in at their offices.”
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Fernando Lopes says:
We are happy and proud to continue working with ProDESC, to strengthen the democratic unions in Mexico. Alejandra Ancheita’s commitment to human rights is remarkable and we warmly congratulate her for the award. Her work is very important in a country where trade union and people’s rights are often blatantly disregarded at the expense of big corporations.
The Martin Ennals Award, named after the former secretary general of Amnesty International, is given to human rights defenders who show deep commitment to their cause despite huge personal risk.
The award was created in 1993, two years after Ennals died. The jury is composed of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and seven other international campaign organisations.
The laureate receives a prize of 20,000 Swiss francs (USD 20,700).
The December issue of the Global Worker will contain an in-depth article on Alejandra Ancheita.