Three candidates shortlisted for the 2023 Václav Havel Prize
Osman KAVALA is a Turkish businessman, human rights defender, philanthropist and political prisoner. He has been a supporter of human rights organisations and a pillar of Turkish civil society since the early 1990s. He was arrested in October 2017, charged with attempting to subvert the government and constitutional order in connection with anti-government protests and held for an extended period without conviction or due process. He was acquitted of the charges in 2020. However, he never left custody and was arrested again, this time for allegedly attempting a coup. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the detention of Osman Kavala is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and has called for his immediate release. Although a Turkish court acquitted him of all charges, he remains in prison for the sixth year. On 25 April 2022 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a high security facility, the harshest sentence in Turkish law since the abolition of the death penalty.
Justyna WYDRZYŃSKA is a lawyer, doula and activist fighting for women's rights in Poland. In 2006, she co-founded Abortion Dream Team, an organization that offers counselling on safe abortion. In 2022 she became the first activist to be charged with illegally facilitating an abortion, a crime that in Poland punishable by up to three years in prison. On 1 February 2023, at the invitation of the political group Renew Europe, she delivered a speech at the European Parliament on the situation surrounding abortion in Poland. A month later Wydrzyńska was sentenced by a district court to eight months of community service.
Yevhen ZACHAROV has been defending human rights in Ukraine and other post-Soviet republics for more than 50 years. He reports on repression and helps to promote justice and compensation for political prisoners. Zacharov is the founder of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. In 2022 he founded the organization Tribunal for Putin, which collects, verifies and records evidence of war crimes.