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The Sakharov Prize


The Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament and human rights throughout the world

This selection of pieces from the European Parliament’s written and audiovisual archives traces and illustrates the history of the Sakharov Prize since its inception in 1988. It shows how MEPs became advocates for human rights and democracy throughout the world even prior to the first direct elections in 1979.

The European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought every year since 1988. It is given to individuals or citizens’ organisations around the world who fight for human rights and democracy. It is the highest honour bestowed by the EU for actions that promote human rights. Its name pays homage to Soviet physicist turned political dissident Andrei Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

The Sakharov Prize honours particular achievements (intellectual or artistic work or active contribution) in the following fields:

  • defending human rights and fundamental freedoms (in particular freedom of expression),
  • safeguarding the rights of minorities,
  • upholding international law,
  • developing democracy and implementing the rule of law.

Sakharov Prize winners have come from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. They have included dissidents, political leaders, journalists, lawyers, civil society activists, writers, mothers and wives, spokespeople for minorities, anti-terrorism and anti-torture activists, peace activists, a cartoonist, prisoners of conscience who served or are serving long jail sentences, a film director, the United Nations as a body, a doctor and even a young girl defending the right to education.

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