The European Prize for Human Rights has two winners this year. The prize was awarded jointly last week to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped save the life of more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II, and to Sergei Kovalyev, a Russian who staunchly opposes the war in Chechnya and has served as a human rights monitor there.
Wallenberg and Kovalyev were the two finalists. Initially, 71 candidates were proposed.
The honor is awarded every three years by the Council of Europe Committee of Minister to a person or a group of persons “who have worked to promote or defend human rights.”
The Council of Europe, which is based in Strasbourg, France, is composed of 34 states across Europe.
Wallenberg saved many Jews through the distribution of Swedish certificates of protection and by harboring them in houses with diplomatic status. He mysteriously disappeared near the end of the war, after he was to report to Soviet army headquarters in Budapest.
Sergei Kovalyev, a former commissioner on human rights in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, has denounced the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. During a visit to the Council of Europe in February, he asked for sanctions against Moscow.
Former laureates include Polish President Leach Walesa and the association of French doctors, Doctors Without Borders.