Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was shared by human rights activists from three countries – Russia, Belarus and Ukraine – who defended the right to criticize power and posed a challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
Awards presented to the Russian “Memorial” organization; Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine; Ales Bialiatsky, the imprisoned Belarusian activist; It was not without controversy. Although many Ukrainians rejoiced at the Center for Civil Liberties’ award, some saw the shared honor as reinforcing Mr. Putin’s narrative that Russia and Ukraine are “brotherly countries.”
Others saw the award as supporting the cross-border challenge against the backdrop of the Russian war in Ukraine. Berrit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, said at last year’s ceremony that the laureates “have for many years promoted the right to criticize authority and the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens.”
Here’s a closer look at the 2022 Nobel laureates:
Center for Civil Liberties
Founded in 2007, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties had been documenting human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine years before last year’s large-scale Russian invasion.
When Russia forcefully occupied Crimea in 2014, the group documented the disappearance of activists, journalists and opponents. Since last year, this work has expanded, with the group partnering with national and international groups to continue documenting Russian war crimes against Ukrainians.
The group restarted its Euromaidan SOS project last year, with several hundred local volunteers collecting testimonies about rights violations. The project was first created after the 2013 and 2014 protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square, to monitor abuses committed by the security forces of the country’s then president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The organization also campaigned for Ukraine to join the International Criminal Court. The court is still not a full member, but since 2013 Ukraine has accepted the court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory.
Memorial, a Russian human rights group founded in 1988, has spent decades educating the Russian public about Soviet political repression by publishing history books, hosting exhibitions and educating school children.
But with President Vladimir Putin cracking down on opposition speech, Memorial’s quest for truths about Russia’s history has not gone unpunished.
The Russian government banned this group a year before it won the Nobel Peace Prize. Last year, on the day the awards were announced, Memorial members were fighting in court to keep their last office space in Moscow following their liquidation the previous year; As expected, the judge ruled against them.
This was the second year in a row that the Nobel Prize was awarded to a Russian. In 2021, one of the award winners was Dimitri A. Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Six of its journalists were killed.
Mr. Bialiatsky, a 61-year-old Belarusian laureate, was involved in human rights movements before Belarus gained independence from Soviet control. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Alexander J. Lukashenko, Belarusian authoritarian leader, power In 1994, Mr. Bialiatsky founded another rights group, called Viasna, or Spring.
He was arrested after testifying on behalf of another activist and was quickly put on trial on trumped-up charges of tax evasion. After serving a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence, he was released under an amnesty in 2014.
Now, he has been jailed without formal charges and under investigation along with other members of Viasna, one of several targets of dissident rhetoric that came after the 2020 protests following Mr. Lukashenko’s landslide victory in an election widely seen as rigged.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry mocked the award In a post on X, formerly Twitter, The prizes had become so politicized, he wrote, that Alfred Nobel was “turning over in his grave.”
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”