Sakharov Prize Community appeal to urgently release all prisoners of conscience in view of the Covid-19 pandemic

We, the undersigned Laureates of the Sakharov Prize Award and Members of the European Parliament united in a Sakharov Prize Community, launch an urgent appeal for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, including all Sakharov Prize Laureates, given the Covid-19 pandemic.

We share the concerns of UNSG Antonio Guterres that the Covid-19 pandemic is a health, social and economic crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis as well. We support his resolve that human rights cannot be an afterthought in times of crisis and that no one should be left behind. We are deeply concerned that many governments abuse the crisis to increase repression against opposition and human rights defenders.

In the current global health crisis, those deprived of their liberty are among the most vulnerable to contagion. Detention facilities in many countries have unsanitary conditions and do not provide sufficient means for maintaining personal hygiene. Overcrowded confined spaces, lack of ventilation, clean food and water, restricted access to healthcare are risks that facilitate the spread of diseases.

We welcome reports that, in line with UN recommendations, some governments have taken measures to reduce prison overcrowding by pardoning prisoners and inmates of detention centres and releasing them early.

We are, however, greatly disappointed that in too many cases including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela these releases have excluded prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, thus exposing them deliberately to the risk of a deadly disease. This ignores clear UN Covid-19 guidance related to people in detention. We remind those states of their legal obligation, under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to take any necessary measures to prevent such treatments in any territory under their jurisdiction and we urge them to fulfil their commitments.

We strongly call upon all governments to release urgently every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including human rights defenders and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views. Cases such as those of Abdullah al-Hamid, founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, and of Shadi Habash, Egyptian filmmaker, both died of health problems in jail over the last couple of weeks should not happen again.

With regard to our jailed fellow Sakharov Prize Laureates, we call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to release immediately human rights lawyer and Sakharov Prize Laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh.

We reiterate the European Parliament’s calls for the immediate release of Sakharov Prize Laureate Ilham Tohti in China and of the political prisoners of Sakharov Prize Laureate Democratic Opposition in Venezuela.

We remain very concerned about the health situation of Sakharov Prize Laureate Raif Badawi and appeal to the Saudi authorities to grant him a pardon on medical grounds.

Sakharov Prize laureates
2019 Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, represented by his daughter Jewher Ilham
2018 Oleg Sentsov
2017 Democratic Opposition in Venezuela, represented by Leopoldo López, Lorent Saleh, Yon Goicoechea, and Isadora Zubillaga
2016 Nadia Murad Basee Taha
2016 Lamya Haji Bashar Taha
2014 Denis Mukwege
2010 Guillermo Fariñas
2009 Memorial, represented by Oleg Orlov and Sergei Kovalev
2005 Ladies in White, represented by Berta Soler
2005 Hauwa Ibrahim
2005 Reporters Without Borders
2001 Nurit Peled-Elhanan
1996 Wei Jingsheng
1993 Oslobođenje

Members of the European Parliament

  1. HAUTALA Heidi
  2. ARENA Maria
  3. ANGEL Marc
  4. BENIFEI Brando
  5. BEER Nicola
  7. BLOSS Michael
  8. BRICMONT Saskia
  9. BURKHARDT Delara
  10. BÜTIKOFER Reinhard Hans
  11. CARVALHAIS Isabel
  13. CUFFE Ciaran
  14. DE SUTTER Petra
  15. DELBOS-CORFIELD Gwendoline
  16. DONATH Anna
  17. DURAND Pascal
  18. GEORGOULIS Alexis
  19. GLUCKSMANN Raphaël
  20. GUILLAUME Sylvie
  21. GUSMÃO José
  22. GUTELAND Jytte
  23. HAHN Svenja Ilona
  24. INCIR Evin
  25. JOVEVA Irena
  26. KOKKALIS Petros