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Ukrainian And Russian Human Rights Campaigners, Belarusian Activist Win Nobel Peace Prize

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The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties.

Announcing the award Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, "The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. 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".

Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country. Among other things, he founded the organisation Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. Viasna provided support for the jailed demonstrators and their families. In the years that followed, Viasna evolved into a broad-based human rights organisation that documented and protested against the authorities' use of torture against political prisoners.

Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. Following large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020, he was again arrested. He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.

The human rights organisation Memorial was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organisation in Russia. In addition to establishing a centre of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematised information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia. Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. 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.

In December 2021, Russian authorities decided to forcibly liquidate Memorial and close the documentation centre. The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind Memorial refuse to be shut down. In a comment on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky stated, "Nobody plans to give up."

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties, it wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbour countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

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