The Sakharov Prize is intended to honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression. Like Andrei Sakharov himself, all the winners of the prize have shown how much courage it takes to defend human rights and freedom of expression.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. The prize was set up in 1988 to honour individuals or organisations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Parliament awards the human rights prize, endowed with 50,000, at a formal sitting held in Strasbourg on or around 10 December, the day on which the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.
Nominations for Sakharov Prize can be made by political groups or at least 40 MEPs. The Foreign Affairs and Development committees vote on a shortlist of three finalists based on the nominations and later the Conference of Presidents chooses one Laureate.
The Russian physicist Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (1921-1989), who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, first came to prominence as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb.
Concerned at the implications his work had for the future of humankind, he sought to raise awareness of the dangers of the nuclear arms race. His efforts proved partially successful with the signing of the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty.
In the USSR, Sakharov was seen as a subversive dissident. In 1970, he founded a committee to defend human rights and victims of political trials. In 1975 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts.
A list of the winners of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is given below: