The European Parliament today presented its annual Sakharov Prize for human rights to the opposition movement in Belarus in a ceremony in Brussels.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to give it its full name, has been awarded annually since 1988 to persons and organisations who further the cause of human rights and freedom of thought and expression.
The price is named after Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), the Soviet-era dissident and physicist. 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.
This year’s prize went to the opposition movement in Belarus against the sitting president Alexander Lukashenko. The opposition considers the election illegitimate.
Present in Brussels to collect the prize were Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate standing against Lukashenko at the last election, and political activist Veranika Tsapkala.
The prize was presented by David Sassoli, president of the parliament.
“The whole world is aware of what is happening in your country. We see your courage,” he said. “We see the courage of women. We see your suffering. We see the unspeakable abuses. We see the violence. Your aspiration and determination to live in a democratic country inspire us.”
“Each and every Belarusian who takes part in the peaceful protest against violence and lawlessness is a hero. Each of them is an example of courage, compassion, and dignity,” responded Tsikhanouskaya, accepting the prize in the parliament’s hemicycle.
The European parliament passed a resolution in September condemning the Belarusian authorities for their violent repression of peaceful protests. Also in September, the opposition in Belarus received two nominations for the Sakharov Prize.
In October the leaders of the parliament’s political groups announced the winner. A delegation from the parliament will take part in a fact-finding mission to Belarus starting on Friday, with a view to providing further support for the democratic opposition.
“Belarusians have been marching every week since the 9 August election,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “They march for their future and the future of those who cannot be there. They march for the freedom and dignity of Belarusians, of Europeans, yours and ours. Without a free Belarus, Europe is not fully free either.”
Citizen rights NGO New Europeans congratulated also the opposition movement in Belarus on the award of the Sakharov Prize.
“Let’s call the opposition movement in Belarus the Belarus Democratic Majority,” commented Roger Casale, a former British MP and Secretary General of New Europeans. “We salute the heroism and example of the wonderful women and men of Belarus who are struggling for democracy.”
In November, New Europeans awarded the Belarus Democratic Majority the New European of the Year Award 2020 – which was accepted by Olga Zubrilova from New Europeans Minsk and Ekaterina Ziuzuik on behalf of the democratic movement in Belarus and the Belarus diaspora.