Human rights activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarus activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said it wanted to honor “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”
She told reporters that their efforts “have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and fraternity between nations, a vision most needed in the world today.”
When asked whether the Nobel Committee was expressing its disapproval of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reiss-Andersen said the prize was not against anybody. But she called the governments of Russia and Belarus “authoritarian” and said they were “suppressing human rights activists.”
The prize comes during the largest war in Europe since World War II. The Russian invasion with Belarus’ help has destroyed cities, displaced millions of Ukrainians and killed many more.
“We are talking about two authoritarian regimes and one nation fighting a war and we would like to highlight the importance of civic society.”
Ales Bialiatski was one of the leaders of the democracy movement in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He founded the non-governmental organization Human Rights Center Viasna.
Bialiatski was detained following protests in 2020 against the re-election of Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. The activist remains in jail without trial and faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
Speaking of Bialiatski’s personal suffering, Reiss-Andersen said the prisoner “has not yielded one inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.”
The Nobel committee also called on the Belarus government to release the prisoner.
Belarus’ Foreign Ministry denounced the Nobel Committee for honoring Bialiatski. A spokesman called the committee’s recent choices “politicized."
Memorial was founded in the Soviet Union in 1987 to make sure the victims of communist repression would be remembered. It has continued to gather information on human rights abuses and the condition of political prisoners in Russia.
Russia’s highest court ordered it shut down in December. The move was part of the suppression of rights activists, independent media and opposition supporters.
Tatyana Glushkova, a leader of the Memorial Human Rights Defense Center, said she and her co-workers were “very, very happy” to have the importance of their work recognized.
Glushkova said the government is threatened because her organization documents the similarities between Putin’s government and that of former dictator Joseph Stalin.
Glushkova said the award was handed to the group on the day it had to appear in court in Moscow — this time on a case related to its office building in the central part of the city.
Center for Civil Liberties
The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 to support human rights and democracy in Ukraine during a period of disorder in the country.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the group has worked to document Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.
“The center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes,” said Reiss-Andersen.
A researcher at the center, Volodymyr Yavorskyi, said the award was important for the organization because “for many years we worked in a country that was invisible.”
The prize carries an award of almost $900,000 and will be presented in a ceremony on December 10.
Last year, the committee awarded the peace prize to Dmitry Muratov, the editor of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Philippine reporter Maria Ressa, for their efforts to protect freedom of expression.
I'm Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted the story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
yield - v. to bend or to break under pressure
pioneering - adj. using new and better ideas for the first time
invisible - adj. impossible to see