The 2014 Rafto Prize was awarded to the Russian human rights organisation Agora, represented by its chair Pavel Chikov (36). The award is a recognition of their relentless and professional work defending human rights, including the right to a fair trial and other human rights in a Russia where organisations and individuals are subjected to increasing constraints from the country’s authorities.
'Following the work of Agora's lawyers in Russian courtrooms is as amusing and as scary as following acrobats performing their act above a never-ending sword-dance'
Agora is a countrywide association set up in 2005 by human rights organisations in the cities of Kazan, Cheboksary and Chita. It consists of 35 lawyers, who deal with cases concerning the abuse of power by authorities across most of Russia’s regions. Central to their work is the defence of activists, bloggers, journalists and NGOs against the unlawful actions of government agencies.
Pavel Chikov is a highly visible advocate of human rights in Russia. He has chaired Agora since the organisation was founded in 2005, and his main focus is on those who have suffered as a result of the authorities abusing their power. He has been involved in formulating the principles behind a reform of the Russian Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, he has published a number of articles on the reforming of Russian police and writes regularly for Forbes.ru, Gazeta.ru, Novaja Gazeta and Slon.ru.
Chikov sits on the President’s council on development of civil society and human rights, which is further proof of Agora’s wish and ability to enter into constructive dialogue with the authorities whenever possible. At a time when hopes for a more democratic Russia are beginning to fade, Agora’s fight for basic human rights is a vital safeguard for the rule of law.