Jailed Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, Russian human rights organisation Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties on Friday won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
“They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement. “They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”
The committee said the award was an effort to promote a “vision of peace and fraternity between nations” amid the war in Ukraine.
Bialiatski, 60, has been detained in Belarus without trail since 2020. He founded Belarus rights group Viasna in 1996 following a crackdown on street protests by country’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said Bialitski “had not yielded one inch for his fight for human rights and democracy” in Belarus. She also called on the authorities to release him from prison.
He was arrested in July last year on charges of tax evasion, a move that critics of Lukashenk say is meant to silence his work.
Russian human rights organisation Memorial, meanwhile, was shut down earlier this year. It was founded in 1987 by human rights activists to document political repressions carried out under the Soviet Union.
“Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s statement read. “The organisation has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law.”
Last year, the Russian Supreme Court had ordered closing down Memorial after it was accused of failing to systematically label its content as that of a “foreign agent” that it was mandated to do under a controversial legislation in the country.
“Although Memorial has been closed in Russia, it lives on as an idea that it’s right to criticise power and that facts and history matter,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute chief Dan Smith told Reuters.
Notably, Kenneth Roth, the former executive director of Human Rights Watch, pointed that Memorial won the award on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday.
However, the head of the Nobel committee clarified that this year’s award should not be seen as a response to Putin.
“This prize is not addressing President Putin, not for his birthday, or in any other sense – except that his government, as the government in Belarus, is representing an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists,” she told reporters.
The Center for Civil Liberties is one of Ukraine’s leading human rights organisations. It was founded in 2007 to promote human rights and democracy in the country.
“The center has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy,” the Nobel Committee added. “To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, Center for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the International Criminal Court.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the organisation has worked to document Moscow’s war crimes against civilians. “The center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes,” Reiss-Andersen said.
The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or about $900,000, will be presented in Norway’s capital of Oslo on December 10.
A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off on Monday. Besides peace prize, awards in the categories of physics, chemistry, medicine and literature have been announced till now.
Unlike other prizes, which are selected and awarded in Sweden, Nobel chose a Norwegian committee to administer the peace prize.