Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski talks to the media as he receives the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law during a ceremony in Minsk, Belarus, 11 December 2019. EFE/EPA/FILE/TATYANA ZENKOVICH

Nobel peace awards honors rights defenders in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine

Copenhagen, Oct 7 (EFE).- The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Belarusian individual, a Russian organization and a Ukrainian platform all dedicated to human rights and the advocacy of civil liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

Jailed activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian NGO Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties have “for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Nobel committee said.

YouTube player

“They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy,” the committee, led by Berit Reiss-Andersen, said.

Bialiatski was one of the founders of the pro-democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s and “has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country.”

A signboard reading ‘The society of Memorial’ at the entrance to the head office of the Moscow Memorial Human Rights Center, in Moscow, Russia, 23 November 2021. EFE/EPA/FILE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

In 1996, Bialiatski founded the platform Viasna to assist political prisoners and their families.

Jailed between 2011-14, he was arrested again in 2020 during widespread protests against the authoritarian government of Alexandr Lukashenko and has since been held in detention without trial.

“Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” the Nobel committee said.

Co-founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and Svetlana Gannushkina in 1987 to document Soviet crimes, Memorial evolved to become Russia’s largest human rights organizations.

“Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities,” the Nobel committee said.

“When civil society must give way to autocracy and dictatorship, peace is often the next victim.” During the Chechen wars, Memorial gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the civilian population by Russian and pro-Russian forces.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Nobel Committee, announces the winners of this year’s peace prize laureate at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, 07 October 2022. EFE/EPA/HEIKO JUNGE

“In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed because of this work.”
Memorial was liquidated by Russian authorities in 2021, although its head Yan Rachinsky has vowed the platform would continue its work.

The second organization honored with the Nobel Peace Prize Friday was the Center for Civil Liberties, which advocated for Ukraine to pursue full democratic status.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the platform has reported and documented alleged war crimes committed by Moscow’s troops. EFE