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EU – RUSSIA: Alexei Navalny awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

Alexei Navalny awarded the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize


MEPs have awarded Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

 

European Parliament (20.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3m2BiQO – Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala announced the 2021 laureate in the Strasbourg plenary chamber on Wednesday afternoon, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (President and political group leaders).

 

Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The European Parliament has chosen Alexei Navalny as the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize. He has campaigned consistently against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and through his social media accounts and political campaigns, Navalny has helped expose abuses and mobilise the support of millions of people across Russia. For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail.”

 

“In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Alexei Navalny, we recognise his immense personal bravery and reiterate the European Parliament’s unwavering support for his immediate release”, he added.

 

Vice-President Hautala said: “This year, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to an advocate for change. Alexei Navalny has shown great courage in his attempts to restore the freedom of choice to the Russian people. For many years, he has fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms in his country. This has cost him his freedom and nearly his life. On behalf of the European Parliament, I call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

 

“Today, the Parliament also honours a group of Afghan women, who have fought fiercely for equality and human rights in their country and who were shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize. We chose to honour the bravery of these women, as they are among the first to suffer violations of their most basic rights and freedoms after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan”, she added.

 

Fighting corruption in Russia

 

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He came to international prominence for organising demonstrations against President Putin and his government, running for office and advocating for anti-corruption reforms. In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned and spent months recovering in Berlin. He was arrested on his return to Moscow in January 2021. He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, with more than two years still remaining. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, Navalny went on a long hunger strike in late March 2021 to protest his lack of access to medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Alexei Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, both now classified as extremist and undesirable by the Russian authorities.

 

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 15 December in Strasbourg. Read more about the other Sakharov Prize finalists in 2021 here.

 

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, Parliament awarded the prize to the democratic opposition of Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures.

Photo credits: European Parliament

 

HRWF Comment
On the same day, HRWF held a press conference about “Defending Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Speech in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine” at the Press Club in Brussels. Texts of the speakers available on request.




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EU – RUSSIA: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny wins 2021 Sakharov Prize

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny wins 2021 Sakharov Prize

The jailed Russian opposition leader has been awarded the European Parliament’s rights prize for his efforts to challenge President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

 

Die Welt (20.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3BXKwDv – The European Parliament on Wednesday announced it awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize to the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

 

“He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life. Today’s prize recognises his immense bravery and we reiterate our call for his immediate release,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter.

 

Kremlin critic unlikely to take part in awards ceremony

 

Navalny is unlikely to be able to travel to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on December 15 at the award ceremony in Strasbourg.

 

The prize, named after a Soviet dissident, is awarded by the European Parliament every year. Since 1988, the €50,000 ($58,156) prize has been awarded to individuals and rights organizations for their work toward promoting and defending human rights and freedoms.

 

Also among the nominees for this year’s award were UK-based environmental and rights group Global Witness, jailed former Bolivian President Jeanine Anez, Sahrawi activist Sultana Khaya and 11 Afghan women.

 

‘Mr. Putin, free Alexei Navalny’

 

The parliament’s EPP Christian Democrat group announced Wednesday’s decision in a tweet. “Mr. Putin, free Alexei Navalny. Europe calls for his — and all other political prisoners’ — freedom,” it said.

 

“Navalny is the only person on this planet, who deserves the Sakharov prize. He has been fighting for the freedom of speech, liberty, democracy, transparency and against corruption for decades and he has paid a big price himself. He was put in jail, fined, his organization was demolished. He was poisoned,” said Peter van Dalen, a European lawmaker and member of the EPP, in a DW interview.

 

“This is the strongest signal that we from Europe can give to support Navalny. We give hope to the Russian opposition. We say: ‘We hear you. We do not forget you.’ And this message of hope we send now to Navalny and to the Russian opposition,” he added.

 

In January, Navalny was detained after flying back to Russia from Germany. The 45-year-old dissident was sentenced to 2.5 years in a penal colony for violating parole from a previous conviction he says is politically motivated.

 

Ahead of his return to Moscow, Navalny was in Germany for five months for medical treatment after being poisoned in Siberia in August 2020 with a military nerve agent. Russia has denied its involvement and has accused the West of a smear campaign against it.

