Nobel Peace Prize winners receive award in Oslo | News

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian activists for promoting the right to criticize the government and protecting the fundamental rights of citizens.

Imprisoned activist Ales Bialiatsky from Belarus, the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties group were declared recipients in October.

Al Jazeera will be live at 16:00 GMT from Oslo, Norway to talk to Natalia Pinczuk, Bialiatski’s wife, Memorial’s Jan Raczynski and Aleksandra Matviyczuk of the Center for Civil Liberties about the importance of civil society in wartime, and the challenges and dangers activists face while doing their work.

The prize, worth about $900,000, was awarded Saturday on the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in 1895.

In his acceptance speech, Raczynski criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “crazy and criminal” war in Ukraine.

Under Putin, “resistance to Russia is called ‘fascism'” and has become an “ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine,” Raczynski told the audience.

Matviychuk said her country cannot achieve peace by “laying down arms” against Russia. “This will not be peace, it will be an occupation,” she said.

Pinchuk gave a speech on behalf of her husband, saying Putin wanted to turn Ukraine into a “dependent dictatorship” like Belarus, “where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and ignored.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the recipients for their “outstanding efforts to document war crimes, human rights violations and abuse of power.”

“Together, they demonstrate the importance of civil society to peace and democracy,” the commission said in a citation.

Here’s who the recipients are and why their work matters:

Ales Bialiatski

Prominent Belarusian human rights activist Bialiatsky is the fourth laureate to win the Nobel Peace Prize while behind bars.

The founder of leading human rights group Viasna has been at the forefront of efforts to document abuses committed by the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, described in the West as Europe’s last dictator.

Bialiatski, 60, was arrested in July 2021 following a mass crime spree street protests over a national vote that kept Lukashenko in power for a sixth term the previous year.

His organization documented the use of torture against political prisoners by the Belarusian authorities and provided support to detained demonstrators and their families.

Human rights activist Ales Bialiatski receives the 2020 Right Lifestyle Award in Stockholm, Sweden [File: Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency via Reuters]

Shortly before he was arrested, Bialiatski condemned the crackdown, saying local authorities were “acting like an occupation regime”.

Bialiatski previously spent three years in prison after being convicted in 2011 of tax evasion, charges he denied. His supporters see the arrest as an attempt to silence him.

During Lukashenko’s rule, which began in 1994, the human rights group unsuccessfully applied for registration twice.

Despite the lack of official recognition, Vyasna’s work has won numerous international awards, including the Freedom Award of the US Atlantic Council.

Bialiatski was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and 2007.


One of the oldest and most respected human rights groups in Russia, Memorial was co-founded by physicist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov in 1987 to expose and expose the horrors of Soviet oppression.

This mission was seen as treasonous by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The organization was shut down by court order in December 2021 on grounds of violating the “foreign agents” law. It continues to operate without official registration, documenting Russia’s totalitarian past and organizing educational initiatives to spread awareness among the population.

Nobel Peace Prize winners receive award in Oslo |  News
Jan Raczynski, representing the Russian organization “Memorial”, delivers his Nobel Prize acceptance speech [Rodrigo Freitas/NTB/Reuters]

According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Memorial’s work “is based on the idea that confronting past crimes is essential to preventing new ones.”

His Human Rights Center was the subject of a legal battle earlier this year as the government tried to confiscate it on the grounds that it condoned “terrorist activities”.

In 2020, the court increased the sentence of historian Yury Dmitriev, who led the branch of Memorial in the Northern Republic of Karelia, from 3.5 to 13 years in prison.

He was found guilty of sexual assault charges in a verdict widely seen as retaliation after he uncovered evidence of a mass burial site used by of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin secret police.

Dmitriev remains in custody in a Russian penal colony.

Center for Civil Liberties

From Russia has begun its invasion of Ukraine in February, the Center for Civil Liberties documented war crimes against civilians committed in occupied areas.

In cooperation with international bodies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), the organization is also engaged in efforts to record forced displacement of civilians from occupied parts of Ukraine in Russia.

As part of her Euromaidan SOS project, she drew attention to the persecution of local government officials, journalists, religious leaders, volunteers and civil society activists in areas under Russian control.

Alexandra Matviychuk, representative of the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL),
Alexandra Matviychuk, representing the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), delivers her Nobel Prize acceptance speech [Rodrigo Freitas/NTB/Reuters]

The organization, founded in 2007, builds on its decades of experience in registering cases of illegal imprisonment and other abuses. When Russia unilaterally annexed The Crimean Peninsula in 2014the group began documenting the disappearances of Kremlin opponents, including journalists and activists.

In its early years, the Center for Civil Liberties pressured the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that the country would develop into a full-fledged democracy governed by the rule of law.

A key goal was the accession of Ukraine to the ICC in The Hague. The government accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine indefinitely from 20 February 2014 onwards.

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