Mayor of Kilkenny Cllr Sean Ó hArgáin welcomed the first ever Front Line Defenders Cycle For Protection to the historic city of Kilkenny. The Mayor was joined by Front Line Defenders Founder and Executive Director Mary Lawlor and special guest speakers Olga Sadovskaya from the Russian Federation and Farai Maguwu from Zimbabwe.
They were also accompanied by the team of 20 cyclists who will be undertaking the Front Line Defenders Cycle for Protection Challenge – cycling from Dublin to Kilkenny – Cork – Limerick – Galway and Athlone.
Local cyclist and Race Around Ireland finalist Jim Fitzpatrick was also there to lend his support to the team
Front Line Defenders is launching the Cycle for Protection to highlight the direct practical support being offered by this Dublin based international human rights organisation to human rights defenders at risk around the world and to raise vital funds for its Security Grants Programme.
Speaking at public meetings to be held around the country Olga Sadovskaya from the Russian Federation will be highlighting the dangers facing human rights defenders, especially in Chechnya, who challenge the current climate of impunity in Russia in which those brave enough to speak out can be harassed intimidated or killed. The most recent example of which was the terror campaign launched against Human Rights Watch researcher Tanya Lokshina one of the team which produced the recent HRW report on Russia which highlighted how “Participants in unauthorised protests face massive new fines, as harsh as those of the penal code but imposed administratively without the due-process benefits of a criminal trial. Human rights groups that receive foreign funding will now have to wear the demonising label of “foreign agent.”
Farai Maguwu from Zimbabwe will highlight the dangers facing those who expose the shady dealings and abuse of power by those involved in the hugely profitable diamond business in the Marange diamond fields. As Director of the Centre for Research and Development in eastern Zimbabwe, Farai Maguwu has conducted extensive research documenting horrific abuses taking place in the Marange diamond fields. After the Marange fields were discovered in 2006, they were open to anyone, and illegal mining and smuggling flourished. Maguwu has documented beatings, torture, forced labour, and killings of local villagers in Marange at the hands of soldiers controlled by the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the one-time ruling party that still controls security in the coalition government.
Mary Lawlor will be speaking about how, through its Security Grants Programme, Front Line Defenders can respond urgently when human rights defenders, like Olga and Farai, are under attack.
The Security Grants Programme can provide a grant of up to €6000 within 24 hours to help address the immediate security needs of human rights defenders at risk. This can include everything from bullet proof jackets for human rights defenders at risk of assassination, cctv security for the offices of human rights organisations who have been attacked, legal and medical support and even in some cases temporary relocations.
“Every day human rights defenders put their lives on the line defending the rights of others. They are either on the move or on the run and when they get up in the morning they never know whether they will return home safely that evening. We offer practical support because Front Line Defenders believes that they are the key agents of social change with the power to change their societies from within, said Ms Lawlor speaking at the launch.