Nominations for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

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Human rights are the most precious achievement of the 20th century. Yet they are still not an obvious and natural framework for the lives of many people in many parts of the world. As a reminder of this sad fact, but more over as a symbol of hope and a signal that people want and can stand up for human rights, the European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought every year. On it, Parliament's political groups or a group of at least 40 MEPs nominate individuals or organisations advocating for human rights and fundamental civil liberties. The nominations for the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

 

The democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures

- nominated by EPP, S&D, Renew Europe

- nominated by ECR

The democratic opposition in Belarus, is represented by the Coordination Council, initiative of brave women - main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich; musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava; and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala – as well as political and civil society figures – video blogger and political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski; Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna; Siarhei Dyleuski; Stsiapan Putsila, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA; and Mikola Statkevich, political prisoner and presidential candidate at the 2010 election.

“The people of Belarus deserve the Sakharov Prize, because Belarussians of all generations have revolted against the Lukashenko dictatorship. Violence will not stop the Belarusian people in their demands for free elections and democratic change.” said Latvian EPP member Sandra Kalniete. Polish ECR member Anna Fotyga further explained why her group supported the nomination of the democratic opposition in Belarus, as represented by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska: “All these years, over political divisions, we supported, in the European Parliament, the democratic society, democratic opposition of Belarus. It was their choice (...) to choose Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as their leader and representative of the democratic opposition."

 

Mgr Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq

- nominated by ID

When the Islamic State arrived in Mosul he ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan and safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century. These manuscripts were later digitised and exhibited in France and Italy. Since 1990 he has contributed to safeguarding 8,000 more manuscripts and 35,000 documents from the Eastern Church.

“This is a real opportunity to give this prize to a courageous person, an undying defender of the Christians in that land, to recognise and underscore the effort of this priest who stood up to barbarism and saved those manuscripts from Iraq,” said French ID group member Nicolas Bay.

 

Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres, Honduras

- nominated by Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL

Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Avelino Cedillo, Orbin Naún Hernández, Kevin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Aleman, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Daniel Marquez and Jeremías Martínez Díaz – are members of the Municipal Committee in Defense of Common and Public Goods of Tocoa. They are imprisoned for their participation in a peaceful protest camp against a mining company, whose activities had led to contamination of the rivers Guapinol and San Pedro. While other inmates were set free, the Guapinol defenders are still detained and the prosecution has not presented any solid evidence to justify this prolonged detention.

Berta Cáceres, a courageous ecologist and prominent land rights activist from the indigenous Lenka community in Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016 She was co-founder of the Council of Indigenous People of Honduras (COPINH). Over more than two decades, she was fighting against land grabbing, illegal logging and mega-projects.

 “These are two symbolic cases showing injustice and impunity in Honduras.... Honduras has the highest rate of killings per capita, making it the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders," describes the hard times human rights activists are having in Honduras Tilly Metz, a Luxemburgish member of the Greens/EFA group.

 

Polish LGBTI activists Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Maczuga, founders of the website Atlas of Hate

- nominated by Malin Björk, Terry Reintke, Marc Angel, Rasmus Andresen and 39 other MEPs

Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak and Paweł Preneta, Kamil Maczuga founded in 2019 the website Atlas of Hate, mapping and monitoring the many local Polish municipalities that had adopted, rejected or had pending “anti-LGBTI resolutions” while spreading information to activists, media and politicians. Today, more than 100 municipalities or local authorities in Poland have declared themselves either “LGBTI-free zones” or adopted so-called Regional Charters of Family Values. In 2020, Gawron, Pajak and Preneta were sued by five of those local municipalities, for damaging their reputation and demanding a public apology and economic compensation to “family-friendly organisations” in the five regions.

“This nomination is about the bigger picture; respect of rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights, just about what this prize should be. These activists are now being sued in court exactly for their action to make visible the discrimination that LGBTI people are facing,” said Swedish GUE/NGL member Malin Björk.

 

Based on the official nominations, the foreign affairs and development committees vote on a shortlist of three finalists. Afterwards the Conference of Presidents - consisting of the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups - select the laureate, who will be announced on 22 October and will be awarded 16 December during ceremony in Strasbourg.

On the picture you can see Jewher Ilham receiving the 2019 Sakharov Prize on behalf of her father Ilham Tohti, who fights for the rights of Uyghur minority and is now imprisoned in China.


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