Laureates stand up against war in Ukraine

EP report on Air pollution and COVID-19

24-02-2022: As the Russian military invasion of Ukraine unfolds, Sakharov Prize laureates speak up in support of Ukraine. Alexei Navalny (2021) urges the people in Russia and Belarus to demonstrate and “oppose war wherever you are”. Memorial (2009) demanded an immediate end to military actions and said this war is a crime against peace and humanity. In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, which we publish hereafter, Nasrin Sotoudeh (2012) makes a passionate call to “bring an end to this naked act of aggression”. Malala Yousafzai (2013) calls for Russia to “stop the attack on Ukraine immediately.” Likewise, Nadia Murad (2016) in a tweet states that she knows “from experience who suffers the most from conflict, and it’s never the leaders who start it.” The Democratic Opposition in Belarus (2020) took to social media to denounce the war. After lashing out against the collaboration and participation of the Belarusian regime in Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (2020) announced the establishment of a government in exile.

Parliament responds to Russian aggression against Ukraine

01-03-2022: The European Parliament resolution “condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian Federation’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against and invasion of Ukraine, as well as the involvement of Belarus in this aggression”. Parliament demands that Russia immediately stops all military activities in Ukraine and unconditionally withdraw its forces.

Oleg Sentsov’s ultimate choice

Ukrainian filmmaker and 2018 Sakharov prize laureate Oleg Senstov (2018) joined an appeal for peace by leading figures from Ukraine’s cultural and scientific communities before enrolling himself in the Ukrainian defence forces. He explains his motives in a video. “We are defending against an aggression that tries to destroy our independence, our country, our people”, he says, adding “We will win this war, because we have no other choice”. Sentsov received the Sakharov Prize for his courage in opposing the illegal occupation by Russia of his native Crimea. Back in 2019, addressing the EP on his release from prison, he insisted that President Putin is not to be trusted.

Raif Badawi – counting the days ….

28-02-2022: After having spent ten years in prison, 2015 Sakharov Prize laureate Raif Badawi should have been released by end of February. 2005 Sakharov Prize laureate ‘Reporters without Borders’ Christophe Deloire reacted outraged over Raif being still held in prison. Still, there are reasons for hope that his liberation could materialise in March. However, if this release is confirmed, it does not mean complete freedom for Raif whose verdict includes a 10-year travel ban and a fine of a million Saudi riyals.

EP President meets Cuban Sakharov Prize laureates

02-03-2022: Sakharov Prize laureates Guillermo Fariñas (2010) and Bertha Bueno (Ladies in White, 2004) visited Brussels to advocate for a more effective EU action in promoting human rights in Cuba. Meeting with EP President Roberta Metsola, several Members of the European Parliament, and the European External Action Service, the Cuban laureates who back home are suffering constant harassment because of their tireless human rights work, insisted on the need to strengthen the connection between EU institutions and the Cuban civil society.

Navalny facing another illegitimate trial

24-02-2022: Russian opposition leader and 2021 Sakharov Prize laureate Alexei Navalny is facing a new trial that could add an additional 15 years to his current 3.5 years sentence. Navalny is accused of extremism and of creating his anti-corruption foundation for the purpose of embezzling people’s donations, including up to $35,000 from four people who testified against him. Court hearings take place in the penal colony where Navalny is being held. Navalny and his lawyers criticised the trial for the lack of access for media. They believe it was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the Ukraine crisis to divert attention. A judgement is expected by mid-March.

Afghan Women Days

01-02-2022: Putting the spotlight on the fate of women and girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, two days of political debates, media talks, youth seminars, artistic performances and exhibitions at the European Parliament highlighted the drastic roll back of the achievements of Afghan women in the past 20 years and explored what the future holds for them. Built around the testimonies of the 2021 Sakharov Prize finalists Afghan Women, the Afghan Women Days gathered high-level participants including EP President Roberta Metsola, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, and UN Deputy-Secretary General Amina Mohamed. Click here to watch.

Silenced because of the 2022 Beijing Olympics

03-02-2022: In a moment intended for the world to unite to compete in some friendly competition, the Chinese government continues to censor activists. During what Beijing deems as “politically sensitive periods,” activists like 2008 Sakharov Prize laureate Hu Jia have been locked in their homes, intimidated, and blocked from using WeChat to prevent any criticism on Chinese networks of the Winter Olympics. What criticism might you ask? Well, perhaps about the millions of Uyghurs still detained in internment camps, including 2019 Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, or the continued repression on freedom of press and media in Hong Kong, or the continued persecution of Tibetans or even the continued crackdown on human rights activists such as Hu Jia.

EP urgency resolutions: Philippines, Iran, and Burkina Faso

17-02-2022: The PhilippinesIran and Burkina Faso were all addressed in February’s human rights urgency resolutions. Parliament strongly condemned the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines. It also condemned all intimidation and violence against human rights activists, journalists and critics seeking to expose allegations of such abuses. The EP called for the Filipino authorities to stop ‘red-tagging’ organisations and individuals, such as trade unionists, human rights defenders and media representatives. Moreover, MEPs called on the Iranian government to introduce an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a step towards abolishing it and to commute all death sentences. Iran has the world’s highest number of executions per capita. Finally, Parliament condemned the coup perpetrated on 24 January by the armed forces against the democratically elected Government of Burkina Faso. It stressed that an urgent return to constitutional order is imperative, including an immediate return to civilian government.

* * *

His Excellency Mr. António Guterres


United Nations

New York, NY 10017

Your Excellency,

In the past few days, the world has witnessed the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, a sovereign state that acquired its full independence under international law almost thirty years ago, in 1991. Ukraine has mounted a laudable resistance in the face of this aggression. Far from getting crushed in silence under the boot of aggressors, their resistance is a call on the world to rush to their defence. As a woman who has lived in a country that endured 8 years of war, I can imagine the fear and trauma unleashed from this naked act of aggression and war against defenceless civilians and wish to express my horror at such a shameless violation. This is a war between democracy and dictatorship, but, fortunately, the people of Ukraine are not standing alone in this struggle and the world is rushing to Ukraine’s defence with great concern.

In this war, Russian protestors who are also paying the price of hostilities are being attacked and people like Alexei Navalni, who is recognized as an effective protestor is also in prison. At the same time, the world’s collective memory recalls that Hitler’s “iron will” was broken by the collective will of world public opinion.

I heard your commendable statements in “the name of humanity” at the onset of Putin’s assault and consider them as the most laudable of your declarations. Sadly, the aggressors has not heeded your call on this issue. He did not count on the nobility, freedom loving and independent spirit of the people of Ukraine and the world.

Like millions of other people around the world, I too am shocked by this vulgar act of aggression. I stand in solidarity and support of the people of Ukraine and declare that world peace without opposition to Russia’s aggression and support for the people of Ukraine is meaningless. As such, I ask your Excellency to use all the international instruments and resources at your disposal to bring an end to this naked act of aggression.

In the hope of an end to all wars,

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Tehran, Iran

March 1, 2022

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