US Department of StateWASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — Today, the U.S. Department of State announced the winners of the 2012 Human Rights Awards. The winner of the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award is Ambassador John Tefft of U.S. Embassy Kyiv. Erin Webster-Main from Embassy Rangoon was selected for the Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award. The joint winners of the Human Rights Defenders Award are Syrian human rights activist Hanadi Zahlout and the Iraqi NGO Hammurabi Human Rights Organization.

The Diplomacy for Human Rights Award recognizes a U.S. Chief of Mission who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to defending human rights and advancing democratic principles in his or her host country. Ambassador Tefft has led collaborative, effective, and sustained efforts to strengthen and promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Ukraine. Under his direction, Embassy Kyiv has positively influenced a number of reforms, including to the criminal justice system.

The Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award honors a U.S. Department of State employee who has implemented creative strategies to support human rights and democracy. This year’s winner, Erin Webster-Main, has worked tirelessly on behalf of those affected by human rights abuses in Burma to shape U.S. policy during Burma’s on-going transition. Her active engagement with all stakeholders, including the government, civil rights activists, and former political prisoners, has contributed greatly to improving the situation of human rights in Burma.

The Human Rights Defenders Award is given to individuals or non-governmental organizations that have shown exceptional valor and leadership in advocating for the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression. Human rights activist Hanadi Zahlout organized peaceful protests in the beginning of the Syrian revolution and continues to work for a peaceful democratic transition in Syria. The second recipient of this award, Iraqi NGO Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, has fearlessly advocated for human rights and was critical in concrete achievements in the protection of female detainees, as well as taken on critical work on curriculum reform to promote religious freedom.