The website charter97.org announced the winners of the 2013 National Human Rights Award.
We decided to devote the National Human Rights Award to Viktar Ivashkevich, one of the leaders of the Belarusian revival. Viktar gave his life to fighting for Belarus's freedom. His courage, dedication, adherence to principles and honesty became our guides. Viktar Ivashkevich was among the initiators and members of the organising committee of the civil initiative Charter'97. We decided to name the award after him.
Here are heroes of the year:
The winner of the award “For personal courage”. He is a journalist true to his profession and one of the leaders of the Union of Poles of Belarus, the organisation persecuted by the Belarusian authorities. In spite of pressure, criminal cases and a jail term, he calls things by their proper names, critisises the government in his articles and doesn't try to hide what should be given as much publicity as possible.
Andrzej Poczobut's term of restriction of liberty expired this year. Even being under control of police and security services for several years, he continued to publish brave articles in Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland) and on charter97.org. Andrzej also published the book “System Belarus” this year trying to expose the true nature of the Lukashenka regime. “Dictator Lukashenka is a cynical, dishonest and unscrupulous manipulator. These qualities allowed him to come to power and keep it,” Andrzej said during the presentation of his book.
The winner of the award “For personal courage in human rights activities”. Political prisoner Uladzimir Yaromenak, an activist of Young Front, was given the second term of detention (3 months) on a cynical accusation of “violating the rules of preventive supervision”.
The fate of Uladzimir Yaromenak reflects today's terrible tendency. Political prisoners arrested during and after the 2010 presidential campaign are still in jails, but the freed prisoners of conscience are being arrested again. Each of former political prisoners is under the close control of the authorities.
Awarding Uladzimir Yaromenak we appreciate his courage and firmness and call on the world to turn attention to the demands to release and rehabilitate all Belarusian political prisoners.
Belarus Free Theatre
The team of the Belarus Free Theatre, which continues to work in Belarus, receives the award “For courage in creative work”. Theatre heads Nicolai Khalezin, Vladimir Shcherban and Natalia Kaliada had to leave the country due to repressions organised by the authorities after December 19, 2010. Today, performances by the Belarus Free Theatre are known across the world.
Every performance in Minsk is a great risk. The police and security services attend almost all shows and arrest actors and spectators. The theatre lost its premises this year. The authorities forbade the group to perform plays even in a private house on the outskirts of Minsk. Brave actors risk their freedom to continue to perform on different stages and hold performances in Minsk's streets.
“Theatre is not a building. Theatre is where something really important takes place. It may happen in any place,” director Vladimir Shcherban told the website.
Ecologist Tatsiana Novikava and her colleagues struggle against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus. Protesting against numerous violations in the NPP construction, ecological activists went to the frontline. Like political opposition, they face repression. Tatsiana Novikava met arrests and pressure for her activities. She struggles for Belarusians to receive the true information about environmentally dangerous projects of the authorities and to be able to influence the decisions important for the country. The brave woman received the award for personal courage in the struggle for our rights to live safely.
Other people also deserve the National Human Rights Award this year, but we try not to award the same people twice.
The National Human Rights Award was founded by Charter’97 in 1998. In different years the award was granted to participants of a camp on Kastrychnitskaya Square of Minsk in March 2006; political prisoners Ales Bialiatski, Aliaksandr Kazulin, Zmitser Dashkevich, Mikhail Marynich, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich, Andrei Kim, Siarhei Parsiukevich; first head of independent Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich, activist of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union Alena Zakhozhaya; believers, who went on hunger strike to defend the 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 the former political prisoner Tatsiana Klimava-Leanovich; People’s Artist of Belarus Zinaida Bandarenka; opposition activist Uladzimir Plashchenka; defenders of the Kurapaty memorial complex; the creative association “Pahonya”; music bands N.R.M., Novaye Neba and Lyapis Trubetskoy with its leader Siarhei Mikhalok; Yakub Kolas Belarusian Humanities Lyceum closed down by the authorities; journalists Pavel Mazheika, Mikola Markevich, Viktar Ivashkevich, Liubou Luniova, Yuras Karmanau, Maryna Koktysh, Henadz Barbarych, Yulia Darashkevich; human rights activist Yana Paliakova; trade union leader Henadz Fiadynich; Swedish pilots Tomas Mazetti, Per Cromwell, Hannah Frey; political prisoners convicted in the case of December 19; the initiative Vyzvalenne and other famous public figures, politicians and journalists.