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Tags: human rights | campaigners | nobel peace prize

Human Rights Campaigners of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine Win Nobel Peace Prize

ales belyatski speaks with his lawyer as he stands in a cage during a court session
Ales Bialiatski, the jailed leader of Vesna, the most prominent human rights group in Belarus, speaks with his lawyer as he stands in a cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 24, 2011. (Sergei Grits/AP)

Friday, 07 October 2022 06:13 AM EDT

Jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski has won won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, according to the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties.

Bialiatski won for highlighting the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.

The prize will be seen by many as a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is celebrating his 70th birthday on Friday, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, making it one of the most politically contentious in decades.

The award, the first since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, has echoes of the Cold War era, when prominent Soviet dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn won Nobels for peace or literature.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine," said Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.

She called on Belarus to release Bialiatski from prison and said the prize was not against Putin.

"We always give the prize for something and to something and not against someone," she told reporters.

Belarusian security police in July last year raided offices and homes of lawyers and human rights activists, detaining Bialiatski and others in a new crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko.

Authorities had moved to shut down nonstate media outlets and human right groups after mass protests the previous August against a presidential election the opposition said was rigged.

"The [Nobel] Committee is sending a message that political freedoms, human rights and active civil society are part of peace," Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Reuters.

The prize will boost morale for Bialiatski and strengthen the hand of the Center for Civil Liberties, an independent Ukrainian human rights organization, which is also focused on fighting corruption, he said.

"Although Memorial has been closed in Russia, it lives on as an idea that it's right to criticize power and that facts and history matter," Smith added.

Memorial said on Friday that winning the award was recognition of its human rights work and of colleagues who continue to suffer "unspeakable attacks and reprisals" in Russia.

Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties said on Friday it was proud to win.

"Morning with good news. We are proud," it wrote on Twitter.

The award was also recognition for the whole Belarusian people in standing up to Lukashenko, opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said.

He told Reuters that Bialiatski was jailed in "inhumane" conditions and he hoped the prize would lead to his release.

"That's a huge sign of recognition for the Belarusian people, because the Belarusian people deserves it for their bravery in countering the tyranny of Lukashenko .... they deserve all the prizes in the world," said Viacorka, chief of staff to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is a close friend of Bialiatski.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or about $900,000, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

"The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.

"They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy."

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
Jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski has won won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, according to the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties.
human rights, campaigners, nobel peace prize
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2022-13-07
Friday, 07 October 2022 06:13 AM
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