Václav Havel Human Rights Prize
Strasbourg, 25.08.2015 – Veteran Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva, the grassroots NGO "Women for Afghan Women" and the Balkan NGO "Youth Initiative for Human Rights" have been shortlisted for the 2015 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, it was announced in Prague today.
The 60,000-euro annual prize honours individuals or organisations judged to have undertaken "outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights in Europe and beyond". Now in its third year, the prize is sponsored by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Czech Government, the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation.
The three shortlisted nominees, presented here in alphabetical order, will be invited to attend a ceremony on the opening day of the Parliamentary Assembly's autumn plenary session in Strasbourg, Monday 28 September, when the final selection of this year's overall prizewinner will be announced.
The selection panel, made up of six independent human rights experts and chaired by PACE President Anne Brasseur, met today in Prague to choose the three from among dozens of nominations submitted from around the world before the 30 April deadline.
Speaking at a press conference today at Prague's Kampa Museum, Ms Brasseur said: "The panel was deeply impressed by the courage and dedication of all three of this year's shortlisted nominees, who work in very difficult conditions. We want to show our solidarity with them, and our support for the values they strive to uphold. They all do outstanding work, and it will be no easy task to choose a final prizewinner in September."
- Ludmilla Alexeeva, now aged 88, is a veteran human rights defender in her native Russia. In her youth, she gave up a promising academic career to join the Soviet dissident movement, going on to become a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Forced to emigrate to the US in 1977, she returned to Russia in 1989 to continue her work, becoming President of the International Helsinki Foundation and later joining the Russian President's Commission on Human Rights. She has worked relentlessly for the protection and promotion of the rule of law.
- Women for Afghan Women is the largest shelter-providing NGO in Afghanistan, working in 11 provinces to protect the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls. A grassroots organisation, it has helped young women who have suffered mutilation, torture, attempted murder and rape, among others. Its activities include running womens' shelters, family guidance centres, children support centres and "halfway houses" for women leaving prison.
- The Youth Initiative for Human Rights works to re-establish bonds between young people in the Balkan region, protecting victims of human rights abuses and promoting transitional justice. Projects managed by its different regional organisations include organising youth exchanges, helping activists in isolated communities, facilitating dialogue on human rights issues, and working to demystify the recent past and build mutual trust.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the PACE in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.
The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, playwright, opponent of totalitarianism, architect of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic and an enduring symbol of opposition to despotism. Nominations of any individual, non-governmental organisation or institution working to defend human rights are taken into consideration. The Prize consists of a sum of €60 000, a trophy and a diploma.
On 25 March 2013, the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize was launched at a ceremony in Prague with the signature of the Co-operation Agreement by the President of the Assembly, Jean-Claude Mignon, the Director of the Václav Havel Library, Marta Smolíková, and the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Charta 77 Foundation, František Janouch, in the presence of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize replaces the Assembly Human Rights Prize, which was created in 2007 and awarded every two years, first in 2009 to "British Irish Human Rights Watch" and then, in 2011, to the Russian NGO "Committee against Torture".
Individuals or non-governmental institutions active in the defence of human rights can be nominated for the Prize.
Nominations for the Prize should be addressed to the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly and be signed by at least five sponsors, other than the nominee, on the special form to be found at the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize website.
Nominations shall provide details of the nominee's work in the defence of human rights and specify the reasons why the nominee's work can be considered to be outstanding. Relevant supporting documents should be provided. Nominations should be submitted in either of the two official languages of the Council of Europe, English or French.