Our Top 10 Moments of 2018
The RWCHR was at the forefront of advocacy and achievement in global human rights in 2018, including:
1. Freeing Political Prisoners:
Mauritanian Anti-Slavery Leader Biram Abeid Released
In 2018 the Centre made great strides in defending Political prisoners . This includes the recent release of Mauritanian anti-slavery leader Biram Dah Abeid - listed by TIME Magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people - who we had hosted as keynote speaker at a major human rights gathering in Montreal, and whose case and cause the Centre had taken up.

Biram sits on our Political Prisoner Advisory Board, which we launched with our Nelson Mandela International political prisoner Advocacy Project . The Project had many significant successes in 2018, including, among many other important actions, filing a legal complaint to the UN on behalf of imprisoned Canadian-Iranian technologist Saeed Malekpour, achieving Parliamentary adoption of jailed iconic human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and a unanimous U.S. Senate Resolution calling for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
2. Pursuing Human Rights in Iran:
RWCHR Listed by Regime as a "Top Enemy of 2018"
Recent articles in Iran's state-controlled press have been targeting the RWCHR and its Chair Professor Irwin Cotler, including recently listing the Centre as one of the Regime's "top enemies of 2018."

We view this as a badge of honour, in recognition of the Centre's global leadership and effective advocacy for the human rights of Iranian people. This includes many major events such as our annual Iran Accountability Week , Governmental and Parliamentary testimony and briefings , media engagements , and the publication of a landmark report on " Realizing Rights Over Repression in Iran: the Case for Canadian Magnitsky Sanctions ."
3. Seeking Justice and Accountability in Saudi Arabia:
Top Saudi Officials Sanctioned under Magnitsky Act
Following an unprecedented justice campaign, the Canadian government heeded the calls of the RWCHR to implement targeted sanctions against Saudi officials involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashogghi and the oppression of other dissidents.

Prior to the crackdown and murder of Khashoggi, The Centre's prescient commentary in international media - such as in TIME Magazine - sought to sound the alarm, highlighting that talk of reform in Saudi Arabia is insincere as long as dissidents like blogger Raif Badawi remain imprisoned. The Centre was also heavily involved in the recent unanimous U.S Senate Resolution on Saudi Arabia, wherein they specifically called for the release of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, for whom the Centre serves as international legal counsel. The RWCHR continues to be at the forefront of advocacy for human rights and the release of all those unjustly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
4. Combatting Mass Atrocity and Impunity in Venezuela:
International Criminal Court Launches Examination
In the face of Crimes Against Humanity being perpetrated and perpetuated by the Maduro Regime in Venezuela - the largest crisis in the hemisphere - the RWCHR has been at the forefront of pursuing justice and challenging impunity for these crimes.

This includes the RWCHR partnering with the Organization of American States in the publication of a comprehensive 450-page legal Report on the situation in Venezuela; advocacy in the press and policy community; holding briefings for world leaders, including the Foreign Ministers of the Americas, the heads of the European Union, and parliamentarians internationally; high-level meetings with the Chief Prosecutor and Judges of the International Criminal Court; and encouraging the exercising of Canadian leadership, including briefings with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, bureaucracy, and parliamentarians from all parties. The advocacy and leadership of the RWCHR resulted in the first-ever state referral to the International Criminal Court, and the launching of an examination by the Court towards the eventual prosecutions of those found responsible.
5. Promoting Human Rights Action at the United Nations:
World Leaders Join Call for Respect of Humanitarian Law
In an historic special briefing to the UN Security Council on missing and captives in Gaza, the RWCHR spearheaded an important call for respect for International Humanitarian Law. In an unprecedented move, and as described in a legal report published by the Centre, Security Council Members unanimously echoed calls for the release of captives and the respect of human rights norms and values.

