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Commissioner Hammarberg: Andrei Sakharov still an inspiration for human rights activists


Strasbourg, 14/12/2009 – "The example and thoughts of Andrei Sakharov remain acutely relevant," said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his Viewpoint published today, twenty years after Andrei Sakharov's death on December 14, 1989. "Sakharov presented a universal vision for a peaceful and progressive society based on human rights standards." Nobel Peace Prize winner and physicist Andrei Sakharov was a leading human rights activist in the Soviet Union.

He inspired the dissident movement through his example and with his writings. His principled messages contributed to the nonviolent, revolutionary changes of 1989.

He died in the midst of those upheavals but had set an example which continues to influence the work for justice and human rights.

"The struggle for human rights is also a real everyday struggle for peace and the future of humanity", wrote Sakharov in an article in 1974. He worked tirelessly and when his appeals went unheard he became involved in direct action. He travelled long distances to monitor trials and, when turned away from the court room, he demonstrated outside. He went on hunger strike on several occasions.

Thomas Hammarberg describes the work of Andrei Sakharov, that started with his appeals for a ban on all nuclear tests, as a three decade long campaign for reason. "Andrei Sakharov became a voice of moral conscience which could not be silenced even by the repressive machine of a super power. Andrei Sakharov was a unique person of whom both Russia and Europe should be proud."

Commissioner Hammarberg is participating in the conference "Andrei Sakharov's Ideas Today" which is held in Moscow on 14-15 December. The conference is arranged by the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center with the support of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Information Office of the Council of Europe in Moscow.

In his speech the Commissioner quoted Andrei Sakharov: "Peace, progress, human rights – these three goals are insolubly linked to one another: it is impossible to achieve one of these goals if the other two are ignored."

A video on Andrei Sakharov has also been released for this occasion and is available on the Commissioner's website.

Read the viewpoint
More about the conference: in English; in Russian