University of Essex graduate and human rights lawyer receives British Council recognition

By Romi Neale in Community News

A HUMAN rights lawyer who has helped free victims of torture is the second of five University of Essex graduates up for British Council Alumni Awards.

Octavio Amezcua-Noriega is being recognised for using his experience of studying in the UK to make a positive contribution to the protection of human rights in his native Mexico.

He will find out if he’s won the prestigious Social Impact category of the Mexican awards at a ceremony on February 16.

Octavio graduated from Essex’s Human Rights Centre in 2010 with an LLM International Human Rights Law, and is now Legal Officer at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He has helped around 40 torture victims secure reparations and helped deter future violations by prosecuting perpetrators.

Octavio brought the first case against Mexico at the UN Committee Against Torture which subsequently issued the first resolution against Mexico in the case of four men who had been tortured by the military in Baja California, northern Mexico.

He also played a key role in the case of Rosendo Radilla at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which led to the implementation of reparation measures for victims of forced disappearance.

At the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Mexico Octavio has participated in the drafting of laws on torture and disappearances.

Speaking about his time studying at Essex, Octavio said: “Essex forged me as a human rights defender. Its learning centres, activities and professors transmitted to me the passion for human rights work, a transmission which is undeniably based on the foundational guidance that human rights have in British society.

“Also, the cosmopolitan environment at the University helped me to know other cultures and ways of thinking, which is extremely valuable for the core idea in human rights work of equal dignity of every human being.”

Dr Clara Sandoval, acting director of the Human Rights Centre, said: “I had the pleasure to teach Octavio and supervise his work. He was always a great, passionate and committed student. I am so proud to see him at work,

fighting against torture in various positions and securing reparations for torture victims. He has certainly transformed the lives of many and will continue to do so in a country that needs it now more than ever.”

The British Council Alumni Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of alumni and showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education. The winners and finalists are leaders in their fields who have used their experience of studying in the UK to make a positive contribution to their communities, professions and countries.

For the second year running Essex has punched above its weight, with its five finalists making it the highest-ranking non-Russell Group university based on number of finalists. The five 2017 Essex graduates are among 148 finalists, from more than 1,200 applications and representing 65 UK universities, attending ceremonies around the world in the coming weeks.

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