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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Sri Lankans in human rights award
Rajan Hoole
Mr Hoole was acclaimed for defending human rights
Two Sri Lankan university teachers are to share the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

In a joint statement, the 11 organisations which made up the award jury named the pair as symbols of the human rights movement.

Sharing the honours is a former policeman from Burundi.

The statement said the two Sri Lankans, Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, spent 18 years documenting alleged abuses in the Sri Lankan war.

'Execution-style slaying'

It said that they chronicled wrongs committed by both the Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lankan security forces often "at great personal risk".

Kopalasingham Sritharan
Mr Sritharan will receive his award later this year

The statement said that since fighting in Sri Lanka has escalated in recent months, the co-founders of the Jaffna-based University Teachers for Human Rights group "conducted groundbreaking investigations into the most serious atrocities".

It said that this included the "execution-style slaying" of 17 aid workers last year.

Truce monitors in Sri Lanka said the military were behind those killings. "Often alone in exposing abuses by all parties, both men are under death sentences from the Tamil Tigers," the statement said.

It said that the two men had been forced to work underground for more than a decade after the assassination of their colleague.

Burundi rights

The former Burundi policeman, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was jailed for two years on the basis of "false accusations".

He founded groups to help protect prisoners' rights in Burundi, where some 9,000 prisoners have been awaiting trial for years in overcrowded jails.

The laureates are "symbols of the human rights movement in their respective countries, where standing up for human rights and democracy is a dangerous activity", jury chairman Hans Thoolen said.

The Martin Ennals Award is named after the late British lawyer who became the first head of the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists sit on the jury.

The awards are due to be presented to the winners in October.

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