The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) says it has awarded the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize jointly to Uyghur scholar and rights activist Ilham Tohti and the Balkan-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR).
PACE said in a statement after a live broadcast on September 30 that actions taken by the two prizewinners carry "a message of hope for all those who aspire to build a better world, one where the dignity, rights, and basic liberties of everyone are respected and guaranteed."
Tohti is an advocate for China's Uyghur Muslim minority who was sentenced to life in prison by Beijing in 2014 on separatism charges. YIHR is a Balkan-based group promoting reconciliation through building connections between young people from different ethnic groups, regions, and countries.
"Today, as we show our recognition and support for them, we also send a message of hope to the millions of people they represent and for whom they work. Human rights have no frontiers," PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier said.
Imprisoned Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov was also on the shortlist for the award this year.
The Havel Prize, named after the famed former Czech statesman and democracy activist who died in 2011, was established in 2013 and honors outstanding work in defense of human rights. The prize was endowed with 60,000 euros ($65,640).
Since 2013, the Havel Prize has been awarded in turn to Ales Byalyatski (Belarus), Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan), Lyudmila Aleksyeva (Russian Federation), Nadia Murad (Iraq) and Murat Arslan (Turkey).
Last year's winner was Chechen activists Oyub Titiyev, the head of the Grozny office of the Memorial Human Rights Center in Chechnya, who at the time was is in jail and on trial on what he said was a fabricated drug-possession charge.
Titiyev was released on parole in June.