Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas - 2002, Cuba

As the founder of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá fought for civil rights, free pluralist elections, the release of political prisoners, and economic and social reform in Cuba.

An active reformer since his youth, he was persecuted and condemned on several occasions for his criticism of Fidel Castro's policies and injustices. That did not stop him from founding the Christian Liberation Movement in 1988, which became one of the largest opposition movements in Cuba.

In 1997, Payá drew up the ambitious Varela Project, which contained the first legal steps towards the free participation of Cubans in Cuba's political and economic life through freedom of speech and assembly and the release of all political prisoners. Though supported by thousands of Cubans, Payá's Varela Project was blocked by a counter initiative from the Cuban authorities making the socialist nature of the Cuban state permanent, an initiative the authorities claimed was approved by a plebiscite. Many of the Varela Project campaigners were imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003, but Payá did not give up.

In 2008 he presented a draft law on amnesty for political prisoners to the national assembly, and in 2010 he launched the Foro Todos Cubanos.

Payá was never imprisoned, but his family say he received many death threats. On 22 July 2012, he lost his life in a controversial car crash in Cuba. The then president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, in homage, stated his belief that 'Oswaldo Payá's ideas will survive as his work and commitment have inspired a generation of Cuban activists who were following his example in promoting political freedom and human rights'.

The Christian Liberation Movement continues to call for clarification of the circumstances of Payá's death. His family has rejected the official account of his death as an accident. His daughter, Rosa María, has pleaded for an impartial international inquiry into her father's death before the UN Human Rights Council and other international organisations, including the European Parliament, and denounced the persecution and threats inflicted on the family by state security agents. In 2013 Payá'' family moved to the United States, in what they said was a temporary displacement.

Payá's daughter represented him at the Sakharov Prize 25th Anniversary Conference at the European Parliament in 2013. In the conference's outcome declaration, the Sakharov Prize community called for 'an inquiry into the death of Sakharov Prize laureate 2002 Oswaldo Payá'.