Europe honours Sudanese lawyer

The European Parliament has taken a stand on the Darfur conflict, awarding its prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman.

Osman, who is from Darfur, won the e50,000 (£35,900) prize in recognition of the legal aid work that he has carried out on behalf of victims of the conflict.

Osman has worked alongside the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (Soat), successfully overturning judgments of death or amputation, while also being involved in a campaign to have rape made a war crime.

Speaking on 11 December to the plenary chamber at Strasbourg, Osman criticised the lack of rule of law in his home country. “None of the perpetrators has been brought to justice,” he said. “All perpetrators are beyond the reach of domestic justice. The conflict is one which is marked by a culture of total impunity.”

He called on foreign governments to support the work of the International Criminal Court. “There can never be a lasting peace in the region without justice,” he said. Osman is no stranger to the horrors of the conflict. He has been tortured and was detained without charge or trial for seven months in 2004. Members of his family have been tortured, killed and evicted from their homes.

This is not the first time the prize has gone to a practising lawyer. Nigerian lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim won in 2005. At great personal risk, she defended women condemned to death by stoning for adultery.