The 2005 Rafto Prize was awarded to the Chechnyan lawyer and human rights advocate Lidia Yusupova (1961), in recognition of her brave and unrelenting efforts to document human rights violations and act as a spokeswoman for the forgotten victims of the war in Chechnya.
Representing the Russian human rights organisation Memorial in Grozny between 2000-2005, Yusupova has been active in bringing lawsuits regarding human rights violations to Chechnyan courts. Memorial is one of very few such organisations that continue to operate in Chechnya.
The incidents that Yusupova and her fellow workers in Memorial have documented are serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law: extrajudicial killings, enforced "disappearances" of civilians, illegal arrests and torture.
Lidia Yusupova gathers testimonies from victims of human rights abuses, and prossesses their cases with law enforcement and military agencies. To the extent it is possible, she provides the victims with legal assistance. Yusupova also keeps the rest of the world informed about violations of human rights committed by Russian armed forces and Chechen rebels alike.
She continues her struggle to defend human dignity in a chaotic war situation and in an environment where the working conditions and security of human rights advocates and journalists are increasingly compromised.
"Our opponents try to frighten us, to make fear take root in us, make it grow and take over our lives. Of course all of us who work for human rights are afraid, but it is better to live honourably for a day than to live a whole life in disgrace.”