Sakharov Prize

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, commonly known as the Sakharov Prize, is an honourary award for individuals or groups who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.[1] Named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament.[1] A shortlist of nominees is drawn up annually by the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Development. The MEPs who make up those committees then select a shortlist in September.[2] Thereafter, the final choice is given to The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents (President and political group's leaders) and the laureate's name is announced late in October. The prize is awarded in a ceremony at the Parliament's Strasbourg hemicycle (round chamber) in December.[3][2] The prize includes a monetary award of €50,000.[3]

Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought
The awarding ceremony of the 1990 prize awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi inside the Parliament's Strasbourg hemicycle, in 2013
Presented byEuropean Parliament
First awardedDecember 1988 (1988-12)
Currently held byDemocratic opposition in Belarus
WebsiteOfficial website

The first prize was awarded jointly to South African Nelson Mandela and Russian Anatoly Marchenko. The 1990 award was given to Aung San Suu Kyi, but she could not receive it until 2013 as a result of her political imprisonment in Burma.[4] The prize has also been awarded to organisations, the first being the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in 1992. Five Sakharov laureates were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai, Denis Mukwege, and Nadia Murad.[5]

Razan Zaitouneh (2011) was kidnapped in 2013 and is still missing.[6] Nasrin Sotoudeh (2012) was released from prison in September 2013,[7] but is still barred from leaving Iran, along with fellow 2012 laureate Jafar Panahi.[8] The 2017 prize was awarded to the Democratic Opposition in Venezuela, under boycott of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left.[9][10]

Due to infection control measures taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of events related to the Sakharov Community were postponed in 2020, including the Sakharov Fellowship, One World in Brussels, and the European Youth Event.[11]


Indicates a posthumous award
Year Image Recipient Nationality Notes Reference
1988 Nelson Mandela  South Africa Anti-apartheid activist and later President of South Africa [12]
Anatoly Marchenko  Soviet Union Soviet dissident, author and human rights activist [12]
1989 Alexander Dubček  Czechoslovakia Slovak politician, attempted to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring [12]
1990 Aung San Suu Kyi  Burma Opposition politician and a former General Secretary of the National League for Democracy [13]
Adem Demaçi  Yugoslavia Kosovo Albanian Politician and long-term political prisoner [12]
1992 Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo  Argentina Association of Argentine mothers whose children disappeared during the Dirty War [13]
1993 Oslobođenje  Bosnia and Herzegovina Popular newspaper that defended Bosnia and Herzegovina as a multi-ethnic state [13]
1994 Taslima Nasrin  Bangladesh Ex-doctor, feminist author [13]
1995 Leyla Zana  Turkey Politician of Kurdish descent from Southeastern Turkey, who was imprisoned for 15 years for being member of PKK. [12]
1996 Wei Jingsheng  China An activist in the Chinese democracy movement [13]
1997 Salima Ghezali  Algeria Journalist and writer, an activist of women's rights, human rights and democracy in Algeria [13]
1998 Ibrahim Rugova  FR Yugoslavia Kosovo Albanian politician, the first President of Kosovo [12]
1999 Xanana Gusmão  East Timor Former militant who was the first President of East Timor [14]
¡Basta Ya!  Spain Organisation uniting individuals of various political positions against terrorism [15]
2001 Nurit Peled-Elhanan  Israel Peace activist [12]
Izzat Ghazzawi  Palestine Writer, professor
Dom Zacarias Kamwenho  Angola Archbishop and peace activist
Oswaldo Payá  Cuba Political activist and dissident [16]
2003 Kofi Annan  Ghana Nobel Peace Prize recipient and seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations [12]
United Nations N/A (International)
Belarusian Association of Journalists  Belarus Non-governmental organisation "aiming to ensure freedom of speech and rights of receiving and distributing information and promoting professional standards of journalism" [17]
2005 Ladies in White  Cuba Opposition movement, relatives of jailed dissidents [18]
Reporters Without Borders N/A (International) France-based non-governmental organisation advocating freedom of the press [18]
Hauwa Ibrahim  Nigeria Human rights lawyer [18]
2006 Alaksandar Milinkievič  Belarus Politician chosen by United Democratic Forces of Belarus as the joint candidate of the opposition in the presidential elections of 2006 [19]
2007 Salih Mahmoud Osman  Sudan Human rights lawyer [13]
2008 Hu Jia  China Activist and dissident [20]
2009 Memorial  Russia International civil rights and historical society [21]
2010 Guillermo Fariñas  Cuba Doctor, journalist and political dissident [22]
2011[lower-alpha 1] Asmaa Mahfouz  Egypt Five representatives of the Arab people, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights. [23]
Ahmed al-Senussi  Libya
Razan Zaitouneh  Syria
Ali Farzat
Mohamed Bouazizi  Tunisia
2012 Jafar Panahi  Iran Iranian activists, Sotoudeh is a lawyer and Panahi is a film director. [24][25]
Nasrin Sotoudeh
2013 Malala Yousafzai  Pakistan Campaigner for women's rights and education [26]
2014 Denis Mukwege  Democratic Republic of the Congo Gynecologist treating victims of gang rape [27]
2015 Raif Badawi  Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals [28][lower-alpha 2]
2016 Nadia Murad Basee  Iraq Yazidi human rights activists and former abductees of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [29]
Lamiya Aji Bashar
2017 Democratic opposition in Venezuela  Venezuela Members of the country's National Assembly and all political prisoners as listed by Foro Penal Venezolano represented by Leopoldo López, Julio Borges, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos, Yon Goicoechea, Lorent Saleh, Alfredo Ramos and Andrea González. The award was seen as rewarding the "courage of student activists and protesters in face of repression by Nicolas Maduro's government".[30] [31]
2018 Oleg Sentsov  Ukraine Film director, symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world [32]
2019 Ilham Tohti  China Uyghur economist, scholar and human rights activist [33]
2020 Democratic opposition in Belarus  Belarus Coordination Council, initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures. [34][lower-alpha 3]

