It is estimated that over 400,000 people have died in Darfur. Despite numerous UN resolutions, there is no peace in the region - which is about the size of France. MEPs awarded you this prize for your commitment to democracy, dialogue and rule of law. Will it make a difference to your work against injustice in Darfur?
- SMO: I am really glad about this recognition of the work of us human rights defenders in Sudan, and Darfur in particular. We are working in a hostile environment, under perpetual danger of being intimidated, arrested, detained and tortured. Still I think there is always an ethical and moral responsibility to stand with the people.
There is a real human suffering in Darfur. For me as a lawyer it is genocide. More than 400,000 people have died and more than 2000 villages have been erased. Rape is used as a weapon of war; young girls, as young as 8, are being assaulted. Many rapes take place in front of the victims' male relatives to humiliate them.
Despite serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, there is no justice. There is an atmosphere of total impunity; all the perpetrators are still beyond the reach of justice. We talk about impunity because our judicial system is incompetent and unwilling to provide justice.
Your country is still in the midst of a violent conflict, what do you think are the keys to peace and reconciliation in Darfur?
- SMO: There will never be peace in Darfur and Sudan without justice. There is no peace without justice. Justice is a very important and basic element of peace, and cannot be compromised for any political reasons.
In the south of Sudan more than 2 million people were killed and about 4 million have been displaced. Justice is not for the purposes of revenge; it is for a lasting peace and a possible reconciliation. The nature of the atrocities will never allow the victims and survivors to forget about their suffering. This is why justice is important.
After a long silence, the international community has apparently "woken up". Could Europe do more for Darfur and what steps in particular are needed?
- SMO: For many victims and survivors steps by the international community were too slow. Many UN Security Council resolutions have never been (effectively) implemented. Nevertheless, it is the international community – Europe, America, Canada – that made it possible for more than 5 million people to be alive today through humanitarian assistance.
People of Europe brought to victims things to keep them alive, but it is not enough. We want them to think about protecting the lives perishing daily, and help the innocent to go back to their homes with safety and dignity. It is not acceptable to leave people in the camps for more than four years now. We want to see more concern from Europe, rallies for solidarity with the people of Darfur, like in the US.
We want Europe to put pressure on the government of Sudan to allow deployment of hybrid forces. Europe has responsibility to send troops to Darfur. I will be calling on the leaders of Europe to think about their moral, ethical and legal responsibility to protect the lives of people and to prevent the government from destroying our communities.
How will this human rights prize, previously awarded also to freedom fighter and President Nelson Mandela, impact on your work?
- SMO: It is an incredible honour to receive the same prize that Nelson Mandela, the legend, received. I am determined to meet him one day. It is amazing that the European Parliament decided to award him the prize and now to me. The fact that other people will know what I did gives me courage and determination. People have started to realize that this prize is not only for me, but also for Darfur, Sudan and Africa as well.
Sakharov - animated