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Focus on womens’ rights as three candidates shortlisted for the 2020 Václav Havel Prize

Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

The selection panel of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which rewards outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond, has today announced the shortlist for the 2020 Prize, with all three nominees involved in promoting women’s rights or gender equality.

Meeting today by teleconference, the panel – made up of independent figures from the world of human rights and chaired by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Rik Daems – decided to shortlist the following three nominees, in alphabetical order:

Loujain Alhathloul (Saudi Arabia)

The nominee is one of the leaders of the Saudi feminist movement. Ms Alhathloul is a prominent womens’ rights activist known for defying the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and for opposing the Saudi male guardianship system. She has been detained on several occasions, sentenced and has been in prison since 2018.

Nuns of the Drukpa Order (Nepal)

The nominee is a group of young Buddhist nuns, promoting gender equality, environmental sustainability and intercultural tolerance in their home villages in the Himalayas. They are known for their delivery of supplies to hard-to-reach villages after an earthquake struck Kathmandu in 2015. The Nuns of the Drukpa Order have also taught self-defence classes for women and biked over 20,000 kilometres to protest against the trafficking of women and girls.

Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of Congo)

The nominee is a Congolese human rights activist who has been documenting sexual abuse and acts of violence against women in Congo. She was instrumental in obtaining convictions of perpetrators who enlisted child soldiers and collected evidence of sexual slavery that led to further convictions, as well as obtaining the convictions of hundreds of perpetrators of sexual violence against women at national level. She has been threatened for her work on several occasions.

The overall winner of the 60,000-euro annual Prize is due to be announced at the opening of PACE’s spring plenary session on 19 April 2021. The usual timetable has been delayed by several months due to the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to thank all those who put forward nominations for the 2020 Prize in this unusual year,” said PACE President Rik Daems. “From a strong field, and after much discussion, we have chosen three excellent candidates who stand in the worthy tradition of Václav Havel himself. Selecting the final Prize winner will not be an easy task.”

“The women and men who work every day to uphold our rights deserve our profoundest gratitude and admiration,” he added. “Often at great personal cost, they hold governments to account and stand up for equal rights with courage and determination. They are on the front line of building a fairer and more just world, and we are all in their debt.”

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by PACE, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation. It consists of a sum of 60,000 euros, a trophy and a diploma.

Since 2013, the Prize has been awarded in turn to Ales Bialiatski (Belarus), Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan), Ludmilla Alexeeva (Russian Federation), Nadia Murad (Iraq), Murat Arslan (Turkey) and Oyub Titiev (Russian Federation).

Last year's Prize was awarded jointly to imprisoned Uyghur intellectual Ilham Tohti from China and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), which brings together young people from across the Balkans to promote reconciliation.