The Council of Europe has awarded its prestigious annual human rights award to imprisoned Uighur activist Ilham Tohti. It has also jointly honored the Balkan-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Monday jointly awarded its human rights prize to Chinese Uighur public intellectual Ilham Tohti and the Balkan-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR).
“In honoring them, we also send a message of hope to the millions of people they represent and for whom they work: human rights have no frontiers,” PACE president Liliane Maury Pasquier said during a prize-giving ceremony.
Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative receives the Prize on behalf of Mr Tohti, who has been in prison in China since 2014: “Today’s prize honours one person, but it also recognises a whole population in giving the entire #Uyghur people a voice.”
Ivan Djuric receives the #HavelPrize on behalf of @YIHR_Croatia @YIHRSerbia @YIHRKosovo @YIHRBiH and http://yihr.me http://yihr.org with pride, but warns: “Don’t play deaf to the sound of war drums from the Balkans… we’re not strangers, we’re Europeans.”
The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award — named after the famed former playwright, president of the Czech Republic and democracy activist — carries a prize of €60,000 ($65,500).
Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, who represented Tohti at the event, vowed to continue efforts to free the Uighur economist, who was jailed for life in 2014 by a Chinese court on charges of inciting separatism.
The YIHR in the Balkans, founded in 2003, describes itself as a group campaigning for justice, equality, democracy and peace; it places particular importance on building cooperation between young activists from different countries and communities in the Balkans.
“Don’t play deaf to the sound of war drums from the Balkans,” warned Ivan Djuric, Serbian YIHR director, on accepting the prize. “We’re not strangers; we’re Europeans.”
The 2019 shortlist also included Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov.
Last year’s prize went to Russian activist Oyub Titiev. The 62-year-old heads the Memorial Human Rights Center in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Memorial is the last influential human rights organization still active in the troubled Russian republic in the North Caucasus.
The Council of Europe has been awarding the prize since 2013.