Sakharov Prize: Belarus’ opposition wins EU human rights award

The European Parliament (EP) has chosen Belarus” opposition movement as the winners of this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

EP President David Sassoli recognised an “initiative of brave women” in his speech including opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava, and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala.

He also gave honourable mentions to political and civil society figures and the founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA, Stsiapan Putsila, among others.

They “embody the defence of freedom of thought” that the prize represents, he added.

The ongoing political demonstrations in Belarus against the government and Alexander Lukashenko were sparked in the wake of the country’s presidential election in August.

Lukashenko claimed victory but his critics said the vote was rigged in his favour. The largest anti-government unrest in the country’s history ensued.

MEPs condemned the Belarusian authorities for their violent repression of peaceful protests in a resolution adopted in September.

The prize will be awarded in a ceremony at the European Parliament on 16 December.

This year’s finalists were:

  • The democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures;
  • The Guapinol environmental activists and Berta Cáceres from Honduras;
  • Monsignor Najeeb Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is named after Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov.

It was established in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations that defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Last year the prize was awarded to Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti.


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