The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded each year by the European Parliament. The Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is the laureate of the 2021 Sakharov Prize. It was announced during the October II plenary and the award ceremony was held on 15 December in Strasbourg.
Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, with more than two years still remaining. Alexei Navalny’s daughter, Daria Navalnaya, received European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on behalf of her imprisoned father.
“In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Alexei Navalny, we recognise his immense personal bravery and reiterate the European Parliament’s unwavering support for his immediate release”, president of the EP David Sassoli said.
Afghan women and Bolivia’s former interim president Jeanine Áñez were also shortlisted this year.
The Sakharov prize was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Each nominee must have the support of at least 40 MEPs, and each individual Member may support only one nominee. Signed nominations accompanied by supporting evidence are then assessed in a joint meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), the Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) and the Committee on Development (DEVE).
A shortlist of three candidates is drawn up through a vote by AFET and DEVE committees, and then submitted to the Conference of Presidents for a final vote. The winner is always announced in October, and the award ceremony takes place in December at plenary sitting in Strasbourg. In 2020, the prize went to the Belarussian opposition for defending democracy in the country.