EU Freedom of Thought Prize Awarded to Congolese Doctor

By Lidia Louk, Epoch Times
October 21, 2014 Updated: October 21, 2014

BRUSSELS—The European Parliament announced Dr. Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. 

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said at the announcement on Tuesday that the vote for Mukwege was unanimous.

Mukwege is a 59-year-old gynecologist who founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC in 1998 to treat victims of sexual violence. At the time, war was raging in the country and sexual assault was widespread. Today, though the war has ended, there is still armed conflict in parts of the country, and Mukwege continues treating victims with serious injuries as a result of rape. 

Among the candidates for the Sakharov award this year was the Euromaidan movement, which began on Nov. 21, 2013, in the center of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. The movement led to impeachment of then-president Viktor Yanukovych in February this year and other political changes in the country.

Also a finalist this year was Leyla Yunus from Azerbaijan. She is a human rights activist and director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, a human rights organization. She is best known for helping victims of unlawful, forced evictions in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. She was jailed by local authorities on July 30 and remains in in prison.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded every year by the European Parliament. It was founded in 1988 to honor individuals and organizations standing up for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Last year’s laureate was Malala Yousafzai, a 13-year-old girl from Pakistan who championed girls rights to education. She was shot at point-blank range by the Taliban for her work, but later recovered and went on to win a Nobel Peace prize.