The Nobel Peace Prize has recognized this Friday the importance of civil society for peace and democracy with a joint award the Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski and the Russian organizations Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.
Bialiatski and the two organizations have for years promoted the right to “criticize power” and have made “extraordinary” efforts to “document war crimes, abuse of human rights and abuse of power,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted in its ruling.
“Through their consistent pursuit of humanistic values, antimilitarism and legal principles have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and brotherhood among nations,” the statement states.
Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democratic movement in Belarus in the 1980s and founder in 1996 of the organization Vesná (Spring), in response to constitutional reforms that gave the president “dictatorial powers”.
Vesná has documented and protested “against the use of torture on political prisoners by the authorities,” said the Committee, which recalled that Bialiatski was detained between 2011 and 2014 and, again, after the 2020 protests, without trial in the latter. case.
Memorial was created in 1987 by human rights activists in the Soviet Union such as the “Nobel” of Peace Andrei Sakharov and the lawyer Svetlana Gannushkina.
After the collapse of the USSR, Memorial became the main human rights organization in Russia and, apart from creating a documentation center for the victims of Stalinism, it did the same with those who have suffered “political oppression and human rights violations”. in that country, as well as with the abuses and crimes in the war in Chechnya.
Memorial was listed as a “foreign agent” by the Russian authorities in 2016and in December 2021, the courts liquidated both the organization and its human rights center for creating a “false image of the Soviet Union as a terrorist state” and for concealing information about its role as a foreign agent and “justifying extremism and terrorism”.
The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in kyiv in 2007 with the aim of “strengthening Ukrainian civil society and put pressure on the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy” and has defended accession to the International Criminal Court.
Following the Russian military intervention last February, it has engaged in the identification and documentation of Russian war crimes against the civilian population” and, “in collaboration with international partners”, is playing a pioneering role “in holding the parties to account”. guilty for their crimes.”
Reactions to the award
At a subsequent press conference, the president of the Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, was “particularly concerned” about Bialiatski and called for his immediate release, although she admitted that her wish is not “realistic.”
Reiss-Andersen assured that the award does not go “against anyone”, not even the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, although he claimed that his government and that of Belarus “represent authoritarian regimes that suppress human rights.”
The election of a Nobel Peace Prize linked to the war in Ukraine or to Russian and Belarusian dissidents was one of the most solid options in the previous pools to succeed two journalists in the list of winners, the Filipino Maria Ressa and the Russian Dmitri Muratov.
“This is unexpected and very pleasant news. I feel very proud, I feel many things now. It is his award and that of his colleagues, for a difficult and dangerous job, ”said Natalya Pinchuk, Bialiatski’s wife, on the Vesná Telegram channel.
In statements to EFE in Moscow, the director of Memorial, Alexandr Cherkásov, spoke of an award for all human rights defenders in the post-Soviet space, in addition to calling “Very timely” that the concession coincides with Putin’s 70th birthday.
On her Facebook page, the director of the Ukrainian center, Oleksandra Matviychuk, was “happy” with obtaining the award, although she stressed that there is still “a lot of work to be done”.
An unprecedented event in the Nobel prize list
A third of the 103 Peace Prizes awarded in Nobel history have been shared, by two or three people, but never before by one person and two organizations.
The winners have another thing in common: all previously won the so-called Alternative Nobel Prize from the Swedish foundation Right Livelihood Award: Memorial, in 2004; Bialiatsky, in 2019; and the Center for Civil Liberties, earlier this year.
Other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize such as the Kenyan Wangari Maathai (2004) and the Congolese Denis Mukwege (2018) had received the Alternative Nobel years before.
The winners will share the 10 million Swedish crowns (916,000 euros or 882,000 dollars) with which all the Nobel Prize winners are endowed this year, whose round of winners will end this Monday with the Economy Prize.
The Peace Prize is the only one of the six prizes that is awarded and delivered outside of Sweden, in Oslo, at the express wish of Alfred Nobel, since in his time Norway was part of the neighboring country.
EFE International news agency based in Madrid and present in more than 110 countries.