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In support of human rights defenders, the Nobel Peace Prize enters fully into the war in Ukraine

Nobel Peace Prize 2022 honors human rights defenders from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus


This year’s Nobel Peace Prize went fully into “playing” in the war in Ukraine and was awarded to human rights defenders from that country and its neighbors Russia and Belarus, a statement that, without directly naming them, criticizes the governments of those two countries on the day of the 70th birthday of the head of the Kremlin.

The award was attributed to imprisoned Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatskito the Russian NGO Memorial – whose dissolution was ordered by the Russian authorities a year ago – and Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding banners of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in the three neighboring countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine”declared its president, Berit Reiss-Andersen.

As the experts announced, the Nobel committee wanted to send a message in the face of the war in Ukraine, which has plunged Europe into the most serious security crisis since World War II, although without making direct attacks on the Belarusian presidents, Alexandr Lukashenko, and Russian, Vladimir Putin.

Reiss-Andersen stressed, however, that the Russian Executive, “like the government of Belarus, represents an authoritarian government that represses human rights activists.”

In addition, he urged Belarus to release Ales Bialiatski, founding president of the Human Rights Defense Center Viasna (“Spring”), imprisoned on charges of tax evasion after the 2020 mass demonstrations against Lukashenko’s re-election, considered fraudulent by the Occidental countries.

Bialiatski’s wife, Natalia Pinchuk, told the AFP agency that she was “overwhelmed with emotion”, while the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tijanóvskaya considered that “the award is an important recognition for all Belarusians who fight for freedom and democracy”.

Instead, Belarus criticized the committee’s decision. “In recent years, decisions – and we are talking about the Peace Prize – have been so politicized that Alfred Nobel is turning in his grave”the spokesman for the Belarusian diplomacy, Anatoli Glaz, reacted on Twitter.

The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, stressed that the award “highlights the power of civil society to advance peace.”

“Civil society groups are the oxygen of democracy, catalysts for peace, social progress and economic growth,” the Portuguese said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, pointed out that the award recognized the “extraordinary courage” of those who confront autocracies. The winners “show the true power of civil society in the fight for democracy,” she pointed out Von der Leyen.

The prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of 10 million Swedish crowns (about 900,000 dollars) to be distributed among the winners..

The award will be presented at a ceremony that will take place in Oslo on December 10. It is the only one of the Nobel prizes that is awarded in the Norwegian capital, since the rest are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden.

Photo: AFP.

Bialiatski, imprisoned from 2011 to 2014 and detained without trial since 2020, was one of the pioneers of the democratic movement that emerged in Belarus in the 1980s. In 1996 he founded Viasna, which provides support to imprisoned protesters and their families and documents the use of torture against political prisoners, Sputnik reported.

A member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Viasna quickly became an essential observer of attacks on rights, counting detainees, defending prisoners or monitoring elections.

Memorial, born in 1987 in the then Soviet Union, has become “the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention centers,” according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and “has led efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and a government based on the rule of law”.

Listed as a foreign agent in Russia since 2016, Memorial repeatedly refused to label itself as such, until the Supreme Court ordered its dissolution at the end of 2021.

Natalia Estemirova, leader of the NGO Memorial in Chechnya, was assassinated to silence her work for democracy in Russia.
Natalia Estemirova, leader of the NGO Memorial in Chechnya, was assassinated to silence her work for democracy in Russia.

In addition to setting up a documentation center on the victims of Stalinism, it has compiled and archived information on repression and human rights violations in Russia.

But shortly after the award was announced, the NGO denounced the process opened against it in Russia.

“At the very moment that the whole world congratulates us on the Nobel Prize, a process is taking place in the Tverskoi court (in Moscow) to requisition the premises of Memorial”reported the Memorial Human Rights Center.

The Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), founded in kyiv in 2007, has been advocating to strengthen Ukrainian civil society, promoting the rule of law and Ukraine’s affiliation to the International Criminal Court.

In the midst of the war with Russia that began on February 24 of this year, he seeks to identify and document war crimes. It is a human rights organization led by the Ukrainian lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk.

His work, says the Nobel Committee, “has strengthened Ukrainian civil society and has pressured the authorities to make Ukraine a complete democracy.”

After being notified of the award, Matviichuk wrote on her social networks: “The armies speak now, because before the voices of human rights defenders were not heard in our region”, and also called for the creation of an international court to try Putin .

“It is necessary to create an international court and bring Putin, Lukashenko and other war criminals to justice,” Matviichuk said on Facebook.

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