The third Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights – has been awarded to veteran Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva. The €60 000 prize was presented at a special ceremony today at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, on the opening day of the autumn plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Presenting the trophy, PACE President Anne Brasseur, chair of the selection panel, said: “Ludmilla Alexeeva has inspired many generations of activists in Russia, but also abroad, to commit themselves to the struggle for justice. During the decades of her work, Ms Alexeeva was persecuted and threatened, she lost her employment and she had to leave her country in order to continue to speak out about human rights violations in the Soviet Union. Today she chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group, an organisation that often faces a hostile environment as a free-thinking NGO, but nonetheless continues to denounce human rights violations and offers help to victims. I am honoured to see Ms Alexeeva in this hemicycle today, and I applaud her life-long commitment.”
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.
Representatives of the two other shortlisted nominees – Women for Afghan Women and The Youth Initiative for Human Rights – also received diplomas during the ceremony. “All three nominees merit our highest consideration,” the President said.
Note to editors
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, to reward outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. 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.
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.
The first Václav Havel Prize was awarded in 2013 to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski. The Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli won the Prize in 2014.