EU Sakharov prize shortlist revealed

Demonstrators and police clash in opposition protests in Caracas, Venezuela, 26 April 2017. [Miguel Gutierres/EPA/EFE]

The Venezuelan opposition, a Guatemalan indigenous leader and an imprisoned Eritrean writer were shortlisted on Tuesday (10 October) for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.

The parliament said the three finalists for 2016 are Guatemalan Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, Venezuela’s democratic opposition and Swedish-Eritrean journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak.

The shortlist was decide by a vote by the members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and development committees.

Named after the dissident Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, who died in 1989, the prize is awarded every year to honour individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, often falling foul of their governments as a result.

The winner, the Parliament said in a statement, will be chosen on 26 October by the presidents of the European Parliament’s political groups and Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic is a member of the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples, which fights to protect natural resources and human rights from the expansion of mining, logging, hydroelectric and agro-industry sectors, the parliament said, adding she has faced threats.

Also on the list is Venezuela’s democratic opposition, led by National Assembly leader Julio Borges and including all political prisoners who were also Sakharov finalists in 2015. The names of Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos, Yon Goicoechea, Lorent Saleh, Alfredo Ramos and Andrea González are mentioned.

“The situation in Venezuela has been seriously deteriorating as regards democracy, human rights and socio-economy, in a climate of growing political and social instability,” it said.

Dawit Isaak was arrested in 2001 by the Eritrean authorities during a political crackdown and has been imprisoned without a trial since, the parliament said.

Isaak, a finalist in 2009, was last seen in 2005, it added.

The Venezuelan opposition was nominated by EPP and ALDE, Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic was nominated by the Green/EFA group, and Dawit Isaak was nominated by S&D as well as by MEP Cecilia Wikström (ALDE) and 46 other MEPs.

Other nominees for this year’s prize include Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under the country´s blasphemy law, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a Burundian human righyts activist, and the two co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey arrested in November 2016 on terrorism charges, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yuksekdag.

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Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish opposition party said yesterday (20 February) it had appealed to the European Court of Human Rights over what it said was the unlawful imprisonment of its two leaders on terrorism-related charges.

The prize worth €50,000 will be handed to the winner during an official ceremony in the European Parliament on 13 December.

Last year’s prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamia Haji Bashar, two Yazidi women activists who escaped the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Yazidi women win Parliament's Sakharov prize

Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, victims of sexual slavery carried out by Islamic State, have won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize. EURACTIV Spain reports.

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