Nobel Peace Prize awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski and two organisations

Human rights were the focus of the 2022 prize which has been awarded 103 times to 138 Nobel Prize laureates since 1901

Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski is being held without trial by authorities in Belarus. AFP
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The Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 has been shared between a human rights activist and two human rights organisations.

Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian organisation Centre for Civil Liberties were awarded the prize, which was on announced on Friday in Oslo by Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

"They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy", Ms Reiss-Andersen said.

She said the committee believed that in "these very challenging times it was the time to address ... that we are in the midst of a war".

"We would like to highlight the importance of civil society, of every citizen who has a responsibility, and an engagement to promote other values than the values of aggression and war," Ms Reiss-Andersen said.

Mr Bialiatski is the second citizen in Belarus’s independent history to receive a Nobel prize after Svetlana Alexievich won the award in literature seven years ago.

Mr Bialiatski has been in prison in Belarus since 2021 for alleged tax evasion ― charges human rights defenders consider to be politically motivated.

Ms Reiss-Andersen urged Belarusian authorities to release Mr Bialiatski.

"We do hope this can happen and he can come to Oslo and receive the honour bestowed upon him. But ... I am afraid my wish is not very realistic. I do urge for his release."

The committee said: “Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski.

"Since 2020, 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.”

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Bialiatski was "recognition for all Belarusians fighting for freedom and democracy."

Mr Bialiatski's wife, meanwhile, told AFP she was "overwhelmed with emotions".

"I express my deep gratitude to the Nobel committee and the international community for recognising the work of Ales, his colleagues and his organisation."

Civil rights group Memorial was founded in Russia during the fall of the Soviet Union to document human rights offences and other crimes committed under Joseph Stalin's regime. Russia’s supreme court ordered its closure in late 2021.

Ukrainian human rights organisation the Centre for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 to advance human rights in Ukraine and the territories of the newly-independent states.

The announcement was unexpected, with opposition leaders in Belarus and Russia, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Alexey Navalny, tipped as potential winners.

Last year’s peace prize was won by two journalists for championing free expression under increasingly repressive conditions in the Philippines and Russia.

Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were described by Nobel jurors as representing all journalists who stand up for press freedom around the world.

A week of Nobel prize announcements began on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine for unlocking secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided insights into the human immune system.

Three scientists ― Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger ― jointly won the prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in quantum mechanics.

On Wednesday, Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K Barry Sharpless were awarded the prize for chemistry for their work in developing a way of “snapping molecules together" in click chemistry.

French author Annie Ernaux, known for her deceptively simple novels that draw on personal experience of class and gender, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday.

The week of awards concludes with the economics prize on Monday.

The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $912,000). The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.

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Updated: October 07, 2022, 5:26 PM