 

A Moscow court in June labeled Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and its network of regional offices extremist groups, a ruling that exposed Navalny’s allies to prosecution. 

 

Last month, Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, launched another probe targeting Navalny. The committee said that by 2014 Navalny had “created an extremist network and directed it” with the aim of “changing the foundations of the constitutional system in the Russian Federation.”

 

Still, Navalny’s allies have continued to criticize the Kremlin. During last month’s Russian election, they launched a tactical voting app in a bid to challenge the country’s ruling party.

 

A flashpoint in EU-Russian tensions

 

Navalny’s recognition with the human rights prize will likely heighten tensions between the 27-nation bloc and Russia.

 

The EU has been calling for Navalny’s release since he was first arrested, and it views his imprisonment as politically motivated. 

 

Last year, the bloc imposed sanctions on six Russian officials for their alleged involvement in the poison attack on Navalny.

 

The European Parliament had awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize to the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — also amid tensions with Minsk and sanctions against top Belarusian officials.  

 

Renata Alt, a member of the Bundestag with the Free Democrats (FDP) told DW that the announcement was an “important sign that he will not be forgotten behind bars.” She then criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who she said had never taken enough action against Putin’s government.

 

Photo credits: AP/Reuters

 

HRWF Comment
On the same day, HRWF held a press conference about “Defending Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Speech in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine” at the Press Club in Brussels. Texts of the speakers available on request.




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EU: Sakharov Prize 2021: Candidates nominated by the political groups

EU: Sakharov Prize 2021: The nominees

EU Reporter (29.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3D2hV06 – Each year, the Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize to honour exceptional individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. In 2020, the prize went to the Belarussian opposition for defending democracy in the country.

Nominations can be made by political groups and groups of at least 40 MEPs. This year’s nominations were presented in a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee in Brussels on 27 September 2021. They are:

Alexei Navalny, nominated by the EPP and Renew Europe for his courage in fighting for freedom, democracy and human rightsis a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of the country’s president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter, where he has millions of followers he came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Afghan women, nominated by S&D and the Greens/EFA for their brave fight for equality and human rights. Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a male. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women included in the nomination are:

  • Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
  • Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network
  • Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
  • Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of the Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
  • Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and advocate for education and learning
  • Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company
  • Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
  • Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist
  • Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Anisa Shaheed – political reporter

Jeanine Áñez, nominated by the ECR, is a Bolivian politician and symbol of repression against dissidents and deprivation of due process and rule of law in Latin America. She became interim president in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

 

Sultana Khaya, nominated by The Left, is a Sahrawi activist and human rights defender based in the Western Sahara, promoting the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people. She is the president of the organisation League for the Defence of Human Rights and against Plunder of Natural Resources in Boujdour/Western Sahara and member of the Saharawi Organ against the Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM). She has been under de facto house arrest without a warrant since 19 November 2020. Since 2005, she has suffered physical attacks, death threats, torture and sexual assaults. Over the last year, the Moroccan authorities have intensified repression against Saharawi activists and journalists, who are subjected to ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and harassment in order to silence or punish them for non-violent action against the occupation of Western Sahara. On 1 July 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor strongly condemned the reprisals against Sultana Khaya.

Global Witness, nominated by Marie Toussaint and other 42 MEPs, is a UK-based NGO, which for more than 25 years has investigated and exposed environmental and human rights abuses in the oil, gas, mining and timber sectors, tracking money and influence through the global financial and political system. Nowadays, it also focuses on the issue of the climate emergency, attacks on public space and civic freedoms and the protection of environmental defenders throughout the world. Since 2011, Global Witness and its 22 local partners have addressed abuses of power to protect human rights, verifying and publishing each year the number of defenders killed worldwide.

Background

The annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms since 1988. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is €50,000.

Timeline 

  • 14 October: the foreign affairs and development committees decide on three finalists in a joint meeting 
  • 21 October: the winner is decided by Parliament’s President and political group leaders 
  • 15 December: Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Strasbourg 

 

Photo credits: eureporter.com


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