The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Belarusian human rights lawyer Ales Byaliatsky, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization the Center for Civil Liberties.
So, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to one person and two organizations. Laureates of the Peace Prize represent civil society in their countries of origin.
They have been promoting for many years the right to criticize the government and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made a remarkable effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and abuses of power. Together, they demonstrate the importance of civil society for peace and democracy.
Who is Ales Bialiatski?
Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He dedicated his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his native country. Among other things, he founded the Viasna (Spring) organization in 1996 in response to controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and sparked large-scale demonstrations. Viasna provided support for the imprisoned demonstrators and their families. In the years that followed, Viasna developed into a broad-based human rights organization that documented and protested the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners.
Government authorities have repeatedly tried to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. Following large demonstrations against the regime in 2020, he was arrested again. He is still being held without trial. Despite enormous personal hardships, Bialiatski did not give up an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.
The human rights organization Memorial was founded in 1987 by human rights activists from the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten. Founders included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina. The memorial is based on the idea that confronting past crimes is essential to preventing new ones.
Civil society activists in Russia have been subjected to threats, imprisonment, disappearances and assassinations for many years. As part of the government’s harassment of the Memorial organization, the organization was labeled as a “foreign agent” from the beginning. In December 2021, the authorities decided that the Memorial should be liquidated by force and the documentation center should be permanently closed. The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind the Memorial refuse to be locked up. Commenting on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky said: “No one is planning to quit.”
Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine
The Center for Civil Liberties was established in Kyiv in 2007 with the aim of promoting human rights and democracy in Ukraine. The center took a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressured the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. To transform Ukraine into a state governed by the rule of law, the Center for Civil Liberties actively advocated for Ukraine to join the International Criminal Court. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Center for Civil Liberties engaged in efforts to identify and document war crimes committed by Russia against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the center plays a pioneering role in bringing the guilty to justice.