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Tonhalle Düsseldorf’s Human Rights Prize Announces 2024 Winner

The historian and activist Sergej Lukaschewski has received the award and a €10,000 cash prize


Established in 2016 by Adam Fischer (principal conductor of the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra and artistic advisor to the Tonhalle since 2015), the annual Tonhalle Human Rights Prize honors a person or organization particularly committed to human rights. 

The 2024 recipient of the prize is Sergei Lukashevsky, a historian and human rights activist, who has served as an important voice of Russian intellectuals and war critics abroad. 

Now based in Berlin, Lukashevsky was head of the Moscow Sakharov Center, which promoted democracy and human rights in Russia, for 15 years until it was dissolved in August 2023 by Russian authorities, who declared it a “foreign agent.” 

Previously, he worked for the human rights organizations Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group, and served as an advisor to the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, among others. 

The 48-year-old is currently editor-in-chief of Radio Sakharov, a radio and podcast platform for everyone who believes in the value of intellectual freedom. The program has operated with the Berlin research center CORRECTIV since May 2023. 

Endowed with €10,000, the Tonhalle Human Rights Prize is donated by members of the Circle of Friends and the Stadtsparkasse Düsseldorf. Lukashevsky will receive the prize in person at the award ceremony and human rights concert in the Tonhalle on January 28, 2024. 

At the ceremony, the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra and choir of the Municipal Music Association will perform works by Mozart and Haydn. Featured soloists will include Reka Kristóf, Anna Harvey, David Fischer, and Luke Stoker.

“In Sergei Lukashevsky, we are honoring a man who has spent practically his entire professional life working for human and civil rights, despite having to endure numerous setbacks in his work,” Fischer said in the press release

“Almost all the institutions he has worked for in recent years — be it the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization, or the Russian organization Memorial, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 — have now been banned by the Russian authorities.

“I deeply admire the fact that Sergei Lukashevsky is not discouraged by this and continues to stand up for his convictions — even after he was forced to leave his home country,” he added. “Even in exile in Germany, he does not give up the fight and gives other people hope.”

Previous prize winners have included Praxis ohne Grenzen in Bad Segeberg (Practice Without Limits) organization, climate activists from Fridays for Future Germany, the Turkish human rights activist Osman Kavala, and the Iranian activist Sanaz Azimipour.

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