Zelenskyy and Julian Assange competing for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 


Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy and Julian Assange are among those nominated for the 2022 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament, to honour exceptional individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms since 1988. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is €50,000.

Nominations can be made by political groups or by groups of at least 40 MEPs.

This year’s nominations were presented during a meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee in Brussels on 26 September 2022. They are:

  • The Ukrainian people represented by President Volodymir Zelenskyy (nominated by EPP)
  • The people of Ukraine (nominated by S&D and Renew Europe)
  • Sônia Guajajara (nominated by Greens/EFA)
  • President Zelenskyy (nominated by ECR)
  • The Truth Commission in Colombia (nominated by Left/GUE-NGL)
  • Shireen Abu Akleh (nominated by Grace O'Sullivan and 42 other MEPs)
  • Julian Assange (nominated by Sabrina Pignedoli and 40 other MEPs)

The Ukrainian people 
represented by President Volodymir Zelenskyy were nominated by EPP. Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, launched in February 2022, is inflicting enormous costs on the Ukrainian people in terms of lives lost and towns and villages reduced to ruins. The Ukrainian people are fighting to protect their homes, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, but every day they are also fighting for freedom, democracy, the rule of law and European values on the battlefields, the nomination says.

S&D and Renew Europe have nominated the people of Ukraine, highlighting the role of individuals, representatives of civil society initiatives and state and public institutions. The nomination mentions, amongst others, The State Emergency Services of Ukraine; Yulia Pajevska, founder of the evacuation medical unit Angels of Taira; human rights activist Oleksandra Matviychuk; the Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement; and Ivan Fedorov, the former mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol.

ECR has nominated Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy as the face of the Ukrainian people's courage, pointing out his bravery, endurance and devotion to his people and to European values.

Sônia Guajajara, nominated by Greens/EFA, is an environmental and indigenous activist in Brazil. As a leader of an alliance of native peoples, she is working for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples to control their land. Her activism has put her in conflict with the Brazilian state authorities and powerful farming and mining lobbies looking to seize the control over indigenous territories.

The Truth Commission in Colombia, nominated by Left/GUE-NGL, is an institution created under a 2016 peace agreement to end the Colombian civil war in 2016. It aims to establish the facts about the human rights violations during the conflict and to advocate for the rights of millions of its victims. The nomination pays tribute to the civil war victims and is described as an opportunity to support the peace process. It mentions the names of Francisco de Roux, Alejandro Valencia Villa, Marta Ruiz Naranjo, Alfredo Molano Bravo (posthumously), Alejandro Castillejo, Saúl Alonso Franco, Lucía Victoria González, Patricia Tobón Yagarí, Alejandra Miller, Leyner Palacios, Ángela Salazar Murillo (posthumously), and Carlos Martin Beristain .

Shireen Abu Akleh, nominated by Grace O'Sullivan and 42 other MEPs, was a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera news channel for 25 years. She was one of the most prominent reporters in the Arab-speaking world, well known for her reporting on the conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. She was shot dead on 11 May 2022, while covering a raid by the Israel Defence Forces on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

Julian Assange, one of the activists behind the WikiLeaks association, was nominated by Sabrina Pignedoli and 40 other MEPs. He provided world-leading newspapers with documents concerning war crimes, arbitrary detentions, human rights violations and torture. He has been held in prison in the UK and is currently facing extradition to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and computer misuse.