Denis Mukwege. Photo copyright Internaz
Rape is only too often used as a weapon during many armed conflicts around the world and Denis Mukwege has made it his life's mission to help the victims of sexual violence. Because of his sterling work, the European Parliament has decided to award him the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2014.
The 59-year-old gynaecologist founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1998, when a war took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today he still treats victims of sexual violence who have sustained serious injuries in the hospital.
The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo might be officially over, but the armed conflict still continues in the eastern part of the country and so do attacks against civilians, including gang rapes. Despite travelling regularly abroad to advocate women's rights and managing Panzi Hospital, Mukwege continues to see patients and perform surgery two days a week.
Denis Mukwege (right) shows his hospital to actress Charlize Theron. Photo copyright United Nations
The announcement of Mukwege being the 2014 laureate of the Sakharov Prize was made on 21 October. Mukwege will be invited to Strasbourg on 26 November to receive the award during the plenary session.
EP President Martin Schulz also paid tribute to the other two finalists: the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine and imprisoned Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus. Representatives of Euromaidan will be invited to join the award ceremony in November, while the Parliament will also send a delegation with representatives from all political groups to Azerbaijan to meet and support Yunus in her fight for democracy and freedom in her country.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year the prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzaï, the Pakistani campaigner for girls' education.
Supporting human rights
The European Parliament takes all human rights violations seriously, no matter where they take place. MEPs regularly highlight abuses, help monitor elections around the world, ensure that human rights are protected in the EU's external economic and trade agreements, and award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought every year.