Veteran Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva today scooped the third Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, worth €60 000.
The prize honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights.
Alexeeva, 88, gave up a promising academic career to join the Soviet dissident movement and later, was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group.
Forced to emigrate to the US in 1977, Alexeeva returned to Russia in 1989 to continue her work, becoming President of the International Helsinki Foundation, before joining the Russian President’s Commission on Human Rights.
Presenting the trophy, PACE President Anne Brasseur, chair of the selection panel, said: “Ludmilla Alexeeva has inspired many generations of activists in Russia, but also abroad, to commit themselves to the struggle for justice. During the decades of her work, Alexeeva was persecuted and threatened, she lost her employment and she had to leave her country in order to continue to speak out about human rights violations in the Soviet Union.
“Today she chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group, an organisation that often faces a hostile environment as a free-thinking NGO, but nonetheless continues to denounce human rights violations and offers help to victims. I am honoured to see Ms Alexeeva in this hemicycle today, and I applaud her life-long commitment.”