A prize for human rights and freedom of expression

The ten nominations for this year's Sakharov Prize, the EP's prize for defenders of human rights and democracy, have now been put forward and will be officially presented at the end of the month at a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee. The winner will be chosen on 22 October and the prize will be ceremonially awarded mid-December.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organisations who have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.

Candidates for the prize must be supported by a political group or at least 40 individual MEPs. This year's candidates, in alphabetical order are:

  • Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish: A Palestinian obstetrician in Gaza who has treated both Israelis and Palestinians. In January 2009 during an Israeli raid on Gaza a shell entered his apartment killing his 3 daughters. Dr Abuelaish campaigns for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Foundation Vicente Ferrer: A Foundation that aims to protect and promote the rights of minorities in India and to support the eradication of extreme poverty.
  • Mr Dawit Isaak: Eritrean journalist, writer and playwright, political prisoner since 2001.
  • Mariam Lamizana: Minister for Social Action and Social Solidarity in Burkina Faso.
  • Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Oleg Orlov and Sergei Kovalev on behalf of MEMORIAL and all other human rights defenders in Russia: This organisation promotes fundamental rights in post-Soviet states.
  • MEMORIAL: An organisation promoting fundamental rights in post-Soviet states.
  • Dr Denis Mukwege: A Doctor and founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dr Mukwege specialises in helping women and girls who have been victims of rape and brutal sexual abuse.
  • Father Thaddeus, Nguyen van Ly: A Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest and prominent dissident involved in pro-democracy movements, for which he was imprisoned for almost 15 years.
  • Shadi SADR on behalf of Neda and Iranian citizens striving for the respect of human rights: An Iranian human rights attorney, feminist, activist and journalist. Shadi Sadr focuses in particular on ending the death penalty and stoning as well as on women's rights and equality.
  • Roberto Saviano: An Italian journalist and writer, threatened by the Italian mafia in Naples as a consequence of his uncompromised attack on organised crime.

What is the Sakharov prize?

Since 1988, in the spirit of the renowned physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, the European Parliament has awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in order to honour individuals or organisations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms and against oppression and injustice. The award of the 2008 Sakharov prize for human rights went to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia.

The European Parliament awards the human rights prize, endowed with Euro 50 000, at a sitting in Strasbourg which falls on or around 10 December, the day on which the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.