Fri | Dec 2, 2022

Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine

Published:Friday | October 7, 2022 | 6:44 AM
Ales Bialiatski, the head of Belarusian Vyasna rights group, stands in a defendants' cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. On Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed Belarus rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a strong rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin whose invasion of Ukraine has outraged the international community and highlighted his authoritarian rule.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarus rights 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 the panel wanted to honor ”three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”

“Through their consistent efforts in favor of human values and anti-militarism and principles of law, this year's laureates have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel's vision of peace and fraternity between nations, a vision most needed in the world today,” she told reporters in Oslo.

Asked whether the Nobel Committee was intentionally sending a signal to Putin, who celebrated his 70th birthday Friday, Reiss-Andersen said that “we always give a prize for something and to somebody and not against anyone.”

“This prize is not addressing President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense, except that his government, as the government in Belarus, is representing an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists,” she said.

Bialiatski was one of the leaders of the democracy movement in Belarus in the mid 1980s and has continued to campaign for human rights and civil liberties in the authoritarian country. He founded the non-governmental organization Human Rights Center Viasna.

He was detained following protests in 2020 against the re-election of Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. He remains in jail without trial.

“Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded one inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” Reiss-Andersen said, adding that the Nobel panel was calling on Belarusian authorities to release him.

Exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, visiting Paris, told The Associated Press that the award would further increase the spotlight on Belarusian political prisoners and said she felt “honored and delighted” that Bialiatski was among the laureates, calling him a “famous human rights defender in Belarus and in the world” and a “wonderful person.”

Memorial was founded in the Soviet Union in 1987 to ensure the victims of communist repression would be remembered. It has continued to compile information on human rights abuses and tracked the fate of political prisoners in Russia. The country's highest court ordered it shut down in December, the latest move in a relentless crackdown on rights activists, independent media and opposition supporters.

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 to promote human rights and democracy in Ukraine during a period of turmoil 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.

The prize carries a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.

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