Mexican bishop wins Norway's Rafto human rights prize

Oslo, Norway - A Catholic bishop from north-eastern Mexico was Thursday named winner of the 2010 Rafto Prize by a Norwegian human rights foundation for his efforts to protect human rights and achieve social justice.

Jose Raul Vera Lopez, who is bishop of Saltillo, was "an uncompromising critic of power abuse and a fearless defender of migrants, indigenous peoples, and other groups at risk," the foundation said. His work has also focused on prisoners, gays and lesbians an prostitutes.

The jury highlighted the 65-year-old bishop's criticism of Mexican drug cartels blamed for thousands of deaths, and of the government's focus on a military response rather than tackling the root of the problem, which he says is unemployment and poverty.

The Rafto Prize, worth 10,000 dollars, was created in 1986 in memory of Thorolf Rafto, a Norwegian academic and human rights activist.

The award is due to be presented on November 7 in Bergen, Norway.

Azerbaijani journalist Malahat Nasibova was awarded the prize last year and Congolese priest and activist Bulambo Lembelembe Josue the year before.

Previous Rafto Prize winners include Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. The two are among four Rafto winners who later received the Nobel Peace Prize.