GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Twelve individuals from 10 countries with projects aimed at improving legal rights for people with HIV/Aids within the criminal justice system have been named JusticeMakers fellows by International Bridges to Justice (IBJ). The Geneva-based non-governmental organization awarded the fellowships Monday 10 December.
Each carries a $5,000 prize to help the winners implement their projects. IBJ Fellow Dmytro Tupchiienko from Kiev, Ukraine, for example, will conduct training programmes on properly implementing laws on HIV/Aids treatment in the criminal justice system in his country.
IBJ focuses on protecting legal rights of people around the world. Financial support for the IBJ awards comes from the Levi Strauss Foundation.
Sanjeewa Liyanage, IBJ programme director, says “Accused and detainees are generally pre-judged as guilty even before they are tried. Among this group, people living with HIV/Aids are more susceptible to prejudice and maltreatment.” The programme’s founder, Karen Tse, believes that “the JusticeMakers will achieve breakthroughs in their local criminal systems. They are angels to prisoners with HIV/Aids”.
Four of the recipients are from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine and Estonia), six from Africa (Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia) and the two remaining fellows are from India and Mexico.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), whose mandate includes ensuring that health services and HIV/Aids prevention in prisons are comparable to those for the general population, says “In nearly all countries, HIV prevalence in prison is higher than in the [rest of the] community.” According to the World Health Organizastion, some 10,000 prisoners in Ukraine are infected with HIV/Aids, representing up to 26 percent of the country’s prison population, while Estonia reports 9-90 percent rates of HIV in its prisons.
December 10 marks the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Ed. note: IBJ in Geneva was also working closer to home Monday, paying a visit to students at the International School of Geneva Grande Boissière campus for Human Rights Day to make a presentation about IBJ’s work and more specifically about imprisonment, torture and social justice in Zimbabwe, inviting the students to take action.