Belarusian opposition wins Sakharov Prize, antechamber of Nobel Peace Prize

There could be no more political choice. The democratic opposition in Belarus won the 2020 Sakharov Prize, against the two other finalists the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq, Mgr Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, and the repressed environmental activists of Guapinol in Honduras.

→ ANALYSIS. In Belarus, women at the heart of the protest

The sesame is timely, three days before the end of the ultimatum to President Alexander Lukashenko. The opposition, mobilized for weeks in the street, gave him until October 25 to withdraw, otherwise it will call for a monster demonstration and a general strike.

Support for sanctions

“They have one thing on their side that brute force can never overcome: the truth. Do not give up your fight. We are at your side ”, tweeted the President of the European Parliament, the Italian David Sassoli.

Defended by the three parties forming the majority in the European Parliament, the EPP (right), S & D (social democrats) and Renew Europe (liberals), this candidacy had every chance of winning, unlike its competitors carried by minority groups.

→ READ. “The Belarusian people have taken a huge step forward”

This choice confirms the foreign policy of the European Union, which has already sanctioned 40 officials of the Belarusian regime, including the Minister of the Interior and his deputy, accused of being involved in the repression and rigging of the presidential election of August 9. The Twenty-Seven are now considering sanctioning Alexander Lukashenko himself.

The prize specifically rewards the Coordination Council, an initiative launched by several women including Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, (leader of the opposition) and Svetlana Aleksievitch (winner of the Nobel Prize, but in literature, in 2015). More broadly, it is “Support the courage and bravery of its civil society”, said Estonian MEP Urmas Paet, member of Renew Europe. For Dutch S&D MP Kati Piri, the award should help “Put an end to authoritarian repression on the European continent”.

→ EXPLANATION. Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko tries a new strategy

Belarus has held a prominent place in the awarding of the prize since its creation in 1988. Already in 2004, the MEPs awarded the Belarusian Association of Journalists for their fight for freedom of expression. And in 2006, they crowned Alexander Milinkevich, figure of the democratic opposition, candidate against President Alexander Lukashenko, the year of his award.

The strength of a network

The prize, materialized in the form of a frame bearing the name of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1975, will be officially presented at a solemn ceremony in the hemicycle of the European Parliament , December 16, 2020. The recipients will receive € 50,000, but will receive much more, as a new member of a large community known to be the antechamber of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In all, eight laureates received the double distinction, including Nelson Mandela (Sakharov in 1988, Nobel in 1993), or Aung San Suu Kyi (Sakharov in 1990, Nobel in 1991) – although the latter was excluded from the community. Sakharov in September for “His inaction and his acceptance of the ongoing crimes against the Rohingya community”.

Among the doubly titled personalities, we still find the Pakistani lawyer Malala Yousafzai, who opposed the Taliban when they tried to ban the education of girls (Sakharov in 2013, Nobel in 2014), the gynecologist Denis Mukwege, in Democratic Republic of Congo (Sakharov in 2014, Nobel in 2018), or Nadia Murad, Iraqi activist from the Yazidi community massacred by Daesh (Sakharov in 2016, Nobel in 2018). Of all these winners, only Kofi Annan had been “Nobelized” (2001) before being “Sakharovisé” (2003).

Since 2008, this community has been committed to working in a network to “Promote joint efforts on behalf of human rights defenders around the world, through joint actions”. It met in conference in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018 to denounce human rights violations.


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