At a time when authoritarianism is rising, the European Parliament Sakharov Prize draws attention to the situation of those who resist the repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This year, the prize is to be awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council. It rewards its courageous and peaceful role in opposing the falsification of the August 2020 elections, despite a brutal crackdown by the authorities.
The Sakharov Prize will be presented in a ceremony during the European Parliament’s December plenary session.
Every year, since 1988, the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals or organisations for outstanding achievement in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms – notably the right to freedom of expression, safeguarding the rights of minorities, upholding international law, developing democracy, and implementing the rule of law. Initiated by a 1985 parliamentary resolution, the prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, the eminent Soviet-Russian nuclear physicist, 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner, dissident and human rights activist.
Political groups, or at least 40 Members of the European Parliament, nominate the candidates for the Sakharov Prize. From the list of nominees, three finalists are then shortlisted by Members in a joint vote of the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Development, as well as the Subcommittee on Human Rights.
The three finalists for the 2020 Sakharov Prize were: the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and other political and civil society figures; Guapinol activists and Berta Cáceres in Honduras – an environmental group peacefully protesting against mining activities polluting local rivers, whose members were either imprisoned or murdered (Berta Cáceres in March 2016 and, most recently, Arnold Joaquin Morazán Erazo in October 2020); and Monsignor Najeeb Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq – who ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan and safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts, written in Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic and Armenian, thus saving both people’s lives and their historical heritage.
The EU has expressed solidarity with Belarusians, condemned the violence against protesters and called for the immediate release of detained persons and for an inclusive national dialogue. The EU and its institutions do not recognise the election results and state that Lukashenka lacks any democratic legitimacy.
The European Council introduced sanctions against individuals responsible for repression and election falsification. As of 6 November, Lukashenka has been included in the list of officials subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Since August 2020, the European Parliament has frequently invited representatives of the Coordination Council to discuss the situation of Belarusians. Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya met President Sassoli on 21 September, the day on which the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended the recognition of the Coordination Council ‘as the legitimate representative of the people demanding democratic change and freedom in Belarus’.
The full European Parliament Research Service briefing on The 2020 Sakharov Prize laureate: The democratic opposition in Belarus is available :https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/ATAG/2020/659377/EPRS_ATA(2020)659377_EN.pdf
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Belarus