Denis Mukwege, a doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has won this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for helping thousands of gang rape victims in the country.
The award was instituted by the European Parliament, and the laureate for 2014 was selected by EP President Martin Schulz and the political group leaders.
Announcing Europe’s top human rights prize Tuesday, Schulz said: “The Conference of Presidents decided unanimously to award Dr Denis Mukwege from Democratic Republic of Congo the Sakharov Prize for his fight for protection especially of women.”
Ukraine protest group Euromaidan and Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus were strong contenders for the coveted award.
Schulz said it wasn’t a decision against Euromaidan and paid tribute to the other finalists, saying the representatives of Euromaidan will be invited to join the award ceremony in November and that the Parliament will immediately send a delegation with representatives from all political groups to Azerbaijan to meet and to support Leyla Yunus in her fight for democracy and freedom in her country.
The 59-year-old gynecologist founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1998, when a war took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he still treats victims of sexual violence who have sustained serious injuries.
The war in DR Congo is officially over, but the armed conflict still continues in the eastern part of the country and so do attacks against civilians, including gang rapes. Despite traveling regularly abroad to advocate women’s rights and managing Panzi Hospital, Mukwege continues to see patients and perform surgery two days a week. He was nominated by the S&D and ALDE political groups and European Parliament member Barbara Lochbihler.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was set up in 1988 to honor individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year the prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzaï, the Pakistani campaigner for girls’ education, who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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