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Sakharov Prize

Sakharov Prize: European Parliament’s award for human rights defenders  © European Parliament

Awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute paid by the European Union to human rights work. It gives recognition to individuals, groups and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to protecting freedom of thought. Through the prize and its associated network the EU assists laureates, who are supported and empowered in their efforts to defend their causes.

The prize has so far been awarded to dissidents, political leaders, journalists, lawyers, civil-society activists, writers, mothers, wives, minority leaders, an anti-terrorist group, peace activists, an anti-torture activist, a cartoonist, long-serving prisoners of conscience, a film-maker, the UN as a body and even a child campaigning for the right to education. It promotes in particular freedom of expression, the rights of minorities, respect for international law, the development of democracy and the implementation of the rule of law. Several laureates, including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize, with its EUR 50 000 endowment, at a formal plenary sitting in Strasbourg towards the end of each year. Each of the Parliament's political groups may nominate candidates, as may individual MEPs (the support of at least 40 MEPs is required for each candidate). The nominees are presented at a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee, and the members of the full committees vote on a shortlist of three candidates. The final winner or winners of the Sakharov Prize are chosen by the Conference of Presidents, a European Parliament body led by the president, which includes the leaders of all the political groups represented in the Parliament, making the choice of laureates a truly European choice.

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