Nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced
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Nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

Last year’s winner Jewher Ilham receives the Prize on behalf of her father, Ilham Tohti. © European Parliament

The European Parliament has announced its long-list of nominees for the annual Sakharov Prize.

The Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize every year to honour exceptional individuals and organisations who work to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. In 2019 the prize was awarded to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, the UN and former secretary-general Kofi Annan, Reporters Without Borders and Malala Yousafzai, campaigner for women’s right to education. The Prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet-era nuclear physicist, Nobel laureate, dissident and peace activist.

The nominees for this year’s prize, announced at last week’s plenary session of the Parliament, are:

Two nominations for the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented on the one hand by the Coordination Council, an initiative of political and civil society figures, and on the other by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska, an activist and politician whose defeat in this year’s presidential election led to accusations of fraud against the winner, Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouska is also a member of the Coordination Council.

Monsignor Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq who ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan when Islamic State arrived in the city in 2014, and who safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century.

Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres in Honduras. The Guapinol activists have been imprisoned after taking part in a peaceful protest against a polluting mining company in Tocoa, Honduras. Berta Caceras was assassinated in 2016, and was a land-rights activist and protestor against illegal logging and land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in Honduras.

Finally, Polish LGBTI activists Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Maczuga founded the website Atlas of Hate, monitoring the implementation by local municipalities to the anti-LGBTI legislation introduced by the national government. This year five of the municipalities sued Gawron, Pajak and Preneta, demanding financial compensation for loss of reputation.

At the end of the month, the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee of the Parliament will announce their shortlist of three finalists. On 22 October the Conference of Presidents – consisting of the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups – will announce the winner.

The Prize itself will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 December.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times