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A guide to the Sakharov Prize (2016)

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Find out more on the procedure related to the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and how its nominees are chosen. Each year the European Parliament awards the Sakharov to honour individuals or organisations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This prize was set up in 1988 in honour of Russian nuclear scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov and it is the highest tribute to human rights endeavours the European Union accords.

The Sakharov Prize rewards in particular freedom of expression; safeguarding the rights of minorities; respect for international law; development of democracy and implementation of the rule of law.

The prize has been awarded to individuals and to associations such as, among others, dissidents, political leaders, journalists, lawyers, civil society activists, writers, mothers and wives, minority leaders, anti-terrorist campaigners, peace activists, an anti-torture activist, a cartoonist, a long-serving prisoner of conscience, a film maker and even the UN as a body.

2016 finalists

The finalists for the Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize are: Turkish journalist Can Dündar and fellow defenders of freedom of thought and expression in Turkey, the Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzemilev, the Yazidi survivors and public advocates Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar, as decided by a vote during a joint meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee on Development (DEVE) on 11 October 2016 Further information on the three finalists can be found in the EP press release of 11 October 2016.

The Conference of Presidents, made up of the Parliament President and the political group leaders, will announce the winner(s) of the 2016 Sakharov Prize on 27 October 2016.

Nominations for Sakharov Prize

Nominations for the Sakharov Prize are made by EP political groups or at least 40 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). However, these nominations are not based on applications from any individual candidates. MEPs are completely free in deciding whom to nominate; usually the nominees are internationally well-known human rights activists.

2015 laureate

On 29 October 2015, the President of the European Parliament and the political groups’ leaders nominated the laureate of this edition as Raif Badawi, a blogger and human rights activist, who was charged with apostasy and sentenced by the Criminal Court of Jeddah in May 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1 000 lashes and a fine of SAR 1 million (EUR 228 000) after creating the website ‘Free Saudi Liberals Network’ for social, political and religious debate which was deemed to be an insult to Islam. More information is available in the relevant EP press release.

The award ceremony in Strasbourg was held during the plenary session of 16 December 2015. In his absence, the wife of jailed human rights activist, Raif Badawi, accepted the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on his behalf. During the ceremony, President Schulz called on King Salman of Saudi Arabia to pardon the blogger immediately and release him unconditionally.

Further information

More details on the prize are available on the Sakharov Prize webpage on Europarl. An EPRS briefing entitled Standing up for human rights defenders around the world: What is the EU doing? has more background on EU action on human rights.

The publication 25 Years of the Sakharov prize – The European Parliament upholding freedom of thought created in November 2013 by the EP Historical Archives Unit, may also be of interest.


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The Citizens' Enquiries Unit provides information on the activities, powers and organisation of the European Parliament. You ask, we answer.

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The content of all documents (and articles) contained in this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy. Copyright © European Union, 2014. All rights reserved

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