Belarusian political activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties have won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded Friday in Oslo, Norway. In the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, human rights defenders from the three Eastern European countries were nominated before the start of the conflict and received the prestigious award.
The Nobel Prize jury valued the laureates' efforts to defend human rights, explained committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen:
This year’s laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize 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.
It is not a "birthday gift."
Reiss-Andersen pointed out that his receipt of this is not a message of congratulations to Russian President Vladimir Putin on his 70th birthday, or for any other reason. Despite this, he clarified that both the Russian and Belarusian governments are "authoritarian":
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.
For the second year in a row, a person or organization opposed to Vladimir Putin has won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2021, journalist Dimitri Muratov (along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa) won the award for fighting for freedom of expression in both Russia and the Philippines.
Imprisoned by the Belarusian government
Ales Bialiatski is the fourth Nobel Peace Prize winner while imprisoned, according to the Viasna movement, of which he is the founder. The Belarusian government detained the activist in 2020 during protests against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. Since then, he has remained in prison without trial.
On the other hand, anti-Putin activists from the Soviet Union created the group Memorial, which fights for the victims of the former Russian regime not to be forgotten. Two months before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the Russian Supreme Court ruled against Memorial and ordered its closure.
The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties has always focused on fighting for the maintenance of democracy and human rights in the country. Since the Russian invasion began, they took it upon themselves to document and identify the war crimes perpetrated by the Russians in Ukraine.