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Reuters, April 30, 2004

Russian human rights group wins U.N. refugee award

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russian human rights group Memorial has won a U.N. award for its work helping migrants and displaced Chechens, the United Nations said Friday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said the Memorial Human Rights Center had provided legal counseling to more than 21,300 people last year including forced migrants, internally displaced people and asylum seekers.

"It has carried out its work in often very difficult situations -- including in the North Caucasus -- and has earned the respect of all of us in the international humanitarian community," Lubbers said in a statement announcing the winner of the annual Nansen Refugee Award.

Russians topped the list of asylum seekers in 2003 as record numbers of Chechens fled insecurity, according to a UNHCR report earlier this year.

Memorial, which emerged during the perestroika period, is one of the rights organizations operating in Chechnya.

The award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian who was the world's first international refugee official. Laureates since 1954 have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Mozambique's Graca Machel and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

Last year's laureate, Annalena Tonelli, an Italian doctor praised for her humanitarian work in Somalia, was shot and killed outside her hospital there several months later.


See also:

Human Rights

Reuters, April 30, 2004

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