Homo Homini Awards recognize the work of three Vietnamese activists

Homo Homini is the annual award presented by the People in Need Foundation to persons with outstanding merits in promoting human rights, democracy and the non-violent resolution of political conflicts. The awards were presented at a ceremony in Prague this week in cooperation with One World 2003 - the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival which is currently taking place in the Czech capital.

Vo Van Ai, photo: CTKVo Van Ai, photo: CTK The Lucerna Theatre in Prague was packed for the presentation of the 2002 Homo Homini award. This year, the award went to distinguished defenders of human rights and democratic and religious freedoms in Vietnam. The three recipients were:

Thich Huyen Quang, a Buddhist monk, who has repeatedly appealed to the authorities in Vietnam to introduce democratic reforms, permit the activity of political parties and declare free elections. He has spent altogether more than twenty years in custody, mainly under house arrest.

Thich Quang Do, also a Buddhist monk and a scholar and writer, and one of the leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. For his active promotion of religious freedom, human rights, and democracy, the Vietnamese communist regime imprisoned him for many years. He lives in isolation without medical assistance, under police surveillance.

Nguyen Van Ly is a Roman Catholic priest. He has been repeatedly subjected to brutal treatment by the authorities for defending religious freedom in Vietnam. His most recent sentence took place in 2001, when he was sentenced to fifteen years in jail as a prisoner of conscience. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Simona Panek, Vo Van Ai, Tomas Pojar, photo: CTKSimona Panek, Vo Van Ai, Tomas Pojar, photo: CTK That was Vo Van Ai, a distinguished Vietnamese political activist, journalist, historian, poet and president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, who accepted the award on behalf of the recipients. I caught up with him at the ceremony and asked him how important is it that these three individuals are being recognised:

"It's very important, you see nobody knows what the situation is like in Vietnam. And if people in the Czech Republic or everywhere know that the situation in Vietnam now is like it was in Czechoslovakia before the revolution, they will follow and they will support the people who stand right now in Vietnam for human rights and democracy. The three people you gave the award to this evening, they will be recognised by everybody outside of Vietnam. And inside Vietnam, if the people and the movement that has stood for democracy and for human rights know that three people that represent the fight for democracy and human rights have been recognised, they will be very encouraged, so it's very important."

Do you think people in Vietnam know about this, or that they will know about this?

"Of course they will know, but they can also not know. The information in Vietnam is in the hands of the Communist Party. But we have some radio stations which have Vietnamese programs, like the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. They have Vietnamese programs and will broadcast this evening's ceremony to Vietnam, so a million people will know this tomorrow."

If you would like more information on the People in Need Foundation or the One World Film Festival just click on their links. And, if you would like more information on the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights you can reach them at queme@free.fr