Sunday, September 13, 2015

Somewhat ironic

Every year around this time the European Parliament announces its nominees for the Sakharov Prize, so-called because of the great scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. On their own account
The prize is awarded every year to honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.The nominations will be formally presented on Monday 28 September during a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee. The winner will be announced in October.
Who was nominated this year? Mostly the names cannot be faulted though, clearly, we know more about some of them than about others.

From the Middle East we have Raif Badawi, a blogger who is in prison in Saudi Arabia, still under threat of inhumane punishment though the flogging after the first portion has been postponed time after time. As a blogger in a country where I can write what I want without worrying about the police breaking down my door at dawn I feel particularly for my colleagues in less fortunate circumstances.

From the Horn of Africa we have Edna Adan Ismail, a Somali activist for the abolition of female genital mutilation and a former government minister. While I am not particularly interested in former or present government ministers in that part of the world, I do find activists for the abolition of female genital mutilation in a country where its prevalence is extremely high and where it is dangerous to speak up against it worthy of support and highly admirable.

I know less about Venezuela but find it not unreasonable to have Political prisoners in Venezuale as as well as the democratic opposition in Venezuela embodied by the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática among the nominees.

So we come to two nominees about whom I know a great deal and who can be said to represent many other people, murdered or imprisoned in Russia or kidnapped from Ukraine and the Baltic States; Boris Nemtsov, the former Leader of the Russian opposition, murdered in full view of the Kremlin and Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian military pilot and a member of the Verkhovna Rada and of Ukraine’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who was captured on 18 June 2014 and illegally transferred to Russia.

So we come to the West where the nominees are of a lesser calibre and face slightly lower levels of danger: Antoine Deltour, a former Price Waterhouse Coopers auditor who revealed secret tax rulings with multinational companies in Luxembourg to journalists and a man who seems to be on the side of the taxman; and Stéphanie Gibaud who uncovered tax evasion and money laundering by UBS AG, also apparently more interested in the rights of the tax collector than anything else.

And finally, the nomination that made me laugh, the one that has made nonsense of the whole effort: Edward Snowden, the man whose love of liberty is so high that he has decided to live in Russia, the country two of whose victims have been nominated to represent, as I said above, many others.

My own prediction that this year the prize will go to Boris Nemtsov, who is dead and is, therefore, uncontroversial. As it happens, his daughter Zhanna, a journalist, has been hounded out of Russia because of the statements she made about her father's murder, can accept it in his name. That is what I suspect will happen. But one can never tell. It could go to Edward Snowden, which will be highly entertaining.

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