The leader of the Belarusian Vyasna rights organization, Ales Bialiatski, sits in a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus, in 2021. hide caption – Sergei Grits
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The leader of the Belarusian Vyasna rights organization, Ales Bialiatski, sits in a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus, in 2021.
Source: Sergei Grits MOSCOW, BERLIN, and KYIV Ales Bialiatski, a human rights defender from Belarus, as well as Memorial in Russia and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, received the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
As war rages in Eastern Europe, the prizes were announced on Friday by Berit Reiss-Andsersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The recipients are all from a region that is still dealing with the effects of the Soviet Union’s demise, escalating political persecution, and the fallout from Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
Russia attempted to take entire regions from its neighbor after invading Ukraine earlier this year. In the war, Belarus has allied with Russia and even allowed Moscow to station troops there. Through an expanding web of repressions, the leaders of both Russia and Belarus have stifled domestic democratic movements.
The award marks the second consecutive year that the Nobel committee has focused on the area. The award was split between Filipina journalist Maria Rezza and independent Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov the previous year. Novaya Gazeta is known for its sharp criticism of the Kremlin.
The award was given to Mikhail Gorbachev, the late Soviet leader, in 1990 for “the leading role he played in the profound changes in East-West relations” and “increased openness” he brought to Soviet society. Gorbachev passed away earlier this year. Later, Gorbachev helped found Novaya Gazeta.
According to observers, the Nobel Committee’s choice was motivated by a belief that Europe’s future was in jeopardy in a region where authoritarianism has increased but where democratic reform may one day occur.
Kadri Liik, a Russia and Eastern Europe expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, comments on the Nobel committee’s selection, “I think the message is clear: ‘We are not pro- or anti-country.
The message from Nobel is, “‘We are pro-democracy and human rights,'” Liik continued.
BIALIATSKI ALES One of the most well-known human rights campaigners in Belarus and one of the early founders of the democratic movement there, beginning in the 1980s, is Bialiatski. Beginning in the former Soviet Republic and continuing since 1996 as the foundation of a human rights organization to assist political prisoners in the nation’s capital, Minsk, Bialiatski has spearheaded a 30-year battle for democracy and freedom.
Since then, the Viasna Human Rights Center—the word “viasna” in Belarusian means “spring”—has grown to be the top civil society organization in the nation by gathering evidence of violations of human rights and keeping an eye on elections.
Reiss-Andsersen, who presented the prize, said of the winner, “He has dedicated his life to promoting democracy and peaceful growth in his native nation.”
The government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has been persecuting Bialiatski for years. Bialiatski has had a history of being in and out of prison. He is currently incarcerated on what many consider to be baseless tax evasion allegations for which he never went to trial.
Given his imprisonment, Bialiatski’s coworkers openly said they were unsure if he was aware of obtaining the Nobel Prize.
In an interview with NPR, Natallia Satsunkevich of Viasna states, “I think he will discover through some informal channel or meet his lawyer some day… or receive a telegram.”
“He was nominated five times and is now the winner. Finally! was my first reaction, Satsunkevich continued.
Bialiaski was hailed by other Belarusian activists as a persistent advocate for democratic rights.
An activist from Belarus working in Prague, Siarhei Kastrama, told NPR that Ales Biliaski “specified how Belarus should evolve in the future.”
“Political change is not the focus of this movement. It involves fundamental social reform.
Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of Memorial and a Russian human rights activist, speaks in a March interview with AFP in Moscow. Images by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty remove caption
switch to caption Images by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty
Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of Memorial and a Russian human rights activist, speaks in a March interview with AFP in Moscow.
Images by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty MEMORIAL In the late Soviet era, a quest for increased freedoms led to the creation of the human rights organization Memorial.
The original mission of Memorial, which was established by Nobel laureate and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, was to record the repressions of the Stalinist era and to preserve the memories and experiences of the millions of Soviet citizens who perished in the gulag work camps.
WORLD However, it was Memorial’s work documenting human rights violations in the new Russia that brought the organization into growing conflict with Vladimir Putin’s government.
Due to the organization’s failure to comply with the “foreign agents” statute of Russia’s reporting requirements, it was “liquidated” in 2021. In a related instance, it was determined that Memorial’s human rights division had “promoted terrorism” by maintaining a list of current political detainees.
Svetlana Gannushkina, a member of Memorial who was recognized by the Nobel Committee as an early supporter of the group’s efforts, claims that Memorial maintained both cases were politically driven and continued its activities formally in spite of the court findings.
In an interview with NPR, Gannushkina stated, “No one can stop us from fighting for human rights, and we continue that work in other forms.
Memorial has long been mentioned as a prospective Nobel finalist, which, according to Gannushkina, has long since persuaded her to ignore the news.
Gannushkina claimed, “I just learned from media when they started phoning.
“It’s significant. When asked about the Nobel Prize, she continued, “It’s a sign of togetherness. “A recognition that not all Russians are terrible and that some of us are opposed to the war in Ukraine.”
In their Kyiv office on Friday, employees of the Center for Civil Liberties posed for a picture and celebrated receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Getty Images/Ed Ram remove caption
switch to caption Getty Images/Ed Ram
In their Kyiv office on Friday, employees of the Center for Civil Liberties posed for a picture and celebrated receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Getty Images/Ed Ram The Civil Liberties Center The civil society organization was established in 2007 when Ukrainian human rights defenders started to seek out internationally and learn how to better organize and represent vulnerable groups in international tribunals.
That information was helpful in 2013, when the Ukrainian government detained journalists and activists amid a popular revolt.
When Russia attacked sections of eastern Ukraine a year later, it was a like situation.
Lawyer Yuriy Bilous has collaborated with the institute to develop war crimes cases against Russian troops and compile evidence of the wrongdoings they committed during this year’s incursion.
Speaking about the mission of the center, Bilous told NPR that “first and foremost, they inform the world about what’s going on in Ukraine.” “They hold multinational organizations responsible in order to stop crimes from happening again. Discussions about the future of international criminal law are made possible by their work.
Hayda, Maynes, and Schmitz all reported from Kiev, Moscow, and Berlin, respectively.