OSLO, Norway (HPD) — The Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Friday recognized the work of imprisoned Belarusian rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties, in a clear message to the Russian president. , Vladimir Putin, on the day of his 70th birthday.
The committee wanted to honor “three outstanding defenders of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in the neighboring countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“Through their unrelenting efforts on behalf of human values and anti-militarism and the principles of law, this year’s Laureates have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and brotherhood among nations, a much-needed vision in the world. current,” he told reporters in Oslo.
Bialiatski was one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Belarus in the mid-1980s and has continued to campaign for human rights and civil liberties in the authoritarian nation. He founded the non-governmental organization Viasna Human Rights Center and won the Right Livelihood Prize, also known as the “Alternative Nobel”, in 2020.
The activist was arrested following protests that year against the re-election of the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, and remains in jail without trial.
“Despite his enormous personal difficulties, Mr. Bialiatski has not given up one iota in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” Reiss-Andersen said, adding that the award jury was calling for his release from the authorities.
Belarusian opposition leader-in-exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was visiting Paris, told The Associated Press that the award will increase attention to political prisoners in her country and was “honored and delighted” that Bialiatski was among the laureates, referring to him as a “famous defender of human rights in Belarus and in the world” and a “wonderful person”.
“It will surely draw more attention to (the) humanitarian situation in the country,” he said of the Nobel.
Memorial was founded in the Soviet Union in 1987 to ensure that victims of communist repression are remembered. In these years he has collected information on human rights abuses in Russia and monitored the fate of political prisoners in the country.
“The organization has also been at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and rule of law-based governance,” Reiss-Andersen said.
Asked if the Nobel Committee was sending a deliberate message to Putin on his 70th birthday, Reiss-Andersen said that “we always give a prize for something and someone, not against anyone.”
“This award is not focused on President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense, except that his government, like that of Belarus, represents an authoritarian government that represses human rights activists,” he added.
For its part, the Center for Civil Liberties was created in 2007 to promote human rights and democracy in Ukraine during a period of turmoil in the country.
“The Center has taken a position of strengthening Ukrainian civil society and putting pressure on the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy, to make Ukraine a state of law,” Reiss-Andersen said.
Following the Russian invasion of the country in February, the group has documented war crimes by Moscow troops against Ukrainian civilians. “He is playing a pioneering role in holding the guilty to account for their crimes,” Reiss-Andersen said.
The award is important for the group because “for many years we worked in a country that was invisible,” said a representative of the Center, Volodymyr Yavorskyi.
“This is a surprise to us,” he told the HPD. “But human rights activity is the main weapon against war.”
The award continues the tradition of highlighting the work of groups and activists working to prevent conflict, alleviate hardship and safeguard human rights.
Last year’s winners have had a difficult time since then. Journalists Dmitry Muratov from Russia and Maria Ressa from the Philippines fought for the survival of their media, defying government efforts to silence them.
The reporters were recognized last year for “their efforts to protect freedom of expression, which is a precondition for lasting democracy and peace.”
The week of Nobel winner announcements kicked off Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo winning the medicine prize for uncovering secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided valuable insights into our immune systems.
Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger won the physics prize on Tuesday for work that showed tiny particles can maintain a connection with one another even when they are separated, a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.
The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded Wednesday to Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal for developing a way to “snap molecules together” that can be used to explore cells, map DNA and design drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.
French writer Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday. The economics prize will be announced on Monday.
The prizes, which include a financial compensation of 10 million Swedish kronor (about 900,000 dollars), will be presented on December 10 at a gala. The money comes from a fund established by the creator of the awards, the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.