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  • Marino Cordoba and others at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

    Marino Cordoba and others at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights | Photo: Eddie Arrossi Photography

Published 24 October 2018

The Ennals Award is considered the Nobel Prize for human rights.

Marino Cordoba, an Afro-Colombian activist, has been selected as one of three finalists for the Ennals human rights prize.

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"Cordoba has been a community leader since 1991, who obtained legal recognition of the lands of his community, after which many of its members were expelled, and for years he has fought to denounce this situation," the press director of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Michael Khambatta told EFE.

The Ennals Prize recognizes the work of human rights defenders who are often at risk of persecution, targets of death threats, or worse.

The prize is awarded by 10 internationally recognized human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, International Service for Human Rights, and the International Organization against Torture.

Cordoba is being recognized for his leadership role in championing his community's legal recognition of their land rights as they faced powerful commercial interests in logging and mining.

The community was then forced off their land in 1996. In 2002, Cordoba sought asylum in the U.S. He returned to Colombia in 2012. Cordoba is under constant armed security and receives regular death threats.

As a member of the Ethnic Commission for Peace and the Defense of Territorial Rights, he played an integral role in the Afro-Colombian ethnic chapter’s inclusion in the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"We were a third actor at the table, we negotiated with the two parties what is known as the ethnic chapter. This has a very important meaning. First the unity, and then we managed to draw an agreement that allows a recognition of the marginalization and the exclusion of Afro-Colombians and indigenous people, and how we were affected by the conflict," Cordoba said.

The ethnic chapter is transversal, meaning that the rights of indigenous people and Afro-Colombians will have to be taken into account in all aspects of the implementation of the peace agreement, Cordoba explained.

"After years of exile in the United States, Indigenous communities and Afro-Colombians were formally recognized as part of the peace agreement through the ethnic chapter, which came at a risk. Thanks to their efforts, it was finally included," said Khambatta.

The two other nominees are Turkish lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keshin, and Sudanese refugee rights activist, Abdul Aziz Muhamat.
Muhamat is currently being held at the Australian Immigration Detention Center on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea.

Keshin has advocated for Kurdish rights, women, and the LGTBI community for 30 years in Turkey. This year she was sentenced to almost 13 years in prison for allegations of “degrading the Turkish nation and insulting the president of Turkey,” Efe reported.

The winner will be announced Feb. 13, 2019.

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