Netherlands ambassador honours Pakistani human rights defender Saqib Jillani

Islamabad, 8 December 2022: Ambassador of the Netherlands to Pakistan, H.E. Mrs Henny de Vries, presented the Embassy Human Rights Tulip Award 2022 to lawyer and human rights defender Mr Saqib Jillani for his outstanding work for promoting human rights and defending human rights defenders. The ceremony took place today.

The Embassy Tulip is an annual award of the Dutch government for outstanding and courageous human rights defenders. Through the award, the Netherlands supports human rights defenders to continue their work and to share their story.

“Human rights are always about people. The people that are protected by human rights. But also the people who selflessly work to defend, protect and develop human rights”, said Ambassador de Vries. “Mr Jillani is a prominent example of a courageous human rights defender, working on equal rights for all”.

As a lawyer, Mr. Jillani has represented women, religious minorities and civil society organizations in cases related to human rights violations. Since 2018, he has been defending a woman in a long drawn and heavily contested #MeToo related defamation case. This litigation has raised fundamental questions relating to women’s right to report sexual harassment without fear or intimidation of defamation proceedings, freedom of speech as well as whether defamation laws can be used as a tool to silence victims of sexual harassment.

He petitioned in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on behalf of the prominent civil society organisations which led to the formation of a Commission for the implementation of minority rights judgment. He has  also been working since 2019 on issues such as religious tolerance in curriculum, rehabilitation of minorities places of worship, special job quotas of minorities in government services and many other issues relating to prevention of discrimination against minorities.

Support for human rights defenders is one of the human rights priorities of the Netherlands. “The Netherlands government regards human rights as an indispensable requirement for stability in a rules-based democratic order. That is why we need people like Mr Jillani, who dare to speak out, unconditionally and unequivocally, for human rights”, said Ambassador de Vries.

The award includes a budget for a project to promote human rights.