Ask EP By / November 16, 2023

What is the EU doing to protect human rights?

Citizens often turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union is doing to protect human rights.

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Citizens often turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union is doing to protect human rights.

Each year, the European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to honour individuals or organisations for their efforts in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In September, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have the opportunity to nominate a candidate for the Sakharov Prize. Each nominee must have the support of at least 40 MEPs or of a political group in Parliament. Based on these proposals, Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee vote to establish a shortlist of three finalists. In October, the leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament then choose the winner. The prize is formally awarded in December.

Sakharov Prize winners

The 2023 Sakharov Prize has been awarded to Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life and Freedom Movement in Iran.

Arrested on 13 September 2022 for allegedly ignoring Iran’s veiling laws, Jina Mahsa Amini died three days later following physical abuse while in custody. Her death sparked massive women-led protests across the country, under the slogan ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’. By awarding them the 2023 Sakharov Prize, Parliament is reiterating its support to those who continue to fight for equality, dignity and freedom in Iran.

Since 1988, the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize to more than 40 individuals and organisations from over 30 countries around the world. Several laureates, including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. See all the laureates on the Sakharov Prize website.

Sakharov Prize Community and Fellowship

Launched in 2008 and developed as an extension of the Sakharov Prize, the Sakharov Prize Community brings together winners of the Sakharov Prize and Members of the European Parliament. It aims to connect them with civil society to increase cooperation on human rights action.

In addition, Parliament organises the Sakharov Fellowship programme for human rights defenders each year. This programme aims to deepen their knowledge of EU and international human rights frameworks, and to develop their skills in advocating human rights protection and effecting positive changes.

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

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