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Freedom House congratulates Memorial on human rights award

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Washington, December 16, 2009 - Freedom House congratulates Oleg Orlov, Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Sergei Kovalev of human rights group Memorial on winning the 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded by the European Parliament to "individuals or international organisations who - like Sakharov - have distinguished themselves in the struggle for human rights."

"It is not a happy moment for Russia that those who are monitoring human rights are receiving awards for their bravery in documenting and publicizing the truth," said Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Executive Director of Freedom House. "These three knew and worked with Andrei Sakharov in an earlier period of repression in Russia. He would be proud that they have continued the struggle and dismayed by the need to do so twenty years on."

Founded in 1988, Memorial campaigns for the protection of basic human rights in states such as Russia, Ukraine and the South Caucasus. After the murder of Memorial researcher Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya earlier this year, the organization was obliged to temporarily suspend its activities in the North Caucasus although they have since returned. Sergei Kovalev dedicated the award to Natalya Estemirova and all other human rights defenders who have lost their lives in pursuit of these ends.

"This award is a timely acknowledgement of both Oleg Orlov's personal courage and commitment as well as Memorial's indispensable work in the North Caucuses," said Ella Asoyan, Program Officer with the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasas. "We commend Memorial for returning to Chechnya, despite continued threat, and their bravery should serve as a source of inspiration to others."

Russia is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

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