According to AXT, the 'José Manuel Méndez' memorial prize is awarded to people who devote their lives to the defence "of life, human rights and social justice".
Ali Salem Tamek, founder and vice-president of the Saharawi human rights organisation CODESA, was born in Assa in 1973. He's married and father of a little daughter, Thawra. Tamek has been arrested and tortured a number of times due to his work in support of self-determination in Western Sahara.
There seems to be no end to his ordeal. He's been denied the right to work, his passport has been repeatedly confiscated for long periods of time and he wasn't allowed to finish his study of journalism. He's not the only member of his family to suffer serious human rights infringements: while visiting her husband in prison in 2005, Tamek's wife Aicha Chafia was raped by 5 Moroccan policemen.
Ali Salem Tamek is currently jailed together with five other Saharawi activists. They were arrested in October 2009 after returning from a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. The arrest has been vigorously condemned by organisations such as Amnesty International, the Robert Kennedy Foundation and Frontline Defenders - who all agree that these six activists have only been jailed because of their work as human rights activists and because of their political views.
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.