On October 28, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) awarded its prestigious Human Rights Awards for 2015 to two recipients who have shown unwavering dedication to advancing human rights in the Americas. This year, the 10th anniversary of the awards, WOLA honored Tim Rieser, Foreign Policy Aide to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the Colombian human rights organization Justicia y Paz.
Justicia y Paz, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace in Colombia, is a leading Colombian human rights organization. It has played a key role in working for peace and supporting victims of the violence and displacement caused by the country’s 50-year-old armed conflict. As peace negotiations between the Colombian government and rebels move forward, Justicia y Paz works to ensure that Colombia’s most marginalized populations (Afro-Colombians, indigenous groups, and rural farmers) are being represented in the talks. WOLA honors Justicia y Paz for its unwavering commitment to justice in the face of intimidation and violence.
Tim Rieser was recognized for his commitment to human rights during his 30 years working in Congress. He was instrumental in last year’s historic opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Over the years, he has made outstanding contributions to human rights in the hemisphere—including drafting the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. aid to units of foreign security forces that violate human rights; setting human rights conditions on military and counter-narcotics aid for Colombia, Mexico, and Central America; securing funding for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); and defending the rights of indigenous people.