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Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

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

Václav Havel Prize 2020

Due to the COVID19 pandemic and the related sanitary situation in Europe – the procedure leading to the selection of the laureat of the Prize has had to be postponed (see calendar on the right)

The Prize aims to reward "outstanding civil society action in defending human rights in Europe and beyond".

Candidates should have made a difference to the human rights situation of a given group, been instrumental in uncovering systemic violations on a large scale or have mobilised public opinion or the international community for a given cause.

The Prize, consisting of a sum of €60,000, a trophy and a diploma, is awarded annually by the Parliamentary Assembly, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation. It will be awarded on 25 January 2021 in Strasbourg.

Nominations should be sent to the Parliamentary Assembly by e-mail to: hrprize.pace@coe.int, using the form available on the Prize website. They should be signed by at least five sponsors and submitted in either English or French.

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

Last year the Prize was awarded jointly to 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.

Timetable for 2021

  • 15 January 2021: call for candidates;
  • April 2021: Jury meeting to designate the winner of the 2020 Prize;
  • 19 April 2021: Award ceremony for the 2020 Prize at the Council of Europe;
  • 30 April 2021: deadline for reception of candidatures for the edition of the Prize 2021;
  • September 2021 (date tbc): Award Ceremony of the 2021 Prize at the Council of Europe;
  • September/October 2021 (date tbc): Conference in Prague in honour of the laureate of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize;

Submission of nominations

Nominations for the Prize should be addressed to the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly and be signed by at least five sponsors, other than the nominee, on the special form to be found at the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize website.

Nominations shall provide details of the nominee's work in the defence of human rights and specify the reasons why the nominee's work can be considered to be outstanding. Relevant supporting documents should be provided. Nominations should be submitted in either of the two official languages of the Council of Europe, English or French.

Who can be nominated?

Individuals or non-governmental institutions active in the defence of human rights can be nominated for the Prize.

The Selection Panel

The Selection Panel of the Prize is composed of the President of the Assembly (or a person designated by him/her) and six independent persons (who cannot be current members of the Assembly) with recognised moral standing in the field of human rights.

The Panel will examine the nominations, submit a shortlist of three nominees to the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly for information and, subsequently, designate the Prizewinner for the year in question.

Three Panel members are appointed by the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly and three Panel members by the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation. The six independent experts are appointed for a two-year period, renewable twice.

The Panel is chaired by the President of the Assembly or the person designated by him/her.

The Award Ceremony

The Prize is awarded at a ceremony which takes place in Strasbourg on the Monday of the Autumn Session of the Parliamentary Assembly, usually in late September or early October.

The name of the Prizewinner is announced by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The former Czech First Lady, Dagmar Havlova, is invited to honour the ceremony with her presence.

Conference in honour of the Prizewinner

The Václav Havel Library will organise, at a later date, an international conference in Prague in honour of the Prizewinner.