A death penalty abolitionist who is saving lives and working to change the law in Indonesia has won a British Council Alumni Award for social impact.
Essex graduate Ricky Gunawan is being recognised for using his experience of studying in the UK to make a positive contribution to human rights in his native Indonesia.
He found out he had won the prestigious Social Impact category of the Indonesian awards at a ceremony on 2 March. Also on the shortlist in the category was fellow outstanding Essex graduate Roichatul Aswidah.
Ricky Gunawan graduated from Essex’s Human Rights Centre in 2012 with an MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights. In the last three years he has saved one British drug mule, three Indonesian women drug mules, and an American couple charged with murder from being sentenced to death. He is at the forefront of the campaign to end capital punishment in Indonesia.
Speaking about the award, Ricky said: "I dedicate this award to the late Professor Sir Nigel Rodley who passed away last month. Your humility and brilliance remain an inspiration and guiding light to me."
Speaking about his time studying at Essex, Ricky said: “Studying at Essex – a place I call a ‘human rights sanctuary’ – refined my analytical and writing skills.
“I was blessed and inspired to see the work of my professors, who are giants in their fields, yet are so humble. They are not just teaching and researching, but constantly challenging inequality and striving to defend human rights for all.”
Speaking about the impact his education has had on his work, Ricky added: “These exposures have profoundly affected the way I think and see human rights; to shape what goes on around me; and to continue to push boundaries in raising human rights standards.”
Ricky Gunawan is one of the founding partners and Executive Director of LBH Masyarakat which is one of the most influential human rights collectives working with marginalised groups in Indonesia.
He made international headlines in 2014 when the Brazilian government thanked him for trying to save the life of Rodrigo Gulerte, a Brazilian living with schizophrenia and convicted of drug trafficking who was executed in Indonesia.
In 2016 Ricky Gunawan received a standing ovation at the United Nations General Assembly after an emotional speech demanding the abolition of the death penalty.
Julie Hannah, Co-Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy at Essex, said: “Ricky is doing remarkable work trying to end the death penalty, reform drug laws and strengthen the human rights protections of Indonesia’s most marginalised. Most of his clients are without family. Ricky steps in, he becomes their family and is often their only source of hope. His work is an endless inspiration to me and countless others in the drug reform and death penalty movements.”
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.