Table notes

  1. The laureates were advocates of the Arab Spring
  2. Badawi founded and ran two online formus for discussions on religion and politics in his conservative country, namely Saudi Liberals and Free Saudi Liberals
  3. One of them is Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the human rights activist and politician who participated in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate


  1. "1986: Sakharov comes in from the cold". BBC News. 23 December 1986. Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  2. "Sakharov Prize 2018: three finalists selected", News—European Parliament, 10 September 2018.
  3. "Sakharov Prize". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  4. Cook, Annabel (22 October 2013). "Aung San Suu Kyi collects Sakharov prize 23 years on". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  5. Boshnaq, Mona; Chan, Sewell; Dremeaux, Lillie; Karasz, Palko; Kruhly, Madeleine. "Nobel Peace Prize Winners Throughout History". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 October 2017.
  6. "Razan Zaitouneh". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  7. "Nasrin Sotoudeh". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  8. "Jafar Panahi". Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  9. Schreuer, Milan (26 October 2017). "Venezuelan Opposition Receives E.U.'s Sakharov Freedom Prize". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  10. "Left to boycott politicised Sakharov Prize ceremony - GUE/NGL - Another Europe is possible". Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  11. "Sakharov Prize Community Newsletter No. 3" (PDF). European Parliament. 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  12. "20 years of the Sakharov Prize: Human rights and reconciliation". European Parliament. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  13. "Sakharov Network calls for immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Sakharov Prize laureate 1990". Reporters Without Borders. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  14. "Gusmão receives EU Sakharov prize". BBC News. 15 December 1999. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  15. "Basque group wins peace prize". BBC News. 26 October 2000. Archived from the original on 1 April 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  16. "Cuban dissident collects EU prize". BBC News. 17 December 2002. Archived from the original on 7 May 2004. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  17. "The Belarusian Association of Journalists - 2004, Belarus". European Parliament. 9 November 2004. Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  18. Gibbs, Stephen (14 December 2005). "Cuba 'bars women from prize trip'". BBC News. Archived from the original on 17 November 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  19. "Belarussian takes EU rights award". BBC News. 26 October 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  20. "China dissident wins rights prize". BBC News. 17 December 2008. Archived from the original on 30 December 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  21. "Russia rights group wins EU prize". BBC News. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  22. "Cuba dissident Farinas awarded Sakharov Prize by EU". BBC News. 21 October 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  23. "Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2011". European Parliament. Archived from the original on 23 October 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  24. Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (26 October 2012). "Nasrin Sotoudeh and director Jafar Panahi share top human rights prize". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  25. "Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi – winners of the 2012 Sakharov Prize" (PDF). European Parliament. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  26. Jordan, Carol (10 October 2013). "Malala wins Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought". CNN. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  27. "DR Congo doctor Denis Mukwege wins Sakharov prize". BBC News. 21 October 2014. Archived from the original on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  28. "Raif Badawi wins Sakharov human rights prize". The Guardian. Brussels. Associated Press in. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  29. "Sakharov prize: Yazidi women win EU freedom prize". BBC News. 27 October 2016. Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  30. "Venezuela's opposition awarded Sakharov Prize for championing human rights". The Independent. 26 October 2017. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  31. "Parliament awards Sakharov Prize 2017 to Democratic Opposition in Venezuela". European Parliament. 26 October 2017. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  32. "Sakharov Prize 2018 goes to Oleg Sentsov". European Parliament. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  33. "Ilham Tohti awarded the 2019 Sakharov Prize". European Parliament. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  34. "The 2020 Sakharov Prize awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus". 22 October 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020.

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