At the 2013 Goldman Prize award ceremony in Washington, DC, John Goldman (son of the late Richard and Rhoda Goldman and Vice President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation) gave a stirring speech about the risks that Goldman Prize recipients regularly face and the great accomplishments they have achieved in spite of these risks.
Specifically, Mr. Goldman spoke about two past Prize recipients who have recently been persecuted for their environmental work: 2009 Prize recipient Marc Ona and 1995 Prize recipient Yul Choi. In his speech, Mr. Goldman affirmed the Prize’s support for the two activists and encouraged audience members to show their support as well.
Below are some excerpts from Mr. Goldman’s speech:
Two of our winners have been targeted by their own governments for continuing their efforts for environmental protection. Choi Yul, our 1995 winner from Korea, has just begun a one-year prison term for being part of a campaign in opposition to the large Four Major Rivers development. Choi received his sentence despite revelations of false testimony and rejection by the federal courts that lower courts had cleared him of all charges.
And Marc Ona, the 2009 recipient from Gabon, is facing the possibility of prison for publicly speaking out on the linkage between environmental destruction and governmental corruption, particularly in land giveaways for oil palm and rubber plantations. Facing charges of illegal defamation of the government of Gabon, the threats to Ona are deemed violations of the African Charter, as well as international covenants, by The American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights.
These are just two examples of the continuing risks and dangers that our winners may face. Because of the extreme circumstances that Choi and Ona face, we encourage you and your organizations to support them – information on ways you can assist can be obtained by contacting any of our staff.
Currently, Mr. Ona remains free and his sentence is still considered “suspended.” The support from the Goldman Prize recipient network and the international NGO community has put significant pressure on the Gabonese government to repeal Ona’s sentence, though no legal action has yet been taken.
Mr. Choi is currently serving time on his one year sentence. As with Mr. Ona, the Goldman Prize recipient network and the international community continue to show their support for Mr. Choi. A widely circulated petition calling for Mr. Choi's release can be found here. Choi’s colleagues are hopeful that the he will be released ahead of schedule.