Ukraine, Russia, Belarus rights activists win Nobel Peace Prize

Belarusian rights activist Ales Bialiatski has won the Nobel Peace Prize together with two rights organisations from Russia and Ukraine. PHOTO: ALES BIALIATSKI/FACEBOOK

OSLO - Jailed Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, Russian human rights organisation Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

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

She called on Belarus to release Bialiatski from prison.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns (about S$1.3 million), 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 criticise 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.” 

Bialiatski is the second citizen in Belarus’s independent history to receive a Nobel Prize after Svetlana Alexievich won the award in literature seven years ago. 

“Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski,” the committee said. “Since 2020, he is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.”

Belarus’ Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Friday congratulated Bialiatski on winning the prize, calling the award “an important recognition for all Belarusians fighting for freedom and democracy” on Twitter.

Russian human rights organisation Memorial said that winning the award was recognition of its human rights work and of colleagues who continue to suffer “unspeakable attacks and reprisals” in Russia.

“It encourages us in our resolve to support our Russian colleagues to continue their work at a new location, despite the forced dissolution of MEMORIAL International in Moscow,” said a statement by Memorial board member Anke Giesen to Reuters.

Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties said it was proud to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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

The announcement was unexpected, with opposition leaders in Belarus and Russia, Tsikhanouskaya and Alexey Navalny, long tipped as potential winners.

And it comes on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrates his 70th birthday.

“This prize is not addressing President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense, except that his government and the government in Belarus is representing an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists,” Reiss-Andersen told reporters in Oslo. “We always give a prize for something and to somebody, and not against anybody.”

Last year’s winners were journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, with previous laureates including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King and the European Union. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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