Today, the European Parliament looks back on 30 years of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This honor is awarded by the European Parliament to individuals and groups of people who committed themselves to the defense of Human rights and the Freedom of Thought.
Members of the Parliament will highlight the EU’s commitment to human rights in debates with high-level experts, Sakharov Prize laureates human rights defenders from all over the world and visit the exhibition “They Defend our Freedoms” – 30 years of Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Moreover, laureates of the Sakharov Prize will participate in the conference among which:
- Guillermo Fariñas (2010), Cuban activist, doctor and journalist whose fighting against censorship in Cuba,
- Ali Farzat (2011), Syrian representative of the Arab people who received the Prize with 4 other people for his fight for freedom and human rights after the Arab Spring,
- Denis Mukwege (2014), Congolese gynecologist treating victims of gang rape,
- Ensaf Haidar, representative of Raïf Badawi (2015), Saudi Arabian blogger, writer and activist who created the website Free Saudi Liberals,
- Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Lamya Jahi Bashar Taha, Yezidi human rights activists and former abductees of ISIS,
- Patricia Gutierrez and Yamile Saled Rojas, representing the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela (2017), awarded for its courage in face of repression by Maduro’s government.
Who was Andrei Sakharov?
This prize was created in 1988 and named after Andrei Sakharov, a Russian scientist and dissident who strived for disarmament, peace and human rights. He was initially known as one of the most talented designers of thermonuclear weapons for the Soviet Union. However, in the 60’s, Andrei Sakharov became concerned about the moral and political implications of his work and was opposed to the proliferation of Nuclear weapons. Notably, he played an important role in the USSR’s signature of the 1963 Partial Test Ban which put an end to atmospheric tests.
Nevertheless, in the 70’s, Sakharov became the target of sustained pressure and intimidation, from his fellow scientists in the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Soviet press and direct threats of physical assault. In 1975, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee which praised him as “a spokesman for the conscience of mankind”.
The European Parliament’s Commitment towards Human Rights
In addition to Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament defends and promotes human rights by adopting resolutions on human rights emergencies and publishing an annual report on human rights and democracy. It also:
- maintains parliamentary dialogue and diplomatic relations with its counterparts and authorities of third countries,
- holds hearings in committee on human rights issues,
- participates in election observation missions around the world.
Besides, the European Parliament supports the process of free and fair elections in other countries, which is essential for establishing democracy, guaranteeing legitimacy and strengthening citizens’ trust in the institutions. MEPs regularly lead or join EU Election Observation Missions to ensure full respect for the right of peoples to choose their leaders.
For further information
About the Sakharov Prize – European Parliament website – http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/30-years.html
About the exhibition ‘They Defend Our Freedoms” – 30 years of Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – European Parliament website – http://www.epgencms.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/upload/1703fc22-9172-4893-9e21-c93c1afa67ee/ils_defendents_nos_libertes_30_ans_du_prix_Sakharov_web.pdf