Launch of Sakharov Prize 2008: eight candidates presented

The eight nominations for this year's Sakharov Prize, the EP's prize for defenders of human rights and democracy, were officially presented on Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee. The winner will be chosen in mid-October.

Candidates for the prize must be supported by a political group or at least 40 individual MEPs. This year's candidates are (in alphabetical order):

Ingrid Betancourt - Colombian-French politician and anti-corruption activist, kidnapped by FARC on 23 February 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency, and rescued from captivity this July. According to the nomination, "Betancourt has constantly spoken out and stood up to the forces of terrorism and its devastating effects against ordinary, innocent people both in Colombia and around the world". Nominated by Martin Schulz on behalf of the PES Group.

Dalai Lama - Spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. The nomination highlights the Dalai Lama's "message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion." Nominated by Cristiana Muscardini on behalf of the UEN group and Piia-Noora Kauppi, Aloyzas Sakalas and 39 others.

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) - Body campaigning against anti-Romani racism and abuse. According to the nomination, "since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has endeavoured to give Roma the tools necessary to combat discrimination and win equal access to government, education, employment, health care, housing and public services." Nominated by Vittorio Agnoletto on behalf of the GUE/NGL group.

Hu Jia - Chinese campaigner for civil rights, environmental protection and AIDS advocacy. Following his testimony on human rights in China, given on 26 November 2007 via conference call to the EP's Human Rights Subcommittee, Hu Jia was arrested, charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced to three-and-a-half years' in jail. Nominated by Graham Watson on behalf of the ALDE group, Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit on behalf of the Greens/EFA Group and 55 others.

Alexander Kozulin - Former presidential candidate in Belarus. According to the nomination, "Aleksandr Kozulin has shown great courage to withstand the regime's actions and to fight for freedom of thought and expression and basic civil rights. In 2006, during the presidential campaign, he was beaten several times, detained and finally sentenced to five and a half years of imprisonment". Nominated by Jacek Protasiewicz, Jan Marinus Wiersma and 44 others.

Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu - Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission of Democratic Republic of Congo. The nomination praises "his efforts in making dialogue prevail over violence during the Goma conference [aimed at bringing peace to the DRC provinces of North and South Kivu] and for dedicating his wisdom and experience to realising these principles throughout his career". Nominated by Luisa Morgantini, Alain Hutchinson, Jurgen Schroder, Johan Van Hecke and 44 others.

Mikhail Ivanovich Trepashkin - Russian lawyer and democracy campaigner. According to the nomination, as an FSB (KGB) detective, "Trepashkin uncovered a number of cases where his colleagues from the secret services were involved in corruption, organised crime and terrorism." He was persecuted, then jailed for four years. Released in November 2007 following an international campaign, he has since continued campaigning for human rights and democracy in Russia. Nominated by Gerard Batten on behalf of the IND/DEM Group.

Morgan Tsvangirai - Zimbabwean opposition leader. The nomination states "For many years Morgan Tsvangirai has fought for democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. At enormous personal risk he has led the main opposition party and has courageously endured a succession of assassination attempts and politically motivated arrests." Nominated by Luis Queiro and 96 others.

Next steps

The next step takes place on 22 September, when the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Development Committee, at a meeting in camera, will narrow down the number of candidates to a shortlist of three. The Conference of Presidents will select the winner in mid-October and the prize will be awarded to the laureate at the Strasbourg plenary sitting of 17 December.

20th anniversary of Sakharov Prize

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize, which was first awarded in 1988 in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. To mark the occasion, a special event to which all previous winners of the prize are to be invited is being held in Strasbourg on 16 December.

Previous winners of the prize

1988 Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko (posthumously)

1989 Alexander Dubcek

1990 Aung San Suu Kyi

1991 Adem Demaci

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 Gusmao

2000 ?Basta Ya!

2001 Izzat Ghazzawi, Nurit Peled-Elhanan and Dom Zacarias Kamwenho

2002 Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas

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

2007 Salih Mahmoud Osman


Co-chair : Jacek SARYUSZ-WOLSKI (EPP-ED, PL)


Co-chair : Helene FLAUTRE (Greens/EFA, FR)



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