Human rights activists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus share Nobel Peace Prize

The Committee recognized Ales Bialiatski and the organizations Memorial and Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties for their ‘outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power’

Democracy activist Ales Bialiatski accepting the 2020 Right Livelihood Award.
Democracy activist Ales Bialiatski accepting the 2020 Right Livelihood Award.ANDERS WIKLUND (TT News Agency via AFP)

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday announced the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, which this year is being shared by the Belarusian activist and prisoner of conscience Ales Bialiatski, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. The Committee recognized their “outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power.”

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to one individual and two organizations, the committee has honored laureates it defined as “champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”

On Putin’s 70th birthday, Russian society’s struggle for freedom has been honored for the second year in a row. In 2021, the editor of the daily Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, received the award, and now it is the advocacy group Memorial. Both are the result of the openness made possible by the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, who died just over a month ago.

The founder Memorial, Svetlana Gannushkina, in 2011.
The founder Memorial, Svetlana Gannushkina, in 2011.NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (AFP)

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the committee, said that the award is not meant as a message to Putin. “We always give the award to someone for something, not against anyone.” But Putin, said Reiss-Andersen, represents “an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists.”

Memorial was created in 1987 as a citizens’ initiative to investigate the crimes of the Soviet regime. During the last years of the USSR, the foundation grew into a constellation of regional organizations that began opening the archives of the KGB, the regime’s secret police, and went on to investigate more recent crimes such as those in Chechnya.

The Nobel Peace Prize recognition has been applauded by Russian and Belarusian activists and dissidents. “Memorial is the most important human rights organization and has done consistent, necessary and valuable work for decades. It’s great that this work is valued,” said leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s team leader Leonid Volkov on Twitter. Navalny himself, now incarcerated in a maximum security prison, had been a candidate for the award.




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