Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, The people of Ukraine and their representatives including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and The Truth Commission in Colombia are the three finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The finalists were chosen by the Parliament’s foreign affairs and development committees.
The Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the Parliament’s political group leaders will on October 19 decide who is the winner.
“As one of the co-founders of the WikiLeaks association, Assange provided world-leading newspapers with documents concerning war crimes, arbitrary detentions, human rights violations and torture. He has been held in prison in the UK and is currently facing extradition to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and computer misuse”, the Parliament says in a statement.
“The Brave People of Ukraine, represented by their president, elected leaders, and civil society” is another finalist.
“Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, launched in February 2022, is inflicting enormous costs on the Ukrainian people in terms of lives lost and towns and villages reduced to ruins”, the statement says.
“According to the nomination, the Ukrainian people are fighting to protect their homes, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, but every day they are also fighting for freedom, democracy, the rule of law and European values on the battlefields.”
“The nomination singles out Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his bravery, endurance and devotion to his people. It also mentions the role of individuals, representatives of civil society initiatives and state and public institutions such as, among others, the State Emergency Services of Ukraine; Yulia Pajevska, founder of the evacuation medical unit Angels of Taira; Oleksandra Matviychuk, human rights lawyer and activist; the Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement; and Ivan Fedorov, the former mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol.”
“The Truth Commission in Colombia is an institution created under a 2016 peace agreement to end the Colombian civil war in 2016. It aims to establish the facts about the human rights violations during the conflict and to advocate for the rights of millions of its victims.”
“The nomination pays tribute to the civil war victims and is described as an opportunity to support the peace process. It mentions the names of Francisco de Roux, Alejandro Valencia Villa, Marta Ruiz Naranjo, Alfredo Molano Bravo (posthumously), Alejandro Castillejo, Saúl Alonso Franco, Lucía Victoria González, Patricia Tobón Yagarí, Alejandra Miller, Leyner Palacios, Ángela Salazar Murillo (posthumously), and Carlos Martin Beristain.”
The finalists were selected by MEPs from a longer list of nominations made by political groups or groups of at least 40 MEPs.
The annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals and organisations 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.
In 2021, the prize went to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny for his fight against corruption and the Kremlin’s abuses of human rights.