August 13, 2007

Sigma Huda to Receive Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award

“Her Life Is a Testament to Upholding Human Rights and Combating Injustice”

Washington, D.C. – The Institute on Religion and Public Policy announced today that Sigma Huda has been named the recipient of the Institute’s highest honor, the Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award, for 2007. Her commitment to the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of individuals around the globe has contributed immeasurably to the cause of peace and dialogue in the world.

In order to honor the life, legacy, and mission of the Pope of Peace, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy presents an award to an individual or institution that has made outstanding contributions to freedom, particularly religious freedom. Previously named for his countryman Jan Karski, the award is now presented as the Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award. His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, was the 2004 recipient of the Jan Karski Award.

As a young man, Karol Wojtyła experienced the brutality of a godless totalitarian regime and defied the Nazi occupation forces first-hand, risking his own life to protect others from persecution. As a Priest, Karol Wojtyła worked against the tyranny of the Communist oppressors in Poland, continuing his indefatigable resistance to despotism and working toward the expression of inalienable freedoms by all peoples of the world.

During the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Wojtyła was an articulate and outspoken advocate for religious freedom. As a Senate Resolution honoring the Holy Father stated, Archbishop Wojtyła “assert[ed] that the Church could not claim religious liberty for itself unless it was willing to concede it to others… Pope John Paul II, upon returning to his homeland, frequently cited the Council's declaration that religious freedom was `the first of human rights', a phrase embraced by Polish Catholics in their struggle against the hegemony of the Communist regime.”

“Sigma Huda is a living testament to upholding human rights and combating injustice,” stated Institute on Religion and Public Policy President Joseph K. Grieboski. “Sigma’s current deplorable conditions and situation speak to her dedication to rule of law, and upholding the rights of the individual against illegitimate and exploitative regimes. No one is more deserving of this honor.”

Sigma Huda, a national of Bangladesh, serves as UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons. She is the Founder and current President of Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) and Founder and Secretary of Institute for Law and Development (ILD). She has initiated many training and advocacy programs about the basic laws of the country through the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, the Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights and the Institute for Law and Development, such as holding workshops, discussions and seminars at village and district town levels. Working with these three organizations, Sigma Huda has fought against trafficking and sexual exploitation, particularly of women and girls, from Bangladesh to India.
Sigma Huda's unceasing work defending human rights earned her enemies within Bangladesh's military-controlled interim government. Ms. Huda was arrested on 5 July on charges of alleged extortion. She was originally hospitalized for potentially life-threatening heart and kidney conditions, but was taken from her hospital and imprisoned without access to competent medical treatment.
According to a senior consultant in cardiology, she is suffering from coronary heart disease, and a chronic renal (kidney) failure. It is also known that Sigma Huda has diabetes, for which she is receiving long-term treatment. She was under treatment and observation when she was taken into custody. She was taken to court in an ambulance, and to the courtroom on a stretcher, to hear the charges against her. She was then sent to jail on 5 July.

For more information on Sigma Huda's case, please visit the Sigma File at http://sigmahuda.blogspot.com/

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