The RWCHR was also at the forefront of challenging the culture of corruption and impunity at the UN Human Rights Council, where, in an absurd perversion of justice, rights abusing states are rewarded with positions of leadership on the Council overseeing the protection and enforcement of human rights norms. In a joint report , the RWCHR exposed and unmasked this farce - challenging the elections of dictatorships to the UN Human Rights body - which inspired an international media expose on the issue. This builds on the success of our past campaigns, where the RWCHR spearheaded an international effort that successfully defeated the candidacy of Russia for a seat on the Council.
6. Advancing Magnitsky Global Justice Legislation:
Netherlands Credits RWCHR for Introduction of Legislation
The RWCHR spearheaded Canada's unanimous adoption of Magnitsky Global Justice and Accountability legislation - which allows Canada to target individual rights abusers with sanctions such as travel bans and asset seizures - ensuring that Canada exercises global human rights leadership, standing in solidarity with victims and protecting Canadian sovereignty from foreign corruption. 

In 2018, the RWCHR was at the forefront of encouraging the implementation and effective use of this powerful human rights legislation, ensuring continued Canadian leadership. The Centre was also a leader in encouraging other countries to follow suit, with the Netherlands announcing support for such an initiative, and crediting the RWCHR for this major development.
7. Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity:
Hosting Major Global Gatherings for Women's Rights
In partnership with the UN Commission on the Status of Women(UNCSW) and other partners, the RWCHR held a major international gathering on the occasion of the UNCSW annual meet ing at the UN in New York. The discussion on "Women Human Rights Defenders" featured human rights champions from around the world sharing their personal experiences as women leaders, the challenges faced by women in the global struggle for human rights, and international best practices for the empowerment of women and the promotion of dignity and equality.

The RWCHR also hosted an event as part of the "16 Days to End Violence Against Women" Campaign, where we hosted courageous Iranian women's rights leader Shaparak Shajarizadeh - celebrated by BBC as one of 2018's "Most Influential and Inspiring Women" - who led women's protests in Iran, was unjustly imprisoned for her work, and later escaped into into exile.
8. Advocating for the Rights of Rohingya :
Canada Recognizes Genocide, Revokes Suu Kyi Honour
In the face of genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar authorities against the Rohingya - which has also resulted in mass displacement and a humanitarian crisis - the RWCHR has been sounding the alarm and calling for action. The Centre was amongst the first to call the killings of the Rohingya minority a genocide - advocating for others to do the same - and for Canada and the international community to act accordingly as per their legal obligations. Following the calls of the RWCHR, the Canadian Government recognized the genocide and revoked the honourary citizenship of Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The RWCHR continues working with key stakeholders - including Rohingya leaders on the ground, international legal experts, and government decision makers - to promote the rights of the Rohingya, pursue justice, and challenge impunity.
9. Holocaust Commemoration & Human Rights Education
Education Initiatives Inspire Tens of Thousands
This year the RWCHR spearheaded a number of educational initiatives that engaged - if not inspired - tens of thousands in Canada and internationally. This included leading Holocaust and genocide commemorations and human rights education, the whole anchored in and inspired by the lives and legacies of victims and survivors, and the urgent need for action to combat resurgent hate and atrocities. The Centre's activities included hosting lectureships, panel discussions, conferences, university dialogues, film screenings, and recently launching a high school educational curriculum.

Highlights of our educational programming included our partnership in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights ; Montreal #RightsCity ; the Vanier College Symposium on the Holocaust and Genocide; and the Rene Cassin Lectureship, among many other transformative initiatives. This builds on past years' programming, which included the historic Nuremberg Legal Symposium and a major student conference .
10. Inaugural Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture:
South African Chief Justice and Mandela Cellmate Speaks
On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela - Canada's second honourary citizen - the RWCHR inaugurated a human rights lectureship inspired by and anchored in his life and legacy. It was inaugurated by our distinguished guest speaker, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, former Deputy President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, former cellmate of Nelson Mandela, and the first recipient of the Global Jurist of the Year Award. Introductory remarks were delivered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner.

The sold out overflow event brought together a broad and inclusive cross-section of students, government officials, parliamentarians, members of judiciary, academia, and civil society in an inspired and inspiring gathering . The Chair of the inaugural Mandela Lectureship, RWCHR founder Professor Irwin Cotler, had served as International Legal Counsel to Mandela and helped achieve his release. Mandela's historic leadership demonstrates the importance of standing up for human rights and freeing political prisoners, as he ushered in the peaceful transition from apartheid to egalitarian democracy in South Africa.