Нuman rights advocates from ex-Soviet states awarded Nobel Peace Prize
A Belarusian human rights advocate and two civil liberties groups from Russia and Ukraine have been awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday.
The laureates “have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” and have “made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power,” it said in a statement.
The prize went to veteran Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, the Memorial Group, which was shut down by Russia last year, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.
Bialiatski is the founder of the Viasna (Spring) rights group and a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He also blamed Russia for supporting the Belarusian leader during the 2020 mass protest in the country, which started after Lukashenko was re-elected in what the opposition claimed to be a sham election. That year Sweden has awarded the activist the Right Livelihood Award, touted as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Belarusian law enforcement arrested Bialiatski in 2021 on allegations of tax evasion and have since kept him in pre-trial detention. His supporters consider the 60-year-old to be a prisoner of conscience.
Memorial was one of the oldest human rights groups in modern Russia, originally created in 1989 to preserve the memory of the victims of Stalin’s purges. Over the years, the NGO was perceived to be increasingly engaging in political activism which ran afoul of Russian laws.
In 2016, it was designated a foreign agent as Moscow accused it of taking money from foreign sources while engaging in domestic political activities. Last year, a court banned it from operating in Russia, citing the group’s repeated violations of the rules that apply to foreign agents. Memorial and its supporters claimed the group had been the victim of political persecution.
The Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine has operated since 2007. Among its recent initiatives was a call to try Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it wished to honor “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.” The three laureates furthered Alfred Nobel’s dream of lasting peace between nations, the body said.
Last year, the award was given to Filipino-American investigative author Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. The latter has headed a leading Russian opposition newspaper since the early 1990s.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was among the individuals and organizations nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. They also included Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition figure currently serving a jail term, and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a Belarusian politician and presidential candidate, who claims to have won the country’s election in 2020. All three were considered frontrunners for the prize.