Amnesty International announces awardees of human rights bursary in honour of late Gaëtan Mootoo

Amnesty International today announces the name of four awardees of a bursary in honour of its late employee Gaëtan Mootoo, Researcher for West Africa, who had been with the organization for more than 30 years.

This announcement is made public as the organization remembers him with great fondness on the anniversary of his passing on 25 May 2018. Following a call for applications issued two months ago, the selection committee received a total of 274 applications. Four candidates - two women and two men – were chosen as the recipients of the first edition of Gaëtan Mootoo Human Rights Defender Fellowship.

“Gaetan’s unrelenting pursuit of justice saw him achieve human rights victories where others might have given up. His deep compassion for the individuals whose freedom he sought to secure, and his unwavering dedication and humility, distinguish him as a human rights champion we can all aspire to become. Through his work as a dogged human rights investigator, he changed the lives of untold numbers of people around the world,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“His loss both in the human rights world and as a dear friend is so keenly felt, and together with his family, we honour his memory and his enormous legacy by giving the opportunity to others to follow in his footsteps in demanding a fairer world. I’m delighted to congratulate the successful applicants.”

Through the Gaetan Mootoo Fellowship, Tathi Yende Viviane (Cameroon), Charlin Ulderel Kinouanii Ntnondele (Republic of Congo), Alphonsine Demba (Sénégal), and Faithe Kouassi Sylvain (Côte d’Ivoire) will be sponsored to attend the online René Cassin Foundation International Institute for Human Rights Summer School which will take place from 5-24 July 2021. The online course will focus on international human rights law and international criminal and humanitarian law.

The four awardees, aged between 29 and 31 years, have already embarked on their human rights paths in their respective countries. They have been inspired to follow in Gaëtan’s footsteps and are working to bring justice to their respective communities.  

“The fellowship is an opportunity for me to set up a strong network of human rights defenders. It will also allow me to learn to better practice my passion, which is the defence of human rights in my community,” said Tathi Yende Viviane from Cameroon.

Republic of Congo’s civil society activist Charlin Ulderel Kinouanii Ntnondele's said his commitment is motivated by the deprivation of his right to education during a five year armed conflict in his country.

"That is why it is necessary for me to attend such a course, which will help me better stand up for human rights and the consolidation of democracy in my country," he said.
Senegalese citizen Alphonsine Demba whose work focuses on women’s and children’s rights found the opportunity of the fellowship helped deepen her knowledge of human rights.

“In the future, I plan to use the knowledge gained during the course to join a large human rights organization and work to better stand up for human rights and campaign for the effective implementation of conventions signed and ratified by our countries,’’ she said.

For his part, young Ivorian human rights defender Sylvain Kouassi Faithe said he will use the training to better defend the rights of minority groups and prevent human rights violations in the central region of the country where he lives.

Gaëtan’s human rights research covered many parts of West and Central Africa – Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. His meticulous findings and careful analysis led to the release of many prisoners of conscience, helped secure justice and reparations for many victims, and assisted many affected communities in their processes of recovery after human rights abuses.

“Standing up against human rights violations is more and more challenging as the world around us rapidly transforms and sources of repression mutate. We must keep up with the pace of change, address the issues of today but be astute, adaptive and engaging too so that we also defend human rights for the future,” said Agnes Callamard.

“We must foster and equip young activists and young leaders now. We must share knowledge, exchange and collaborate with them to help empower their action in their human rights realities. And we must remove old barriers and open new doors so that their strength, innovation and vision drive the global human rights movement today and tomorrow. This bursary is an important step towards that human rights reality.”