National Human Rights Award 2011
The organizing committee of Charter’97 has announced laureates of the National Award in the field of human rights protection for 2011.
It has never been so difficult to select laureates of the award as it has been this year. 2011 has opened to the world such a large number of brave and courageous Belarusians ready to sacrifice their lives and destinies for the sake of freedom of their country, that it is hardly possible to name each of them. This is why this time the organizing committee of Charter’97 gives the National Award to three groups of people, who have proved themselves this year.
In 2011 Belarus faced most massive and cruel repressions ever. Thousands of Belarusians went through prisons because they wanted to change their lives for the better and strove for freedom of their native country. Only after the protest against the fraudulent presidential elections results on the 19th of December 2010, more than 700 people were jailed, including the country’s political elite – presidential candidates and members of their election campaign teams. This was followed by brutal suppression of silent protests, revolts of workers and entrepreneurs, people’s assemblies. Today Andrei Sannikov, Nikolai Statkevich, Dmitry Bondarenko, Dmitry Dashkevich, Ales Bialiatski, Nikolai Avtukhovich, Eduard Lobov, Alexander Frantskevich, Artiom Prokopenko, Igor Olinevich, Yevgeny Vaskovich, Pavel Syromolotov, Nikolai Dedok, Pavel Severinets are still behind bars. Freedom of tens of other opposition activists has been restricted: they cannot leave the country and are under constant control of the police and KGB.
Everyone who went though prisons of the Lukashenka regime, and those who are still there, undergoing tortures and inhuman treatment, are heroes. Names of freedom fighters will go down in history, and their courage and bravery are exemplary not only for Belarusians, but for all people in the world.
FAMILIES OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children of Belarusian prisoners of conscience have stunned the world with their unconditional love and fearlessness. They have been fighting for their relatives so selflessly that even the brutal and inhuman system of the dictatorship created for 17 years, has been helpless against them. They were standing for hours freezing in the cold, trying to pass to their relatives at KGB prison at least a small part of home warmth. They sought for meetings and visits, going through an incredible number of instances and indifferent officials, survived cynical and unfair trials of their relatives, pressure and intimidation of KGB. They did not give up and today they are not just waiting for their relatives to be free, but they are fighting for this to happen as soon as possible.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND LAWYERS
For those who went through imprisonment and those who are still in jail, human rights defenders and lawyers became at times as close as their family members. Human rights organizations continue to save lives of prisoners of conscience, supporting their families, proving legal assistance and telling the world about the total lawlessness that exists in Belarus today. Power of human rights defenders appeared to be so strong, and their activity so important that they have faced repressions this year, too. The leader of the human rights centre “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski was thrown to prison on the trumped-up charges, while many lawyers lost their licenses for defending political prisoners. Introduction of new punitive laws threatens to completely destroy activity of all organizations that continue to defend human rights in Belarus. However there are no human rights defenders who gave up. They continue to fight for our freedom.