UCC students debate nominees for the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2013

In conjunction with the European Parliament Office in Ireland, students of international human rights law in UCC debated and voted on the nominees for the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Monday 30 September, thus drawing attention to the individual human rights issues to which the prize related. This public event took place in the Moot Court room in the Faculty of Law, in conjunction with the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (CCJHR). This was the second time in which such an event had taken place in UCC.

As part of the event, individual nominees from among those submitted to the Parliament by political groups or 40 MEPS were represented by the students, who each gave a short presentation, and argued the case for the award to be given to “their” nominee.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened for a lively debate between all participants, with a series of questions being posed to each team of students regarding the merits of specific nominees and on the criteria for their selection.

The audience was then asked to vote on which of the nominees to recommend for the 2013 Sakharov Prize.

The results of this vote by secret ballot were as follows:

• Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega, (Ethiopia): 2 votes
• Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mykola Statkevich on behalf of all political prisoners in Belarus (Belarus): 0 votes
• Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Russia): 4 votes
• Edward Snowden (USA): 4 votes
• The “Standing Man” protests in Turkey (Turkey): 1 vote
• The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery (USA): 4 votes
• Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan): 5 votes

Malala Yousafzai was thus chosen as the 2013 winner of the vote by the UCC participants, with a joint second place for three other nominees: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Edward Snowden and the CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery.

The students taking part in the debate were all following an LLM course on International Human Rights Law. The team of students successfully putting the case for the winning candidate were: Christine Burbach, John Couglan and Marshall Alenyo.

Following the debate, the students expressed their appreciation of the event and the opportunity to research both individual human rights defenders and the specific violations of human rights that each nominee represented. There was a high level of debate and discussion on the nominees selected by the students, and each group comprehensively answered challenging questions as to why their nominee was most appropriate to be the 2013 European Parliament Sakharov Prize Laureate.

The organiser of the event was Dr Dug Cubie, in conjunction with Francis Jacobs of the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland, and with the support of Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights.

The students and Faculty also wish to convey their thanks to the European Parliament Office in Ireland, and to Francis Jacobs in particular, for facilitating this stimulating debate on seven worthy candidates for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2013.