Sunday, February 19, 2017

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy: Venezuela, Cuba Under U.N. Spotlight as Political Prisoners Gather


Venezuela, Cuba Under U.N. Spotlight as Political Prisoners Gather

Just released from Cuban prison 3 weeks ago, artist and dissident Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) will be in Geneva to testify at the U.N.
Activists to address human rights in Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, Tibet, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Mauritania, Maldives

GENEVA, Feb. 14, 2017 –  A coalition of 25 non-governmental human rights groups announced today that Cuban dissident and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) who was just released from prison, and the daughter of the jailed Mayor of Caracas will be in the United Nations to turn an international spotlight on rights abuses by Cuba and Venezuela, at the opening of the 9th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights & Democracy, which takes place on February 20-21, 2017.

El Sexto, known for his provocative performance art criticizing the Castro regime, was just released from prison after spray painting “He’s Gone” in Havana on the day of Fidel Castro’s death. El Sexto was also imprisoned two years ago for painting the names “Raul” and “Fidel” on two pigs. He recently called out Cuba for sitting on the U.N. Human Rights Council while it oppresses its own people.

Testifying on the dire situation in Venezuela—another country on the U.N. Human Rights Council—will be Antonietta Ledezma, daughter of the imprisoned Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.

On the second anniversary of her father’s arrest, Antonietta will call for his release, and for freedom for all Venezuela’s political prisoners. As a UNHRC member, Venezuela is obliged to respect the highest standards of human rights.

Antonietta Ledezma (left), pictured with sister Oriette, will be speaking at the U.N. to mark
two years since her father, Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma, was arrested.
El Sexto and Ledezma will join some of the world’s most courageous champions of human rights: dissidents, activists, victims and relatives of political prisoners from Iran, Russia, Turkey, Tibet and Vietnam, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries. A high-profile North Korean defector, and a young Yazidi woman who wrote a book about being raped by ISIS terrorists, will also speak.

Mohamed Nasheed, the veteran human rights activist who was elected president of the Maldives only to be arrested and jailed as a political prisoner, will be one of the keynote speakers. Amal Clooney, his lawyer, has received death threats for defending Nasheed. See selected presenters below.

The acclaimed annual conference is timed to take place in Geneva days before foreign ministers gather to open the 2017 U.N. Human Rights Council session.

“It’s a focal point for dissidents worldwide,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, which for the ninth year in a row will be organizing the annual event together with a cross-regional coalition of 25 other human rights groups.

The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

“The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will aim to stir the conscience of the U.N. to address critical human rights situations around the world,” said Neuer.

Subjects on the program this year include discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.
Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at

Admission to this year’s February 21, 2017 summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory. For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit The conference will also be available via live webcast.

For media inquiries or to request interviews, please email

9th Annual Geneva Summit Agenda

February 2017
9:15  Welcome
  • Hillel Neuer    (@HillelNeuer)
    Executive Director of UN Watch
9:25  Opening Address
  • Irwin Cotler    (@IrwinCotler)
    Chair, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
9:45  The Return of Authoritarianism 
Moderator: Jakub Klepal    
Executive Director, Forum 2000
  • Can Dündar    (@candundaradasi)
    Exiled former editor of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet
  • Zhanna Nemtsova    (@ZhannaNemstova)
    Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
  • Anastasia Zotova
    Human rights activist, wife of jailed Russian dissident Ildar Dadin
10:45  Presentation of Geneva Summit 2017 Women’s Rights Award
Presenter: Tamara Dancheva
Liberal International
  • Shirin
    Freed Yazidi sex slave of the Islamic State, author of “I Remain a Daughter of the Light”
11:15  Fighting Oppression, Defending Human Rights
Moderator: Jared Genser    (@JaredGenser)
Perseus Strategies
  • Antonietta Ledezma    (@anleca15)
    Human rights activist, daughter of imprisoned Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma
  • Chito Gascon
    Chair, Philippines Human Rights Commission
  • Taghi Rahmani
    Journalist, former Iranian political prisoner, husband of jailed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi
12:15  Do Human Rights Matter?
  • Ambassador Alfred H. Moses
    Chair of UN Watch
———————— 12:30   Networking Lunch ————————
13:00  Side Event – Youth, the Media and Human Rights Activism: Uses and challenges
With: Zhanna Nemtsova
Journalist, founder of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
14:00  Art for Human Rights
  • El Sexto
    Cuban graffiti artist, dissident, jailed for criticizing Castro, just released from prison four weeks ago
14:20  The Fight for Freedom and Democracy
Moderator: Maria Alejandra Aristeguieta
Coordinator, Iniciativa por Venezuela
  • Nyima Lhamo
    Escaped Tibetan activist, niece of Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who died in Chinese prison
  • Biram Dah Abeid
    Leader of anti-slavery fight in Mauritania
15:00  Presentation of Geneva Summit 2017 Courage Award
Presenter: Astrid Thors    (@AstridThors)
Former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Finnish Minister, MP & MEP
  • Mohamed Nasheed    (@MohamadNasheed)
    Former President of the Maldives, country’s leading human rights activist, former political prisoner
15:30  Voices for the Voiceless
Moderator: Médard Mulangala    (@medardmulanala)
Opposition leader in DRC
  • James Jones    (@jamesjonestv)
    Producer of film “Saudi Arabia Uncovered”
  • North Korean Defector
    (Identity concealed for security purposes)
  • Dang Xuan Dieu
    Vietnamese human rights activist, political prisoner for 6 years, just released last month
———————— 16:30   End of Summit  ————————

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