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Ales Bialiatski, human rights groups in Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

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Detained Belarusian democracy activist Ales Bialiatski speaks after receiving the 2020 Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, Sweden. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. File Photo by Anders Wiklund/EPA-EFE
Detained Belarusian democracy activist Ales Bialiatski speaks after receiving the 2020 Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, Sweden. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. File Photo by Anders Wiklund/EPA-EFE

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Detained Belarusian democracy activist Ales Bialiatski was one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for his determined effort to promote peaceful development and change in his country despite the government's efforts to silence him.

The Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties were also named recipients.

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Bialiatski has been in the custody of the Belarus government since 2020 after large-scale protests emerged in the country challenging the re-election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. He was previously jailed from 2011 to 2014.

"Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s," the Nobel committee said in a statement. "He has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country. Among other things, he founded the organization Viasna in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations.

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"He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr. Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus."

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Memorial, which has its roots fighting abuses in the former Soviet Union and counts former Nobel Peace laureate Andrei Sakharov as one of its founders, has seen its members arrested and killed over the decades. The Russian government forced it into dissolution in 2021.

Despite being labeled as a "foreign agent" by the Kremlin, Memorial's chairman Yan Rachinsky vowed that its human rights work will continue, saying, "Nobody plans to give up."

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The Center for Civil Liberties has documented alleged Russian war crimes since the start of Moscow's invasion of the country in February. The center was founded in Kyiv in 2007 to advance human rights and democracy in Ukraine.

The center has called for strengthening Ukrainian civil society and pressuring authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. It has also advocated for Ukraine to become affiliated with the International Criminal Court.

Friday's Peace Prize caps a week of Nobel Prizes.

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On Thursday, French novelist Annie Ernaux won the literature prize for her body of autobiographical works that reveal how she overcame numerous personal misfortunes.

On Wednesday, Carolyn R. Bertozzi, of Stanford University; Morten Meldal, of the University of Copenhagen; and California researcher K. Barry Sharpless, won the prize in chemistry for developing a molecular process that steers medicines to vulnerable areas inside the body. The discovery could lead to improved cancer treatments.

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On Tuesday, American researcher John Clauser, French scientist Alain Aspect of the University of Paris, and Austrian scientist Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna received the prize in physics for independent studies on the interaction of particles such as photons and electrons.

On Monday, Swedish scientist Svante Paabo was awarded the prize in medicine for his research that proved a genetic link between humans and ancient Neanderthals.

This year's winners will receive a cash award of nearly $1 million, along with the iconic gold medal that features the profile of 19th century Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

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