Human Rights Awards 2015: Liberty recognises fearless activists at the forefront of the battle for our rights

08 September 2015

Liberty has honoured the pioneering activists, young campaigners, artists and lawyers who work tirelessly to champion fundamental freedoms at our 2015 Human Rights Awards.

This year’s event celebrated the achievements of individuals and organisations who continue the fight to end injustice, neglect and abuse, undeterred by an unprecedented attack on the post-war human rights consensus – the threat to our Human Rights Act.

Hosted by actor, writer and comedian Jo Brand at London’s Southbank Centre, the awards saw Caspar Bowden receive a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his extraordinary life’s work as a distinguished and deeply committed human rights activist. Liberty Human Rights Awards 2015

Other winners included Detention Action, honoured for its successful legal challenge to the Detained Fast Track scheme, and Helawit Hailemariam, recognised for her ongoing battle for the release of her father, democracy activist Andargachew Tsege, who has been held on death row in Ethiopia for more than a year. 

A packed Queen Elizabeth Hall was treated to performances from award-winning soul singer Lizzie Emeh, performance poet and Writer at Liberty Sabrina Mahfouz and the inspirational David Idowu Choir – as well as a surprise set by Human Rights Arts Award winners, the WAST Nightingales

The Liberty Human Rights Awards 2015 winners and nominees in full were:

Lifetime Achievement Award

Caspar Bowden – For his exceptional commitment to human rights and a life dedicated to leading the way on how society can best safeguard privacy in the modern age.

Courageous Voice Award

Sabeen Mahmud – For her fearless championing of free speech and open government in Pakistan. Sabeen set up community space ‘The 2nd Floor’ to provide a safe place for people to share music, art, science and ideas in Karachi. She was shot dead by two gun-men earlier this year. A man later confessed to murdering her on the grounds that she was ‘promoting liberal, secular values’.

Collective Voice Award

The people of Ireland – For becoming the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, taking an enormous step forward in the fight to end discrimination of gay and lesbian people.

The Christine Jackson Young Person Award

Helawit Hailemariam – For co-developing the play Ask to pressure the British Government into pressing for the release of her father, activist Andargachew Tsege, who is being detained by the Ethiopian regime. The other nominees were the Cardiff Law School Innocence Project and Temi Mwale, founder of Get Outta the Gang.

Human Rights ‘Close to Home’ Award

Jan Sutton – For defending the Human Rights Act and inspiring others to fight for the right to live with dignity. The other nominees were Kalayaan and Integrate Bristol.

Human Rights Arts Award

WAST Nightingales – For bringing women refugees and asylum seekers together in song and raising awareness of the injustices suffered by women seeking asylum in the UK. The other nominees were Don McVey, Penny Woolcock and Helen Benedict. 

Human Rights Lawyer of the Year

Ben Jaffey, Blackstone Chambers – For leading the challenge to mass surveillance in the courts, acting for Liberty, Privacy International and others. The other nominees were Nathalie Lieven QC of Landmark Chambers, The Public Law Project and Adam Wagner of 1 Crown Office Row.

Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award

Detention Action – For its successful legal challenge to Detained Fast Track, which saw the scheme ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal and suspended in July. The other nominees were Lord Rambotham, CRAE, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the SCYJ; and Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association.