Today, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Belarusian opposition*, including the brave women of Belarus led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala.
For the Socialists and Democrats, who proposed their candidacy, this is a clear sign of the European Parliament’s solidarity with the people of Belarus who are peacefully protesting for freedom and democracy in their country. We hope that this award will encourage and help protect them from the regime’s unprecedented violence while increasing international pressure on Lukashenka to finally step down.
S&D vice-president in charge of the Sakharov Prize, Kati Piri, said:
“I am proud that all main political groups united and decided together to award the 2020 Sakharov Prize to the brave people of Belarus. This is a clear sign that the European Parliament will not rest until their legitimate demands for free and fair elections are fully implemented, political prisoners are freed, and justice is served to all those guilty of torture and repression. For the past ten weeks, Belarusians have been tirelessly protesting against the stolen presidential election of 9 August, impressing us all with their determination, peaceful attitude and dignity. It is they who teach us the true meaning of commitment to human rights, democracy and solidarity today.
“The S&D Group, which took the initiative to honour the Belarusian opposition with the Sakharov Prize, is particularly impressed by the role of the country’s brave women in the ongoing pro-democratic revolution. Freedom’s face in Belarus is female. Led by exiled presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala, this peaceful grassroots movement is women-led and women-owned. Despite the Lukashenka regime’s unprecedented violent repression, arrests, and even torture and rape, thousands of brave women continue to take to the streets every weekend to express their legitimate democratic demands. They all have our strongest support and admiration. We must provide any support necessary for the country’s democratic transition in line with its citizens’ aspirations.”
MEP Isabel Santos, S&D spokesperson on human rights, added:
“Although more than two months have passed since the outbreak of protests against the stolen presidential election, and despite the cruel repressions and brutality they face, Belarusians are not giving up. But people, especially in the provinces, are increasingly intimidated, some may also feel exhausted. I hope for them that the Sakharov Prize will be an additional source of more strength. But it is not enough. Belarusian people need us to urgently step up now.
“All member states must be united in firmly rejecting any cooperation with the Lukashenka regime. We need an effective EU action plan on how to help civil society and victims of repression. Our house should consider a fact-finding mission to Belarus. We must also support those who collect the evidence of crime against Belarusian citizens.”
Note to editors:
*The democratic opposition in Belarus, is represented by the Coordination Council, initiative of brave women - main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich; musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava; and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala - as well as and political and civil society figures - video blogger and political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski; Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna; Siarhei Dyleuski; Stsiapan Putsila, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA; and Mikola Statkevich, political prisoner and presidential candidate at the 2010 election.
The Sakharov Prize award ceremony will take place on December 16.