DR Congo doctor Denis Mukwege wins Sakharov prize

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Denis Mukwege. Photo: February 2014Image source, AP
Image caption,
Denis Mukwege have been helping thousands of victims of sexual violence in the DR Congo

A doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo has won Europe's top human rights prize for helping thousands of gang rape victims in the country.

Denis Mukwege was announced the winner of the Sakharov prize by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The 59-year-old gynaecologist told the BBC the prize would make rape survivors in DR Congo "feel they are not alone".

He set up the Panzi hospital in eastern DR Congo in 1999 to treat women subjected to horrific sexual violence.

Dr Mukwege will collect the 50,000 euros (£39,400; $63,600) prize next month.

Ukraine protest group Euromaidan and Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus came second and third respectively.

Two years ago, Dr Mukwege survived an assassination attempt after condemning the continued use of sexual violence in DR Congo by forces fighting to control the country's vast mineral wealth.

In a BBC Newsday interview, he said the prize was in recognition of the more than 30,000 rape survivors treated at the hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu over the last 16 years.

"It was wonderful to see the world stand up and take care of them," he said.

Women in eastern DR Congo continued to be raped in front of their husbands and children to "dehumanise" them and "destroy" families, he said.

"Today, we are treating 10 cases per day and this is horrible," Dr Mukwege told the BBC.

The Sakharov prize - named after famous Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov - is awarded each year for the promotion of human rights and democracy around the world.

Last year, it was awarded to Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai.

Previous winners of the prestigious prize included Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.