The Norwegian Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to an individual and two organisations. Jailed human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties were announced as the 2022 winners of the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo.
“This year’s laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.
“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,” she added.
The award comes as Russia wages war on Ukraine, in Europe's biggest land conflict since World War II.
Nominations for this year's winner took place prior to the Kremlin's invasion late February, but it was widely speculated that the award may reflect the conflict.
But despite acknowledging that this year's winners are “neighbors and civil society [groups] with a joint understanding of the values that they want to promote,” committee chair Reiss-Andersen denied suggestions that the choices of winners this year was designed to send a birthday message to Vladimir Putin, who turned 70 on October 7, 2022.
“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,” she said, adding that the committee awards the prize “for something and to somebody and not against anyone.”
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski
Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country. Among other things, he founded the Minsk-based human rights organization Viasna (Spring) in 1996 which advocates for political prisoners and in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations.
Viasna evolved into broad-based human rights Organization that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners.
Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. He was detained in 2020 following protests against the re-election of Belarus’ strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. He remains in jail without trial.
Despite tremendous personal hardship, Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus. In a statement on its website, Viasna noted that this was Bialiastski’s sixth nomination for the award, and that he is the fourth winner to have received the Nobel Peace Prize while in custody.
Memorial - human rights group in Russia
Memorial is a human rights group in Russia established by activists in the former Soviet Union in 1987, as a public history campaign to ensure that the victims of the Soviet regime would never be forgotten.
During the Chechen wars, Memorial gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the civilian population by Russian and pro-Russian forces. In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed because of this work.
Civil society actors in Russia have been subjected to threats, imprisonment, disappearance and murder for many years. As a part of the government’s harassment of Memorial, the organisation was stamped early on as a “foreign agent”.
The Russian Supreme Court and the authorities in December 2021 decided that Memorial was to be forcibly liquidated and the documentation center was to be closed permanently just two months prior to the invasion of Ukraine, amid a broader crackdown on human rights groups and independent journalists.
The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind Memorial refused to be shut down.
In a comment on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky stated, “Nobody plans to give up. When civil society must give way to autocracy and dictatorship, peace is often the next victim..”
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders.
Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organization in Russia.
In addition to establishing a center of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematized information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia.
Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. The organization has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law.
Center for Civil Liberties
The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine.
The center has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy.
To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, the Center for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the international Criminal Court.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in an effort to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population.
In collaboration with international partners, the center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.
“Last year’s prize was awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression” in the Philippines and Russia.Ressa is the co-founder of the investigative digital media company Rappler, which has focused on the brutal war on drugs waged by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Muratov is a broadcaster and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper critical of the Putin regime. In March this year, the newspaper was forced to announce that it was suspending print and digital activities and removing reporting on the invasion, after receiving multiple censorship orders from Moscow authorities.
Previous winners also included the World Food Program, female education activist and Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr and four former US Presidents: Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
The coveted prize comes with an 18-karat gold medal and cash winnings of 10 million Swedish krona ($898,534), as well as international acclaim. The decision of who to award the prize is a highly secretive operation, involving a rigorous eight-month process in which the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a host of Norwegian and international advisors screen names of nominees submitted by academics and states people all over the world.
A list of candidates is created by spring, with the committee making a simple majority vote at the start of October, according to the award’s website. The full list of nominees is not released for another 50 years, according to the prize’s website.
The peace prize caps a week of Nobel awards.
French author Annie Emaux won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Ernaux, who has written about class, sex and abortion, strongly defended women's rights to contraception and abortion in a speech at a news conference in Paris.
“I will fight to my last breath so that women can choose to be a mother, or not to be. It’s a fundamental right,” she said.
“Nobel Committee has an interesting understanding of the word 'peace' if representatives of two countries that attacked a third one receive @Nobel Prize together,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Twitter.
“Neither Russian nor Belarusian organizations were able to organize resistance to the war,” he added.
Bialiatski spent four years in a Belarusian prison and was released in June 2014. He was detained again in 2020 following protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Wiktor Dabkowski/DPA via Getty Images fill.
By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and Center for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in the neighboring countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
Through their consistent efforts in favour of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law, this year’s laureates have revitalised and honoured Alfred Nobel's vision of peace and fraternity between nations - a vision most needed in the world today.
(The views expressed are personal)