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Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017 awarded to Murat Arslan

The fifth Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights – has been awarded to Turkish supporter of the independence of the judiciary Murat Arslan. 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).

In detention since 2016, Murat Arslan is a former Rapporteur of the Turkish Constitutional Court and President of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV). He is a staunch supporter of the independence of the judiciary.

The two other shortlisted nominees – the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an NGO which particularly focuses on access to justice and the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and Father Georg Sporschill (Austria), a Jesuit who has devoted his life to the care of the most vulnerable, notably children, also received diplomas during the ceremony.

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, and veteran Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva was the winner in 2015. Last year’s winner was Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad.