Established 25 years ago and awarded each year by the European Parliament, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has finally announced the list of nominees for this year. The seven finalists were announced on September 16th in Brussels, including Malala Yousafzai and Edward Snowden.
Named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize was set up in 1988 aiming to honour individuals or organisations that have exceptionally fought to defend human rights and the freedom of thought. The nominations made by political groups (or Members of the European Parliament – MEPs) are followed by a selection process; Foreign Affairs and Development committees choose and shortlist the three finalists, and the final selection of the Laureate is made by the Conference of Presidents in Strasbourg, France.
The European Parliament organises an annual ceremony around December 10th (Human Rights Day) in Strasbourg, to award the human rights prize plus a monetary grant of €50,000.
Among the historical winners are Nelson Mandela and Anatoly Marchenko, the first awardees (1988), as well as Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi (1990). Some organisations, such as Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1992), ¡Basta Ya! (2000), Ladies in White (2005) and Memorial (2009) have also seen their work recognized.
This year, the seven shortlisted finalists are:
- Pakistani Malala Yousoufzai, a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the neck by Taliban forces for advocating for girls’ education. You can read about her story in this article from The AEGEEan magazine.
- Former CIA and NSA contractor Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist who leaked details about mass surveillance programs held by the top-secret United States and British government.
- Ethiopian journalists Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega, who are serving prison term on terrorism charges after writing critical articles about their government.
- Former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Khodorkovsky was sentenced in 2005 for fraud after his company, Yukos, collapsed and had its shares frozen by Vladimir Putin’s government.
- Belorussian activist Ales Bialatski, head of Viasna Human Rights Centre and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights.
- The “Standing Man” protesters from Turkey, a peaceful form of protest initiated by Erdem Gündüz during the Gezi demonstrations in Istanbul.
- The “CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery”, a 2011 report that exposed modern-day slavery and initiated a global campaign against human trafficking and child labour.
In October, the Conference of Presidents will decide the final Laureate for the Sakharov Prize in the European Parliament. The award ceremony may take place at the Plenary Session of the Parliament, in November.
Written by Human Rights Working Group
Featured picture from the European Parliament‘s Flickr