October 27, 2005 Print This | Email This     

Cuban Women's Group Awarded European Parliament's Sakharov Prize

Prize also awarded to press freedom group, Nigerian human-rights lawyer

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The "Women in White" (Damas de Blanco) opposition movement, which consists of wives and other close female relatives of imprisoned Cuban dissidents, has been named one of the three winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize for the promotion of freedom of thought.

In an October 26 statement, the European Parliament, which awards the prize annually, said the group of Cuban women has been protesting peacefully every Sunday since 2004 against the continued detention of their husbands and sons, who are political dissidents in Cuba.  The women wear white as a symbol of peace and the innocence of those imprisoned.

The prize is named after a former Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov, and recognizes achievement in the field of human rights, protecting minorities, promoting international cooperation and the development of democracy and the rule of law.

The award comes with $60,341 (50,000 euros) in prize money.

The two other 2005 winners of the prize are the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders, and Hauwa Ibrahim, a leading Nigerian human-rights lawyer.

Reporters Without Borders campaigns for press freedom throughout the world.  It also champions the protection of journalists and other media professionals from censorship or harassment.  The group said it was dedicating its award "to the 110 journalists throughout the world who are currently in prison."

Reporters Without Borders also said it was "moved" to have been named a co-recipient of the award with Cuba's Women in White because one of Women in White's members is the wife of Cuban correspondent Ricardo González, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Cuba.

The repression against Cuban independent journalists also is reflected in the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- 2004.  That document, released February 28, says the Cuban government strictly censors news and information and limits the distribution of foreign publications.  (The Cuba section of the report is available on the State Department Web site.)

Reporters Without Borders, celebrating in 2005 the 20th anniversary of its founding, says its mission of protecting press freedom comes with the realization that one-third of all countries in the world still do not have a free media.

Nigeria's Ibrahim represents women who face being stoned to death for adultery and young people facing amputation for theft under Sharia law (Islamic law).

The first Sakharov Prize was awarded in 1988 to South Africa's Nelson Mandela and the late Soviet dissident, Anatoli Marchenko. The Cuban pro-democracy campaigner Oswaldo Payá won the prize in 2002.

Additional information about the three Sakharov winners is available on the European Parliament's Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)