World News – CA – EU awards human rights prize to Belarusian opposition


The Associated Press

In this file, photo taken on Sunday August February 2, 2020, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, presidential candidate, greets people waving old Belarusian flags during a meeting to show her support, in Brest, at 326 km (203.7 miles) southwest of Minsk, Belarus Tsikhanouskaya, a 37-year-old former English teacher with no political background, seems an unlikely challenger to the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, whose reign spans over a quarter of a century (Photo AP / Sergei Grits, FILE)

The European Union on Thursday awarded its first human rights prize to the Belarusian opposition movement and its leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, for their challenge to the long and harsh reign of President Alexander Lukashenko

During a speech to the European Parliament, President David Sassoli congratulated the Sakharov Prize winners for their « courage, resilience and determination »

« They have resisted and remain strong against a much stronger opponent But they have something on their side that brute force can never overcome, and that is the truth, » Sassoli said.

The 27-nation bloc agreed this month to impose sanctions on officials suspected of electoral misconduct and a brutal security crackdown on protesters in Belarus The EU has warned it is ready to sanction itself Lukashenko if he fails to initiate talks with the opposition and order an end to the crackdown launched after contested elections

In a series of recommendations adopted this week, EU lawmakers said sanctions must include Lukashenko and called for new elections under international supervision. MEPs also said that « the Tsikhanouskaya Coordination Council is the legitimate representative of the people »

Lukashenko won his sixth term in a presidential election widely seen as rigged Since August 9 polls that gave Lukashenko 80% of the vote, mass protests have rocked the former Soviet nation sandwiched between Poland and Russia

Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s main challenger, won 10% of the vote She and her supporters refused to acknowledge the results, claiming the vote result had been manipulated

A 38-year-old former English teacher with no previous political experience, Tsikhanouskaya joined the race after her husband who aspired to run for president was jailed He remained in prison

Tsikhanouskaya rejected the official tally and refused to concede defeat, but was forced to move to Lithuania under pressure from the authorities

Tsikhanouskaya shares the award with several prominent members of the Opposition Coordinating Council, which was established after the elections with the aim of facilitating talks on a power transition Among them are Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, musician Maryia Kalesnikava and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala and prominent opposition politician Mikola Statkevich, recently imprisoned

The EU Prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in 1988 to honor individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms Last year’s winner was the economist Ilham Tohti for his work in defense of China’s Uyghur minority

Other people shortlisted for this year’s award were activists defending the Guapinol River in Honduras and the assassination of environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Caceres Najeeb Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul, also made the cut for his role in evacuating Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan and safeguarding historical manuscripts after the arrival of the Islamic State in Mosul in 2014

Sassoli paid tribute to Arnold Joaquin Morazan Erazo, a member of the environmental group opposed to an iron oxide mine in Honduras who was killed this month

« It is imperative that a credible, independent and immediate investigation be opened into this matter and that those responsible are held to account, » Sassoli said

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Belarus, Sakharov Prize, European Union, European Parliament, Human Rights, Andrei Sakharov, Alexander Lukashenko, Europe

News from the world – CA – EU awards prize of human rights to the Belarusian opposition



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