Sakharov Prizie winner Oleg Sentsov cousin Natalya Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze represented him during the ceremony in Strasbourg Sentsov was not in the Parliament to collect the award in person, because he remains in prison in Siberia.
“Oleg Sentsov was nominated for his peaceful protest against the illegal occupation of his native Crimea. Also for his courage, determination and his convictions in support of human dignity, democracy, the rule of law and human rights; these are the values on which our Union is built, even more after the terrible attack of yesterday, values that this Parliament cherishes, upholds and promotes.” the Parliament President Antonio Tajani said, while awarding the Prize.
“Sentsov’s hunger strike and courageous public stance made him a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” he added. Noting that the award comes against a backdrop of serious tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Tajani called for a de-escalation of the situation and reiterated support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The President called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and the Crimean peninsula as well as other imprisoned laureates: “The Sakharov Prize is not only an award. It is a commitment. And we keep standing close by our laureates.”
This week the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and the leaders of the political groups during the Conference of Presidents meeting will select this year’s winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from among the three finalists. The prize will be awarded in a ceremony in Strasbourg on 12 December.
The biggest political group – the European Peoples Party (EPP) – has nominated Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who was sentenced for 20 years’ imprisonment by a Russian court on charges of plotting terrorist acts against Russian authorities in Crimea, in a process deemed unfair by human rights watchdogs.
On 14 May, Sentsov went on hunger strike, lasting over 100 days, to call for the release of around 70 other Ukrainian citizens who are to his opinion illegally arrested and convicted to long prison sentences by Russian judges.
Iraqi Nadia Murad, the winner of the Sakharov Prize 2016 of the European Parliament shared with Congolese Denis Mukwege the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war.
“The courage and resilience of Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, in their fight for common human values, deserve the . Proud that the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize has already saluted their extraordinary humanitarian work” wrote the Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament in his microblog.
Captured by soldiers of Islamic state, Murad was transported to Mosul, the de facto “capital” of the ISIS’s caliphate.
During her ordeal Murad and the other women sex-slaves held captive and systematically gang-raped, tortured and beaten.
The terrorists organised slave markets for selling off the women and girls, and Yazidi women were forced to renounce their religion.
Determined to join her family Murad escaped and cross the few dozen kilometres to Iraqi Kurdistan to enter camps of the displaced Yazidi, where, she learnt that her mother and her six brothers were killed. Helped by an organisation that assists Yazidis, she reunited with her sister in Germany. Since then Murad has become a global voice, campaigning against violence.
Ivo Vajgl, MEP, ALDE, Slovenia, explains the decision of Catalonia Dialogue Platform to nominate Catalan political prisoners in Spain for Sakharov Prize 2018. Vajgl underlined significance of engaging in dialogue to resolve the argument respecting the fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Catalonia former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, ex-Interior minister Joaquim Forn, and activists Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart remain in prison. Twenty-eight Catalan politicians are being investigated by Spanish Supreme Court judge for their role in the referendum and subsequent declaration of independence. At present all four men are kept in harsh conditions in prison cells with possible charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds for organising the referendum on independence of Catalonia.
The European Parliament supports human rights through the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1988. The prize is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.
“Today, a Moscow court has confirmed the decision by the Russian Ministry of Justice to include the Memorial International Society on the list of “foreign agents”. This listing, made on 4 October 2016, brings the number of Memorial-affiliated NGOs included in the registry to eight and the number of Russian NGOs currently registered to 149″ -says the statement of the European External Action Service spokesperson.
“The European Union has repeatedly stated that the law on “foreign agents” and the ensuing fines, inspections and stigmatisation, further tighten the restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Russia, consume the scarce resources of NGOs and inhibit independent civil society in the country”.
“We continue to call on the Russian authorities to align their policies and legislation with the human rights obligations and commitments that they have undertaken, and to abandon the practice of branding Russian NGOs as “foreign agents”, as well as all resulting administrative harassment”.
“Despite existing difficulties, the European Union is committed to continuing its support for Russian NGOs and civil society. The work of the different Memorial branches, which together form the biggest and oldest network of NGOs, has been and continues to be of the utmost importance for the promotion of human rights in Russia and the preservation of its historical memory”. (Source: European External Action Service)
The Memorial was awarded Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2009 by the European Parliament for its distinguished record of a ‘prominent and embattled’ Russian human rights group. EP president Jerzy Buzek attributed the award to Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalyov, and Lyudmila Alekseyeva, representing the NGO, adding that it also a gesture of recognition of the efforts of the human rights defenders in Russia.