Ales Bialiatski and Viasna receive Right Livelihood Award
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” and its leader Ales Bialiatski became the first Belarusian laureates of the prestigious international prize “Right Livelihood Award”, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Ales Bialiatski and Viasna received the award for their role in the struggle for democracy and human rights in Belarus. The award ceremony took place on December 3 in Stockholm.
Ales Bialiatski: The world will never tolerate mass human rights violations
During the award ceremony, human rights activist Ales Bialiatski noted that the event was taking place at a time when Belarus is undergoing a peaceful revolution.
"For six months now, the Belarusian society has been engaged in a breathtaking struggle. A fight for human rights, democracy and justice. A fight for the right to “be called people,” as Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala has said. A fight against Europe’s last dictator and the regime he has built over 26 years. The fight does not pass without sacrifices.
In this difficult time, the highly prestigious Right Livelihood Award is a strong signal of moral support to us, human rights defenders of Viasna. The award indicates that what we have been doing in our country for the past 24 years for the sake of justice is right and necessary. We regard this award not only as a recognition of the quality of our work. We perceive it as a sign of solidarity from the entire democratic world with the people of Belarus. And this is also a clear signal to the Belarusian authorities. A signal that the world will never put up with the massive violations of human rights.
My fellow activists in Viasna are also being persecuted for their human rights work,” Ales Bialiatski said after receiving the award."
The chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" said that the organization received threats from security forces. Despite these threats, human rights defenders continue to assist victims of repression.
In 2020, 18 members and volunteers of Viasna were arrested and detained. In October, Maryna Kastylianchanka spent a month in prison. The coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer service Marfa Rabkova and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk have been in prison for over two months already. They were detained for organizing food parcels for political prisoners in Minsk. The authorities considered this charitable aid a crime. They face up to several years in prison.
Right Livelihood Award winner Nasrin Sotoudeh: “I appreciate the depth of your devotion to promoting civil society and preventing human rights abuses in Belarus”
The winners of the award were announced on October 1. Besides Viasna, this year's award went to Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, US civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson and indigenous rights and environmental activist Lottie Cunningham Wren of Nicaragua.
Recalling all the winners of the award, Ales Bialiatski said in his speech that “all together they will do their best to make this world a little better.”
In 2019, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Less than a month ago, she was temporarily released from prison due to health problems, but the day before yesterday it was decided that Nasrin should go back to prison.
“Greetings from Iran. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for receiving the Right Livelihood Award. It is an honor, also a distinct joy, to receive this award in your company and to become part of the larger family of Right Livelihood laureates. Our friends at the foundation kindly shared your warm and encouraging words with me. I appreciate the depth of your devotion to promoting civil society and preventing human rights abuses in Belarus. We have much to learn from your inspiring example and leadership, and wish you every success in the years ahead,” Ms Sotoudeh wrote to Ales Bialiatski on the occasion of receiving the award.