Нuman rights advocates from ex-USSR countries awarded Nobel Peace Prize

The recipients include Memorial, an NGO that is banned in Russia, as well as a Belarusian activist and a Ukrainian civil group

A Belarusian human rights advocate and two civil groups from Russia and Ukraine have been awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday.

The laureates “have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” and have “made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power,” it said in a statement.

The prize went to veteran Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, the Memorial Group, which was shut down by Russia last year, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.

Bialiatski is the founder of the Viasna (Spring) rights group and a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He also blamed Russia for supporting the Belarusian leader during the 2020 mass protest in the country, which started after Lukashenko was re-elected in what the opposition claimed to be a sham election.

Sweden has also awarded the activist the Right Livelihood Award, touted as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Belarusian law enforcement arrested Bialiatski in 2021 on allegations of tax evasion and have since kept him in pre-trial detention. His supporters consider the 60-year-old to be a prisoner of conscience.

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FILE PHOTO. © RIA / Ilya Pitalev
Russian court bans Memorial

Memorial was one of the oldest human rights groups in modern Russia, originally created in 1989 to preserve the memory of the victims of Stalin’s purges. Over the years, the NGO increasingly engaged in political activism and ran afoul of the law in Russia.

In 2016, it was designated a foreign agent as Moscow accused it of taking money from foreign sources while engaging in domestic political activities. Last year, a court banned it from operating in Russia, citing the group’s repeated violations of the rules that apply to foreign agents. Memorial and its supporters claimed the group had been the victim of political persecution.

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