Nobel Peace Prize winners from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine received gold medals and diplomas in Oslo from Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Nobel Committee. In the laudation, the committee called this year’s winners “masters of peace”, who by various means, having a common goal, brought the greatest good to humanity.
On the stage in the Town Hall, on behalf of the Belarusian oppositionist, the Nobel Peace Prize was received by Ales Bialiatski’s wife, Natalia Pieńchuk. The second laureate, the Russian Memorial Association, documenting Stalinist crimes, was represented by the chairman of this organization, Jan Raczyński. The third winner this year is the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, represented by the head of the organization Oleksandra Matwijczuk.
Nobel Committee on Nobel Peace Laureates
In a speech, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, called the Nobel Peace Prize winners “champions of peace” who by various means, with a common goal, brought the greatest good to humanity.
She noted that “our laureates share a similar approach to unmasking oppressors and war criminals.” – Their method is to systematically collect evidence of future and current infringements human rights and war crimes. The aim is to hold the perpetrators accountable, honor the victims and prevent future atrocities, she said.
Reiss-Andersen drew attention to the importance of criticism for maintaining democracy. – A democratic government needs not only support from its citizens, but also criticism, new ideas and new perspectives. People are the ultimate source of power.
Reiss-Andersen specifically addressed the Nobel Prize winner, who was absent from the ceremony Belarus. She recalled that he was facing a sentence of 7 to 12 years in prison. – Today, our thoughts go to all political prisoners in Belarus. We think in particular of Ales Bialiatski, who is in a dark cell in Minsk. You are not alone, we are with you, she assured.
Merits of the Russian Memorial
The chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, listing the merits of Memorial, stressed that the biggest lesson from the 35-year struggle of this organization for the truth is “the ability to learn from the past to prevent making the same mistakes.” – Memorial was determined to tell the true story of abuse, oppression and war crimes. Unfortunately, I have to say that such truth in today’s Russia are perceived as anti-state, Reiss-Andersen noted.
Referring to the activities of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Rights, Reiss-Andersen stressed that the organization “lays the foundations for peace and justice in the future.” – One day, when hostilities cease, Ukraine will continue its work to advance democracy and the rule of law. The Center for Civil Rights will lead this process, she said.
Ales Bialiatski is a Belarusian human rights activist. He is the founder of the Viasna organization, which monitors human rights in Belarus and informs the public about their violations. The organization is considered illegal by the Belarusian government. The authorities stripped her of her legal status in 2003 and has since refused to re-register her.
On the wave of repression following the 2010 election protests, Bialiatski was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for alleged non-payment of taxes. He was then declared a political prisoner. He was released on amnesty in 2014.
In July 2021, when the Belarusian authorities once again, but this time on an unprecedented scale, hit civil society organizations, Viasna again became the object of persecution. The employees’ apartments were searched and detained.
Bialiatski (and his associates) again heard allegations that human rights defenders in Belarus and the international community unequivocally recognized as politically motivated. Initially, the authorities accused him of “non-payment of taxes”. The charges were later changed to “contraband” and “protest financing”.
Memorial was established in the 1980s as an association of independent organizations. It is made up of independent structures, 10 of which operate outside of Russia. For 30 years, the organization has been studying political repression in the USSR, including against Poles.
The Memorial Association was officially closed and liquidated by the decision of the Supreme Court of Russia on April 5, 2022. On June 17, its former members and supporters decided to create a social organization, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights “Memorial”, but without granting it legal personality. Its task is to document and disseminate information about significant human rights violations, as well as to support the defense of the rights of victims, including political prisoners.
Center for Civil Liberties
The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties was established in 2007 to promote human rights, democracy and solidarity. It is one of the leading organizations influencing public opinion, supporting the development of civic activity. Participates in international networks and solidarity actions for the promotion of human rights in the region of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/Javad Parsa/POOL