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International News: Nobel Peace Prize given to human rights activists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

Posted: Saturday, October 8, 2022. 7:59 am CST.

Photo Credit: Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien/Det Norske Nobelinstitutt

By Aaron Humes: The Guardian (UK) reports that the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a trio of human rights activists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – jailed Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski; human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.

Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, lauded the group for promoting the right to criticize power and protect citizens’ fundamental rights in their home countries and called on Belarus to release Bialiatski from jail to attend the December 10 award ceremony, where each recipient will share a 10 million Swedish kronor prize, about US$900,000.

She added that the decision was not meant to address Russian President Vladimir Putin or his ally Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko, but to honour the champions of “human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence” in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Putin coincidentally turned 70 on Friday.

Bialiatski, the head of the Belarus rights group Viasna, was detained last July as part of a sweeping crackdown on the opposition by Lukashenko after huge anti-government demonstrations. He is the fourth person to receive the Nobel peace prize while in prison or detention, after Carl von Ossietzky of Germany in 1935, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar in 1991 and Liu Xiaobo of China in 2010.

The Center for Civil Liberties said in a statement it “thanks the international community for their support”, and that the prize was “very important to us”. The Center has done extensive work documenting Russian war crimes during the seven-month-long conflict in Ukraine.

The third recipient, the Russia Memorial group, was shut down by the Kremlin last year, in what was widely seen as a watershed moment in Putin’s crackdown on independent thought. Memorial was founded in the late 1980s to document political repressions carried out under the Soviet Union, building a database of victims of the Great Terror and gulag camps. At the time of closure, Memorial was the country’s oldest human rights group. The news that Memorial won the Nobel peace prize came as a court in Moscow was holding a hearing on seizing the group’s assets.

But there was also criticism in Kyiv on the decision to award the prize to a Belarussian national and the Russian human rights group Memorial, two countries with which Ukraine is currently at war. “Nobel Committee has an interesting understanding of the word ‘peace’ if representatives of two countries that attacked a third one receive,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential aide, tweeted.

For her part, Reiss-Andersen said she hoped winning the prize would serve as a “morale booster.”

 

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