Three Nobel Peace Prizes for human rights defenders in three countries that have been victims of Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Lukashenko. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has recognized this year the work of the director of the Belarusian NGO Viasná, Ales Bialiatski; of the Russian Memorial Foundation, liquidated by the Kremlin and the Russian justice at the end of last year, and of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an individual and two organizations, the committee rewards those it has defined as “champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence”, who have made “remarkable efforts” to defend “human values”. and the rule of law”, as well as anti-militarism, as stated by the president of the Nobel Committee, the Norwegian lawyer Berit Reiss-Andersen, during the reading of the awards.
Bialiatski, a prisoner of conscience arrested in 2011 and 2021, leads an organization that has monitored the political repression of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. His work revealed to the world the abuses in prisons and the mass arrests of the regime as a result of the summer 2020 protests against fraud in an election where the president scored 80% support against 10% of the opposition . Memorial, meanwhile, was born as a citizen initiative in the last years of the USSR to investigate the crimes of the Soviet regime. The foundation became a constellation of regional organizations that began with the opening of the archives of the KGB, the regime’s secret police, and went on to investigate more recent crimes such as those in Chechnya.
Memorial received in December 2009 the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament for freedom of conscience. Bialiatski also obtained this recognition in 2020, in which the European institution precisely awarded the Belarusian opposition to the Lukhasenko regime.
The three winners, as Reiss-Andersen detailed in his appearance, have made “an extraordinary effort” for peace, democracy and to “document war crimes, abuses of human rights and power.” The winners, continued the president of the Nobel Committee, exemplify the “importance of civil society” to achieve democracy and peace. Of the Belarusian activist they have emphasized how he has “consecrated his life” to promoting those values. The Norwegian lawyer has taken advantage of her intervention to ask for Bialiatski’s release.
For this year’s edition, 342 applications had been submitted, of which 251 correspond to individuals and 92 to organizations. The list, which closed at the end of January, is the second largest in the history of the awards, only behind the record of 376 reached in 2016. Last year, the award went to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov for his work for press freedom and for denouncing abuses of power in the Philippines and Russia, respectively.
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The president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, the digital newspaper The Kyiv Independent or the Ukrainian people appeared in the first places in the bookmakers. Apart from the fact that the war conflict is in its initial phase and still without a clear resolution, the deadline for presenting candidatures ended on January 31, almost a month before the start of the Russian military intervention. But the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee can propose their own candidates at the first meeting of this body, which is held in early March.
The fight for the environment has been a recurring candidate in recent years, personified above all in the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, but also in other figures such as David Attenborough or the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe. The World Health Organization (WHO), the Black Lives Matter movement, Pope Francis, the journalist Julian Assange and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, among others, also appeared in the previous pools.
According to the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish tycoon who instituted the prizes that bear his name, university professors of Law, History and Political Science, parliamentarians, former laureates and members of international tribunals, among others, can nominate candidates for the Peace Award. . Only if those who propose a person or organization make it public can the identity of the candidates be known, since the Norwegian Nobel Committee only publishes the total number of applicants and does not confirm names until 50 years later. The award ceremony will take place on December 10, the anniversary of the death of its founder, Alfred Nobel. This award is traditionally given at the Oslo City Hall. Each prize is endowed with 10 million Swedish crowns (about 984,000 euros).
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