The website charter97.org announced winners of the National Human Rights Award 2012.
Prizes for personal courage in human rights activity were given to Ales Byalyatski, Stanislau Shushkevich, Syarhei Mikhalok , Swedish pilots Tomas Mazetti, Per Cromwell and Hannah Frey and Henadz Fyadynich .
One of the first activists of the Belarusian national resistance, Ales Byalyatski launched human rights movement in Belarus. He stood up against the totalitarian regime. His human rights centre Viasna defended human rights and helped political prisoners. His achievements and merits were so indisputable, that he became the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights. He was proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize several times. Having faced Stalin-like methods of punishing freedom fighters in Belarus, Byalyatski was thrown into prison for 4.5 years. He is Belarus's number one human rights defender today. The human rights activist with a capital H. His courage enthrals and inspires you. His human rights centre continue to work helping victims of repressions.
The name of first head of independent Belarus went down in the history books long ago: for the dissolution of the evil empire and removal of nuclear weapons from Belarus. He still remains among the most principled politicians in the country. We, journalists, like to interview Mr Shushkevich, because we know he always says the truth and doesn't fear that he can be banned from leaving the country or that a criminal case can be opened against him.
Stanislau Shushkevich published the book My Life: The Collapse and Revival of the USSR, in which he analyses the history of Belarus. The politician remains true to himself and gives a honest and sober estimate of the current situation: new dictatorships appear in post-Soviet countries and this process should be repelled.
Syarhei Mikhalok always attracts capacity crowds. He could have an easy and pleasant life in Belarus like many other musicians. But when the country plunged into the fear after mass arrests following the events on December 19, 2010, Mikhalok launched a challenge to the dictatorship. He said he didn't regard Lukashenka as the president, because the election results were rigged. “He is not the president. He is a person who hates his nation and deserves a fair trial at best,” musician and citizen Mikhalok said.
He had to go abroad due to threats of criminal prosecution, but Mikhalok remains the voice of the people of Belarus. His songs “Not To Be Cattle!” (with the lyrics by prominent Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala), “Battleship”, “Iron” inspire Belarusians for struggle and make them remember about their human and national dignity.
Tomas Mazetti, Per Cromwell and Hannah Frey from Swedish PR firm Studio Total performed a dangerous flight to the last dictatorship of Europe to support harassed independent journalists.
The courage of the Swedish pilots astonished the whole world. Their light aircraft could have been shot down at any moment and the Swedish enthusiasts could have died. They were lucky to have a successful flight. The bold Swedes dropped hundreds of teddy bears carrying free speech slogans over Minsk and Ivyanets.
Furious Lukashenka almost went mad. His boasted military power became an object of mockery. Heads of army generals rolled and the embassy of Sweden in Minsk was closed. The world's leading TV channels and newspaper talked about Belarus as a country, where the opposition suffers from harassment and the dictator is so weak that he fears even teddy bears.
He is not a tribune, but he has been one of few trade union leaders struggling for workers' rights for many years. The trade union movement in Belarus has been eliminated for all years of Lukashenka's rule. Henadz Fyadynich managed to bring Trade Union of Electronic Engineering through the most difficult times. Despite threats he supports workers amid strikes that constantly happen in the country. He actively participated in a campaign to boycott Lukashenka's parliamentary “elections”. His trade union is always open for representatives of all political forces. He is a real trade union leader today.
The National Human Rights Award was founded by Charter’97 in 1998. In different years the award was granted to participants of camp on October square of Minsk in March 2006; political prisoners Alyaksandr Kazulin, Zmitser Dashkevich, Mikhail Marynich, Artur Finkevich, Paval Sevyarynets, Mikola Statkevich, Mikalai Autukhovich; activist of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union Alena Zakhozhaya; believers, who went on hunger strike to defend “New Life” protestant church; Ivona Matsukevich, the head of the parish committee of St. Joseph’s church; human rights activists Valer Shchukin and Halina Yubko; wives of disappeared opposition leaders and a journalist Iryna Krasouskaya, Zinaida Hanchar, Svyatlana Zavadskaya, wife of former political prisoner Tatsyana Klimava-Leanovich; People’s Artist of Belarus Zinaida Bandarenka; opposition activist Uladzimir Plashchenka; defenders of Kurapaty memorial complex; creative association “Pahonya” ; music bands N.R.M., Novaye Neba; Yakub Kolas Belarusian Humanities Lyceum closed down by the authorities; journalists Pavel Mazheika, Mikola Markevich, Viktar Ivashkevich, Lyubou Lunyova, Yuras Karmanau, Maryna Koktysh, Henadz Barbarych, Yuliya Darashkevich and other famous public figures, politicians and journalists.