Belarusian democratic opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize

The European Parliament has awarded the 2020 edition of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the democratic opposition in Belarus represented by the Coordination Council.

The news was announced by EP President David Sassoli in Brussels following the decision of the Conference of Presidents, which brings together Sassoli and political group leaders.

“Let me congratulate the representatives of the Belarusian opposition for their courage, resilience and determination. They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary. But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat – and this is the truth. So my message for you, dear laureates, is to stay strong and not to give up on your fight. Know that we are by your side,” Sassoli said.

The Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and individual freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. The award ceremony will be held on 16 December.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

Belarus has been in the midst of a political crisis since a disputed presidential election on 9 August which led to an uprising against the country’s authoritarian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka and to a subsequent crackdown by the regime.

Sassoli also condemned the killing of one of the finalists for the prize, Honduran activist Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, which took place last week. Erazo was part of the Guapinol environmental group, which is opposing the development of an iron oxide mine.

“It is imperative that a credible, independent and immediate investigation is launched into this case and those responsible must be held to account,” the EP President maintained.