Parliament President David Sassoli presented the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veranika Tsapkala in Brussels on 16 December.
They received the Sakharov Prize on behalf of the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures.
During the ceremony, exceptionally held in Brussels, President Sassoli said: “The whole world is aware of what is happening in your country. We see your courage. We see the courage of women. We see your suffering. We see the unspeakable abuses. We see the violence. Your aspiration and determination to live in a democratic country inspires us.”
Accepting the prize, the main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said: “Each and every Belarusian who takes part in the peaceful protest against violence and lawlessnes is a hero. Each of them is an example of courage, compassion, and dignity.
“Belarusians have been marching every week since the 9 August election. They march for their future and the future of those who cannot be there. They march for the freedom and dignity of Belarusians, of Europeans, yours and ours. Without a free Belarus, Europe is not fully free either." She added: "I have only one wish this year. I want every Belarusian who is now in jail or was forced to live in exile to return home.”
About the winner
The winner was chosen by Parliament’s political leaders on 22 October 2020.
The democratic opposition in Belarus is represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women (main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava, and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala), as well as political and civil society figures (video blogger and political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna, Siarhei Dyleuski, Stsiapan Putsila, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA, and Mikola Statkevich, political prisoner and presidential candidate in the 2010 election).
In a resolution adopted in September 2020, the European Parliament condemned the Belarusian authorities for their violent repression of peaceful protests.
Parliament is organising a fact-finding mission about Belarus on 18- 21 December to determine further support for the democratic opposition, in line with a resolution adopted on 26 November 2020.
The prize, consists of a certificate and €50,000.
The Guapinol environmental activists Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Avelino Cedillo, Orbin Naún Hernández, Kevin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Aleman, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Daniel Marquez and Jeremías Martínez Díaz; as well as Berta Cáceres from Honduras; and Monsignor Najeeb Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, were this year’s finalists.
More about the Sakharov Prize
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Last year, the prize went to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.
Find out how the Sakharov Prize laureate is chosen in our infographic