Nobel Peace Prize goes to human rights activist in Belarus; organizations in Ukraine, Russia

A human rights activist from Belarus and two organizations documenting crimes against Russian citizens and war crimes in Ukraine, will share the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee announced Friday.

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Human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights group Center for Civil Liberties will share the award.

“This year’s 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 Nobel committee said in its citation.

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

The committee praised Bialiatski for his continuing effort to fight for human rights in Belarus. Bialiatski is currently jailed on allegations of tax evasion, charges which, according to his supporters, are politically motivated.

“Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr. Bialiatski has not yielded one inch his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

The Center for Civil Liberties, established in 2007, has worked to prevent human rights abuses and document war crimes in Ukraine, while Memorial has sought to force the Russian government to come to terms with crimes against its own citizens.

Memorial, which was founded in the late 1980s, was outlawed by the Kremlin in 2021,

“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries,” Reiss-Andersen said. “They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”

“They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power.”

Asked whether honoring Bialiatski and the two organizations with the prize would “increase the risk for suppression and repression” for them, Reiss-Andersen said, “This is a dilemma the Nobel committee often faces and it is something we always consider and take into consideration very seriously.

“But we also have the point of view that the individuals behind these organizations, they have chosen to take a risk and pay a high price and show courage to fight for what they believe in. We are of course particularly concerned about Mr Bialiatski, who is detained under very hard conditions in a prison … and we do pray that this prize will not affect him negatively. But we hope it might boost his morale.”

Kenneth Roth, the former executive director of Human Rights Watch, noted on Twitter that the awards highlighting the work of groups documenting human rights violations in Russia’s attack on Ukraine were given out on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

“On Putin’s 70th birthday, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a Russian human rights group that he shut down, a Ukrainian human rights group that is documenting his war crimes, and a Belarusian human rights activist whom his ally Lukashenko has imprisoned.

The prizes, named after Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor, around $900,000. They will be handed out on Dec. 10.

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