The Prize for Freedom is awarded annually by Liberal International to honor an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights and political freedoms. Recipients come from across the world and have fought on issues from women’s empowerment to establishing democracy.
In 1984 the Executive Committee agreed on its creations, the Prize for Freedom was to be given to ‘a well-known personality of liberal conviction who had made outstanding efforts for the defence of freedom and human rights during the year’.
The first Prize for Freedom was awarded in 1985 to Raúl Alfonsín, in recognition of his part in restoring democracy in Argentina.
In cases where the recipient was in prison and unable to receive the award professionally, for example the Cuban 1992 prizewinner Maria Elena Cruz Varela, this was especially in highlighting continuing abuses against freedom. President Lambsdorff even offered to travel to Cuba to award the Prize and speak to President Fidel Castro. Mrs Cruz Varela was finally released in 1993 and received the Prize in person in 1994.
One of the 1991 joint prize winners, Kenyan lawyer Gitobu Imanyara, was not permitted to leave Kenya to collect his award and so Lambsdorff travelled to Nairobi in early 1992 to present it to him.
In some cases, notably the Prizes given to Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1988 marking his commitment to East-West relations, to Irish President Mary Robinson in 1993 and to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, in 1994, the awards served to make a distinctly political point, going beyond the individual recipient.
In 2014, LI President Dr. Juli Minoves awarded the prize to Waris Dirie. Ms. Dirie is from Somalia and, as a former UN Special Ambassador and a political activist, has fought to raise awareness of the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM).
In 2016, the Prize was awarded to Saudi activist Raif Badawi, currently imprisoned under accuse of apostasy and “insulting Islam through electronic channels”, he was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes. His wife Ensaf Haidar received the Prize in his honour in Brussels.
You can find more information about the Prize for Freedom recipients here.