Civil Courage Prize
for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk

Posthumous Recognition

Munir Said Thalib Indonesia's leading human rights activist, he exposed "disappearances," corruption, and other abuses until his murder by arsenic poisoning.

Munir Said Thalib was Indonesia's best-known human rights campaigner. Remembered for the unassuming manner that cloaked his fearless determination, he emerged as a prominent human rights activist in the months before the 1998 ouster of Suharto, Indonesia's longtime dictator. He formed a group to investigate the disappearance of activists at the hands of security forces and went on to become a searing critic of the Indonesian military, in particular of abuses in the regions of East Timor, Aceh and Papua. At 38, he was murdered by arsenic poisoning in September 2004, en route to Amsterdam to take up a scholarship to study international law at Utrecht University. His alleged killer was identified in August 2005 in press reports, which also allege the killer to have ties to the Indonesian security services.

Abdul al-Latif al-Mayah, political scientist and human rights advocate assassinated in Iraq

Abdul al-Latif al-Mayah was a university professor, political scientist and human rights advocate working for liberty and basic rights in Iraq. As an anti-Saddam Hussein Iraqi and member of the Shiite underground, he formed a secret society called United Iraq is our Home.

In January 2004, as he was driving to work in Baghdad, he was brutally executed by eight masked gunmen. His murder was considered part of a widening campaign to rid Iraq of its urban, educated and professional class.

Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, anti-Nazi martyr

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a leader of the confessing Church in Germany, which he represented at conferences throughout Europe in the late 1930's. He urged the ecumenical movement to oppose the Nazis. He was a theologian, a writer on spiritual themes, a musician, and a poet who profoundly grasped the relationship between religion, politics, and culture.

In 1938 he joined the Protestant resistance movement. His opposition to the Nazis turned him into an advocate of the Jews. His personal effort to help a group escape to Switzerland led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1943. On April 9, 1945 he was hanged at a concentration camp at Flossenburg, aged 39, one of four members of his family to be killed by the Nazis.

Judge Giovanni Falcone, heroic judge, assassinated by the Mafia

When he undertook the prosecution of the Sicilian Mafia, Giovanni Falcone declared that he expected to be murdered. He lived surrounded by police guards.

In 1992 he, his wife, and three members of his entourage were indeed killed by a thousand pound bomb that destroyed the car in which they were traveling.

That crime provoked a wave of horror in Italy. At a trial that began in 1995, the court sentenced 24 members of the top Sicilian Mafia leadership, including “Toto” Rijna, its head, to life in prison; others received long jail sentences.

Rosemary Nelson, civil rights lawyer assassinated while defending accused persons in Northern Ireland

Rosemary Nelson was drawn into the violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland while seeking due process for her clients, often suspected IRA members.

In September 1998, testifying before the U.S. Congress, she described repeated death threats made by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and others. On March 15, 1999, at the age of 40, she was murdered in a car bomb attack.

Neelan Tiruchelvam, lawyer and Educator; killed by a suicide bomber while working
for solutions to the Tamil-Sri Lankan conflict

Neelan Tiruchelvam was a lawyer and mediator who helped draft several peace plans for Sri Lanka in an attempt to end the civil war that has claimed more than 50,000 lives there.

Outwardly soft-spoken and cheerful, Neelan Tiruchelvam brought heroic resolution to his negotiations with both the Tamil minority and the majority Sinhalese politicians. In August 1999, at the age of 55, he was murdered by a suicide bomber believed to belong to a Tamil terrorist group.

Raoul Wallenberg, saved thousands of Jews from extermination

In June of 1944, Raoul Gustav Wallenberg, a successful Swedish businessman from a distinguished family, went to Hungary in a diplomatic capacity to intervene on behalf of the 230,000 Jewish people remaining there.

During six months in Budapest, Wallenberg organized hospitals, nurseries, soup kitchens and safe houses for Jews, and issued a large number of passports. In 1945, then 33 years old, he was arrested by the Soviets and disappeared.


— Return to top —



© Civil Courage Prize