The Sakharov prize
, awarded once a year to individuals or organisations for their outstanding contribution to human rights and democracy, is “an integral part of the European Parliament's role as a 'megaphone' or 'loudspeaker' for the defence of human rights worldwide, and is the European Parliament at its best
” according to Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson
“Concern for human dignity lies at the core of the values which created the European Union
,” he said
while also expressing delight that 2011’s award was given to five activists from across the Arab world
, including Mohamed Bouazizi
, the Tunisian who set himself on fire and unknowingly provoked the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian, Bahraini and Yemeni uprisings, and, in the first three countries, the overthrow of the authoritarian regime.
Sir Graham’s comments come as the Parliament’s current President, the Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek
, launched a conference to celebrate the institution's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought. Human rights defenders, former Sakharov prize winners and numerous human rights activists from all over the world were present at the high-profile event in Brussels on Wednesday.
“Human rights issues are always at the top of parliament's agenda. As the only European institution, elected directly and democratically, we feel particularly responsible for ensuring that human rights and freedoms are defended and promoted within and outside the EU,
” he said in his keynote speech
. “We want people engaged in the struggle for human rights around the world to look to Brussels, not only as the EU capital, but also as a human rights hub.
Labels: Graham Watson