Nobel Peace Prize awarded to human rights defenders in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to human rights defenders in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus who have become symbols of resistance and accountability at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the world’s worst ground war. large in Europe since World War II.

The laureates: Ales Bialiatski, a jailed Belarusian activist; Memorial, a Russian organization; and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, have become some of the toughest challenges to widespread disinformation and harmful myths spread by authoritarian leaders and fueled by globalization, digital connectivity, and new methods of surveillance.

“Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, announcing the awards. “For many years they have promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”

The committee said it had chosen the three laureates because it wanted to honor defenders of “human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence” in neighboring Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

His work has taken on a new meaning since February, when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded neighboring Ukrainedisplacing millions of people and destabilizing the entire region.

The award was an implicit rebuke to Putin, whose tenure has been peppered with a violent crackdown on dissidents and critics at home, and whose 70th birthday was on Friday, an overlap noted by several observers.

“On Putin’s 70th birthday, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a Russian human rights group he shut down, a Ukrainian human rights group documenting his war crimes, and a Belarusian human rights activist whom his ally Lukashenko has jailed,” Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Asked if this year’s winners’ choice was “a timely birthday president,” Ms. Reiss-Andersen said: “This award is not addressed to President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense, except that his government, like the government in Belarus, represents an authoritarian government that represses human rights activists.”

The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties has made efforts to identify and document evidence of Russian war crimes since the invasion began, Reiss-Andersen said, adding that the group was “playing a pioneering role with a view to stopping the guilty”. be held accountable for their crimes.”

The committee praised the organization for taking a stand to “strengthen Ukrainian civil society and put pressure on the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy.”

There were 343 nominees for this year’s award, including 251 individuals and 92 organizations, the second-highest total ever, behind only 2016. Although there was no clear favorite, some of the names that caught the eye included President Volodymyr Zelensky from Ukraine; Aleksey A. Navalnya jailed Russian dissident; Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarusian opposition politician; World Health Organization; and the International Court of Justice.

Mr. Zelensky was the bookies’ favourite.

Last year, the Peace Prize was shared by two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitry A. Muratov, “for his efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” the Nobel committee said. They were the first to receive the prize for journalistic work since the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935.

Ms. Ressa, co-founder of the online news platform Rappler, was nearly prevented from attending due to legal cases brought against her in her native Philippines. Mr. Muratov, editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, has been described as one of the most prominent defenders of freedom of expression in Russia.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, Novaya Gazeta was forced to suspend publication amid growing government censorship.

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