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Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Ales Bialiatski has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a human rights activist who was held in Belarus prison by Memorial, the Russian campaign group Memorial, and the Centre for Civil Liberties in Ukraine.

This honor will be widely viewed as a rebuke of Russian leader Vladimir Putin (who is celebrating his 70th Birthday) and Alexander Lukashenko (the President of Belarus), making it one the most contentious political events in decades.

This award is the first since Moscow invaded Ukraine. It has overtones that recall the Cold War era when prominent Soviet dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov won Nobel prizes.

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Image: Beritreiss-Andersen stated that the award was not anti-Putin. Pic: AP

Berit Reiss – Andersen, chairwoman at the Norwegian Nobel Committee, announced the winners in Oslo.

She stated that the judges were looking to honor “three outstanding champions for human rights, democracy, and peaceful coexistence in the neighboring countries Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine”.

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She said: “Through their consistent effort in favor of human values, anti-militarism, and principles of law this year’s laureates had revitalised Alfred Nobel’s vision for peace and fraternity among nations, which is a vision most in need in today’s world.”

Ms Reiss – Andersen also urged Belarus to free Mr Bialiatski (60), who is currently in prison without trial.

She insisted that the award was not for Mr Putin.

She said, “We always give prizes for something and to someone and not against anyone.” “This prize isn’t addressing President Putin. It is not for his birthday.

“The attention Mr Putin has brought to himself is pertinent in this context. It is the suppression of civil society and human rights advocates, and that is what this prize would address.”

In July 2013, the Belarusian security forces raided the homes and offices of human rights activists and lawyers in Belarus. They also detained Mr Bialiatski as part of a crackdown against opponents to the regime.

Image Memorial, a human rights group, was closed by Russia’s Kremlin Pic AP

After mass protests against the fraudulent election of President Barack Obama in August, authorities took steps to close down independent media outlets.

Bialiatski, who was one of the leaders in the pro-democracy movement of Belarus in the mid 1980s, continued to advocate for civil liberties.

Ms Reiss–Andersen stated that the award of the prize to Mr Bialiatski was done by the committee knowing that he might be subject to additional scrutiny from Belarusian authorities.

She said: “But, we also have to point out that the individuals behind the organisations, they have chosen a risk and paid a high price and shown courage to fight for the cause they believe in.

“We pray that he will not be negatively affected by this price, but we do hope it might increase his morale.”

Sviatlana TSikhanouskaya (the exiled opposition leader in Belarus) said that the award would increase attention on political prisoners. She also hailed Mr Bialiatski as a “famous human right defender in Belarus and around the world” and “wonderful individual.”

She stated, “For certain, it will attract greater attention to the humanitarian condition in our country.”

In 1987, the Soviet Union established the Memorial to remember the victims of communist repression. It has continued to collect details about human rights violations in Russia and was closed down by the Kremlin.

According to the group, winning the prize was a recognition of their work and that of those who continue to face “unspeakable reprisals and attacks” at home.

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The Centre for Civil Liberties of Ukraine was established in 2007 to promote democracy and human rights.

The group has been documenting war crimes against Ukrainian civilians since February’s Russian invasion.

Ms Reiss Anderson said, “The center is playing a pioneering position with a view towards holding the guilty parties accountable für their crimes.”

Volodymyr Yavorskyi was a representative of the organization and said that the award was significant because “for many decades we worked in an invisible country”.

He said, “This is a surprise to us, but the main weapon against war is human rights activity.”

The peace prize recipients last year have had a tough time since they received the award.

Journalists Dmitry Muratov from Russia and Maria Ressa from the Philippines have been fighting for their news organizations’ survival and resisting government attempts to silence them.

The prize was awarded to them last year in recognition of their efforts to protect freedom of expression. This is an essential condition for democracy and lasting peace.

These prizes will carry a cash award in the amount of approximately PS800,000. They will be presented on the 10th anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, which is also the anniversary of the invention of dynamite.


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