The Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family (Spavo) and NGO Hope for Children were on Friday awarded the first annual Stella Soulioti human rights awards.
Held at the foreign ministry and attended by foreign diplomats, the ceremony marked international human rights day which is observed on December 10 to celebrate the adoption in 1948 of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN general assembly.
The Cyprus prizes bear the name of Stella Soulioti, Cyprus’ first woman lawyer, first woman government minister and first woman attorney general.
The finalists for the awards were Caritas, Hope for Children, Spavo and Patricia Phedonos. They were evaluated by a five-member committee made up of the foreign minister, the justice minister, the ombudsman and two personalities with recognised contribution to human rights – LGBT activist Alecos Modinos and journalist Tonia Stavrinou.
Presenting the awards, Modinos paid tribute to Soulioti and said that in its decision the committee could not ignore migrants and cases of family violence which have risen as a result of the pandemic. He noted Spavo’s contribution to protecting the rights of victims of domestic abuse over the past 30 years and the role of Hope for Children in protecting children, especially unaccompanied minors and abused children.
The awards were a sign of appreciation for the work of both organisations, an encouragement to continue and a reminder that they are not alone, he added.
Accepting the award, a Spavo representative pledged that the work would continue and dedicated the prize to women victims who have managed to get away and all those still struggling to flee abuse.
A Hope for Children representative described the award as a moral recognition of their work, proving that collective work and persistent efforts lead to change.
The awards were accompanied with a cash prize of €10,000. Runners up were presented honorary certificates.
Addressing the event, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said the award deservedly bears the name of a prominent Cypriot personality. And he said that despite well-intentioned efforts worldwide, there were significant shortfalls in human rights protections. The past two years have been particularly difficult for humanity because of the challenges posed by the pandemic. Figures show an increase in domestic abuse, whereas vulnerable groups of the population have faced the consequences of prejudice and stigmatism more acutely than before.
Messages on the occasion of international human rights day were also issued on Friday by Justice Minister Stephie Dracou, Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou Lottides and law commissioner Louisa Zanettou.
In a written statement, Dracou said that adoption of a first national strategy for the protection and promotion of human rights by cabinet last June was the culmination of efforts to ensure protection of human rights governs all the initiatives and actions of the ministry. This strategy contains a binding framework regarding objectives, actions and priorities covering the breadth of the public services and state services’ relationship with citizens.
“With the adoption of the strategy we have acquired an effective and comprehensive policy on human rights issues and have come up to date with our country’s European and international undertakings,” she said.
Lottides, whose official title is commissioner for administration and protection of human rights (Ombudsman), noted that as in 2020, this year’s human rights day is being marked during a pandemic which has challenged a range of human rights which until recently were considered non-negotiable. Individuals are victims of discrimination because of their choices and now more than ever it is essential for the state to safeguard the human rights of all, without discrimination.
Lottides also noted that the office of the ombudsman was this year marking its 30th anniversary and would be stepping up its information campaign regarding human rights protection.
And Zanettou said that her office was charged with monitoring the implementation and preparing reports on the Republic of Cyprus’ compliance with its obligations stemming from UN and Council of Europe conventions on human rights.
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