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Press Release

Rights & Democracy's 20th John Humphrey Award presented to Ales Michalevic, a hero of the pro-democracy movement in Belarus, Europe's last dictatorship

Canada NewsWire

MONTREAL, Sept. 15, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - As part of the United Nations' International Day of Democracy, Rights & Democracy is proud to present this year's John Humphrey Award to Mr. Ales Michalevic, lawyer and former presidential candidate in Belarus, a European country led by a president often decried as "Europe's last dictator." Mr. Michalevic, a presidential candidate in 2010, has since been arrested, tortured, released, and driven into political exile; he is now forced to pursue his work outside of Belarus and is the only one to do so since most of his colleagues are in jail. The international jury of Rights & Democracy wanted to acknowledge the courage, determination and perseverance shown by Mr. Michalevic. The John Humphrey Award, created in 1992 is presented annually to an organization or individual for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of human rights and democratic development. It will be officially presented to Mr. Michalevic during a ceremony in Ottawa in November.

Being an experienced lawyer and having an interest in political and civic activities, Mr. Michalevic embarked on his presidential run in November 2010 with the aim, among others, of promoting democracy and establishing the rule of law in a country renowned for being undemocratic by several governments, including Canada's. After the election of December 19th 2010, more than 600 people, including Mr. Michalevic, were arrested on arbitrary grounds. After two months of imprisonment, he was released and immediately denounced the conditions of his detention, including acts of torture which he had suffered. Led by President Alexander Lukashenka with an iron fist, Belarus ranks poorly in terms of freedom of the press (154th of 178 countries according to Reporters Without Borders) and democratic development (130th of 167 countries according to the Democracy Index of The Economist), and remains the only European country that maintains the death penalty.

The country's situation and Mr. Michalevic's personal story drew great interest from the award's international jury presided by the Chairman of Rights & Democracy's Board of Directors, Mr. Aurel Braun. "The selection committee was particularly impressed with the courage demonstrated by Mr. Michalevic, not only by defending the democratic rights of his fellow citizens in the face of a morally bankrupt regime, but also by his willingness, at great risk to its person, to participate in the electoral process," said Mr. Braun. "Rights & Democracy wants to acknowledge the work that was accomplished and bring support to his actions in seeking real progress in the struggle to make Belarus into a free and open democracy."

The John Humphrey Award's 20th presentation ceremony will be followed by a tour of major Canadian cities where Mr. Michalevic will be invited to speak with Canadians about his work and actions to demand the release of his colleagues still imprisoned in Belarus. For more information, visit our website at and Mr. Michalevic's website at

2011 marks the 20th year Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) proudly presents the John Humphrey Award to an organization or individual from any region of the world including Canada for outstanding achievement in the promotion of democratic development or respect for human rights. The Award consists of a $30,000 grant and a speaking tour of Canadian cities to increase public awareness of the laureate's work. The award is named in honour of the late John Peters Humphrey, the Canadian law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

About Rights & Democracy
The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy), is a non-profit non-partisan organization created by Canada's Parliament in 1988 to encourage and support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world.

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