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2018 Sakharov Prize: Student debates in Galway, Cork and Dublin


The European Parliament Office in Ireland was delighted to organise debates on the Sakharov Prize nominees in conjunction with students of international human rights law masters programmes in NUIG, UCD and UCC.


Since 1988, in the spirit of Andrei Sakharov the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe. Previous winners have included Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai and this year’s Nobel prize winners, Denis Mukegwe and Nadia Murad.

In order to publicise the award and to promote debate on the individual human rights issues to which the prize relates, the European Parliament Office in Ireland organises annual debates on the nominees in partnership with various third-level institutions across the country.  This year,  debates took place in the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUIG Galway (4 October), UCD (8 October) and UCC (5 November).

The first debate to kick off this year’s series on 4 October was organsied by Anita Ferrara of the Irish Human Rights Centre in NUIG. The students cast their votes for Caesar, the code name of a former Syrian military photographer who smuggled more than 55,000 pictures out of Syria exposing the war atrocities.

In the debate organised by Dr Graham Finlay of the School of Politics and International Relations at UCD on 8 October, each Sakharov nominee was presented. The secret ballot initially resulted in a tie between Caesar and Dewayne Johnson, a former groundskeeper from the US who has just won a landmark case against Monsanto. Triggering a second vote, Caesar was voted the students to be worthy of winning the Sakharov prize for 2018.

Dr. Dug Cubie of UCC’s School of Law moderated the final debate in this year’s series of debates on 5 November. The students voted for NGO’s saving lives of migrants across the Mediterranean as most deserving of the prize.

In each university, consistently and across the board, the arguments made for each nominee were compelling, intelligent, passionate and, above all, well-researched. This made for exciting debate and dialogue between the students on what the true meaning behind selfless devotion to the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Winner of the 2018 Sakharov Prize

Oleg Senstov was announced as the winner of the 2018 Sakharov Prize on 25 October 2018. The official award ceremony took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December 2018. His cousin Natalya Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze received the award on behalf of Mr Sentsov, who is currently still imprisoned in Russia for “plotting terrorist acts” against the Russian de facto rule in Crimea.


Sakharov Prize 2018: discover the nominees
Sakharov Prize 2018: the finalists
Sakharov Prize 2018 goes to Oleg Sentsov