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Background
 

Salih Mahmoud Osman to receive Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg

Human rights - 04-12-2007 - 11:00
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Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman will receive this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought at a formal sitting of the European Parliament on Tuesday 11 December in Strasbourg.

Announcing Mr Osman as the winner on 25 October, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering said "In the face of violence and arbitrary power, Mr Osman stands up for dialogue and justice. And there can be no democracy without justice. By granting the Sakharov Prize to Salih Mahmoud Osman, the European Parliament shows its support for the action of this courageous man who has become the voice of Darfur, and through him, for the establishment of the rule of law in Sudan". 
 
Mr Osman is a lawyer who works with the Sudan Organisation Against Torture to provide legal assistance and other aid to victims of human rights abuses in Sudan.  For over two decades he has provided free legal representation to people arbitrarily detained, tortured or otherwise abused in Sudan's various civil wars.
 
As violence in Darfur has worsened in recent years, he has worked to provide a record of the alleged war crimes in that region. He visits detainees and initiates legal action against human rights perpetrators.  His interviews with witnesses and records of crime have been turned over to the International Criminal Court to assist the Court's prosecutions.
 
Mr Osman currently serves as a Member of the Sudan National Parliament, where he seeks to promote the rule of law through implementation of the interim constitution.  His fight against injustice in Sudan has had a personal cost. Members of his own family have been killed, tortured or burned out of their homes by the militias.  He himself was imprisoned by the Sudanese government for over seven months in 2004 without charge or a trial.  Human Rights Watch has described Mr Osman as an "essential resource" for Darfurians facing persecution and a "thorn in the side of those who use violence to cling to power".
 
REF.: 20070919BKG10509

Osman chosen as winner of prize from five candidates

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Mr Osman was chosen by Parliament's political group leaders from a three-person shortlist consisting of himself plus deceased Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the Chinese dissident couple Zeng Jinyan and Hu Jia.  This shortlist was itself selected (by the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, Development Committee and Human Rights Subcommittee) from an original list of five nominees, the other two being the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (who asked for his nomination to be withdrawn) and Joya Malalai, an Afghan MP, social worker and defender of women's rights.  Mr Osman was the unanimous choice of the leaders of Parliament’s political groups from among the three finalists.  For more information on the history of the prize and on the other candidates, see the Focus on the EP website.
 
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Purpose of the Sakharov Prize

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Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are key priorities for the European Parliament.  The Sakharov Prize, awarded since 1988 and named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), is awarded to individuals or organisations who seek to:
 
- defend human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the right to free expression;
- safeguard minority rights;
- foster respect for international law;
- promote democracy and the rule of law.
 

Further information :

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Previous winners of the prize

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1988    Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko (posthumously)
1989    Alexander Dubcek
1990    Aung San Suu Kyi
1991    Adem Demaçi
1992    Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
1993    Oslobodjenje
1994    Taslima Nasreen
1995    Leyla Zana
1996    Wei Jinsheng
1997    Salima Ghezali
1998    Ibrahim Rugova
1999    Xanana Gusmão
2000    ¡Basta Ya!
2001    Izzat Ghazzawi, Nurit Peled-Elhanan and Dom Zacarias Kamwenho
2002    Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
2003    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and all the UN staff
2004    Belarusian Association of Journalists
2005    Ladies in White, Hauwa Ibrahim, Reporters without Frontiers
2006    Alexander Milinkevich 
 
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Standing up for democratic values

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The Sakharov Prize is not the only means by which Parliament promotes democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Ever since it was founded the EP has strongly championed these values - both inside and outside the EU - and has succeeded over the years in placing them high on the European agenda.
 
It was under pressure from Parliament that democracy and human rights were incorporated into the existing EU treaty as an objective of the common foreign and security policy.
 
Within the EP there is a Subcommittee on Human Rights consisting of 35 MEPs from all 27 EU countries: the monitoring and defence of human rights is the essence of their daily work.  Official delegations of MEPs will often highlight human rights issues at their regular meetings with parliamentarians of non-EU countries. Each year Parliament publishes a report on human rights around the world and every month it adopts three urgent resolutions on serious human rights violations or attacks on freedom of speech.  
 
Through the EU budget Parliament can back up its words with hard cash.  At Parliament's instigation the budget now includes a special chapter - the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, with a budget of €119.41 million for 2006 - which is used to fund democracy and human rights projects around the world.  MEPs can also decide to scrap EU aid to a government which fails to respect human rights.
 

Further information :

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Interview with Salih Mahmoud Osman

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The following quotations are extracts from an interview with Salih Mahmoud Osman to be shown on Europe by Satellite on 10/11 December 2007:

"This is a recognition of our work. It’s not me alone, there are tens of human rights defenders all over Sudan and in Darfur in particular, who are standing and voicing out on behalf of the victims and the survivors. It is a recognition of their work. I’m here to accept the honour on their behalf". 
 
"The West, Europe, are talking tough about the policies of the government of Sudan, but we don’t see acts to address the situation in a proper manner, at least to take the steps  to protect the lives of people and help them go back to their communities".
 
"The actual situation in Darfur and in Sudan is that the genocide in Darfur is still continuing. Yes, for some people this is controversial, some people don’t call it genocide, but for me as a lawyer, and as an individual, and as a native from Darfur, I know it is genocide when more than 400.000 people have been killed and more than 2000 villages have been destroyed".
 
"This is what I am here to say today in Europe. This is an opportunity for me to remind the people of Europe that they have a moral and ethical responsibility to show some solidarity with the people of Darfur. It's not enough to send humanitarian relief: it is good also but we want to see solidarity rallies in the streets of Brussels, of Berlin, in Paris, Italy - Milan and Rome - everywhere in Europe. We want the people of Europe to go out in the streets and tell their government that it is not acceptable to leave the people of Darfur to the merciless government of Sudan".
 
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