Portrait: Who are the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates?

Amid Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, this year's Nobel Peace Prize goes to human rights organizations from both countries and to an imprisoned Belarusian lawyer.

Portrait: Who are the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates?

Amid Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, this year's Nobel Peace Prize goes to human rights organizations from both countries and to an imprisoned Belarusian lawyer. All award winners are united: they stand up for peace and civil rights - and against the allied power apparatuses in Moscow and Minsk.

The decision to award the prize to Memorial from Russia, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and Ales Byaljazki, who is imprisoned in Belarus, was also made against the background of the Russian war against neighboring Ukraine that has been going on for more than seven months: "It is also a message that the war must end," said the chair of the Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen. A strong society prevents this kind of development.

Center forCivilLiberties

With the award for the Center for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is sending an important signal of support to the attacked Ukraine. Founded in 2007, the organization describes itself as one of the leading players in shaping public opinion in the Eastern European country, whose population has been loudly calling for a move away from Russia and towards the West since 2014 at the latest.

After the Maidan protests and the overthrow of the then Moscow-backed government, activists from the Center for Civil Liberties drew attention to human rights violations on the annexed Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and other areas controlled by Russia. Since the invasion of Russian troops at the end of February this year, they have been campaigning in particular for the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Among other things, the organization organizes seminars on human rights and works to bring Ukrainian laws into line with international standards.

Memorial

The civil rights activists at Memorial have waited many years for this award, year after year they have expressed disappointment. Now the long-awaited news from Oslo came just at a moment when the human rights activists were again fighting the consequences of the dissolution of their organization in court on Friday. The Russian state is trying to appropriate Memorial's buildings and other property, the organization said.

"What? Memorial? Our memorial? Like that, it's dissolved," said founding member Svetlana Gannushkina about the award. The award comes late, "but it's never too late for it," said the 80-year-old dpa in Moscow. The structures and the projects still exist. They would continue. Money is needed for this, she added. "This is a great recognition for those people in Russia who do not support this terrible war against our neighbor Ukraine," said the award-winning mathematician, who was also mentioned by name by the Nobel Committee. "In Russia there is a huge willingness and enormous commitment to refugees from Ukraine. This willingness to help must not be forgotten." Apart from dangerous protests, this shows that everyone can do something.

The internationally known organization was dissolved in 2021 on the instructions of the authorities because it is said to have violated laws. To this day, Memorial refuses to use the controversial title of "foreign agent" because it would stigmatize those who fight for human rights as spies. The organization, founded in the late 1980s, also campaigned for the politically persecuted and prisoners and for the prosecution of state crimes.

The Russian opposition figure Leonid Volkov, an employee of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, congratulated on the award and described Memorial as the country's most important human rights organization that does meticulously valuable work.

Ales Bjaljazki

The Belarusian Ales Bjalyazki is unlikely to have heard the happy news of his award himself. The 60-year-old lawyer has been in a prison in Minsk for more than a year. The authoritarian authorities in the ex-Soviet republic have banned the human rights organization Wesna, which he founded, as "extremist".

With Byaljazki, the Nobel Committee is honoring a man who has campaigned for freedom and civil rights in his homeland for decades. Committee chair Reiss-Andersen expressed concern for Byalyatski, who was being held under very harsh conditions. "We pray that this award will not affect him negatively, but we hope that it will boost his morale."

By summer 2020 at the latest, Byaljazki has also been internationally known: together with representatives of his organization, he documented the often brutal arrests of critics after the presidential election, which was classified as fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets against long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko, who was criticized as "Europe's last dictator". Tens of thousands were temporarily arrested, hundreds injured and several killed. According to human rights activists, many of Lukashenko's opponents are still in prison today - including Byaljazki himself.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who fled to the EU, called the Oslo decision "great". She wrote on Telegram: "Byalyatsky is the pride of Belarusians. Now it's known all over the world." The news came as a surprise to Byaljazki's wife, Natalia Pinchuk. "Of course I feel a lot of pride now," she said. "I plan to send him a telegram and tell him everything."

Center for Civil Liberties Memorial Tikhanovskaya on Telegram Byalyatsky's organization Vesna on Telegram

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