The Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament and human rights worldwide

Laureates 2012 - 2020

Jafar Panahi - 2012, Iran

Award-winning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi exposes injustice and repression. He advocates artistic freedom and has condemned the death penalty.

My creation is the result of a personal perception of fact, of life and ontological experiences in my specific society during a lifetime.


Nasrin Sotoudeh - 2012, Iran

Iranian human rights lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh defends religious minorities, women, minors and protesters against electoral fraud, the death penalty and torture on the part of the regime.


Malala Yousafzai - 2013, Pakistan

Only 11 when she started her fight for the right of girls to education and against Taliban extremism in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai fought on even after an attempt on her life in 2012.

These children do not want an iPhone, an Xbox, a PlayStation or chocolates: they just want a book and a pen.


Denis Mukwege - 2014, Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege has devoted his life to the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of victims of rape and brutal sexual violence and many more who live under its threat.

Justice should also be placed at the centre of the peace process, and it is necessary to step up the fight to eliminate impunity for the most serious crimes, including crimes of sexual violence.


Raif Badawi - 2015, Saudi Arabia

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was flogged and jailed for discussing liberal political ideas and religious topics online.

Raif is not a criminal. He is a writer and a free-thinker, that is all. Raif Badawi’s crime is being a free voice in a country that does not accept anything other than a single opinion and a single thought.

Ensaf Haidar


Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar – 2016, Iraq

Survivors of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS), Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar became spokespersons for women whose lives have been blighted by sexual violence, and act as advocates for Iraq’s Yazidi community.

I think that I can speak on behalf of the victims. The Sakharov Prize gives me the strength to continue. That is why I have taken the decision to become a voice for the voiceless.

Lamiya Aji Bashar


The democratic opposition in Venezuela - 2017, Venezuela

In 2017, the political opponents of the Venezuelan Government, including the National Assembly and all political prisoners, were awarded the prize for their continuing bravery in the pursuit of freedom and prosperity in Venezuela.

This award gives us more energy to continue fighting for the values and principles of democracy.

Antonio Ledezma


Oleg Sentsov - 2018, Ukraine

A Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned in Russia, Oleg Sentsov is a source of inspiration for those who face oppression, and is a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world.

It is a huge honour, and also a huge responsibility. I accept and take this prize not as a personal honour, but as a prize for all Ukrainian political prisoners who have ever been in Russian prisons, and a prize in honour of all Ukrainian political prisoners who are still there.


Ilham Tohti - 2019, China

Ilham Tohti is an economics professor and an advocate for China’s Uyghur minority, more than a million of whom are detained in internment camps.

Do you see a problem with the way the Chinese Government is treating Uyghur people? If you see a problem, please work towards a solution!

Jewher Ilham


The democratic opposition in Belarus - 2020, Belarus

Led by brave women and other civil society and political figures, the Coordination Council has united the Belarussians fighting for democracy in Europe’s last dictatorship.

Without a free Belarus, Europe is not fully free either. [...] I have only one wish this year. I want every Belarusian who is now in jail or was forced to live in exile to return home.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya