National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been moved to the short-list of finalists for this year's prestigious international human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Parliament announced this week.
If selected, Snowden would join the ranks of previous winners including Nelson Mandela, a group of Arab Spring Activists and Aung San Suu Kyi, who have all been awarded the prize for their contributions to human rights.
This year's winner will be announced on October 10, 2013 by the EP.
On Monday, Snowden addressed a hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs through a written statement orated by Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights Director of the Government Accountability Project.
"The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time," Snowden began.
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people but only by the people after full, informed and fearless debate.
Snowden was nominated by a bloc of Green party politicians in the European Parliament for leaking details of the NSA's vast dragnet surveillance practices that many argue have done untold damage to privacy and civil liberties around the word. The leaks have been reported in an ongoing series of articles at The Guardian newspaper among other outlets that have picked up the story.
"Being named a finalist for the Sakharov Prize befits Mr. Snowden," stated Beatrice Edwards, Executive and International Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP). "At tremendous personal cost, Snowden and Sakharov stood up to human-rights abuses by their own country against its own people and we salute them both."
Other finalists this year include a group of Belarusian political dissidents jailed in 2010 for protesting against the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head for demanding education for girls.