21 August 2019, Wednesday, 4:51
We are in the same boat

Sudalenka On Prestigious French Award: I Did Not Believe It First, Thought It Was Joke

Sudalenka On Prestigious French Award: I Did Not Believe It First, Thought It Was Joke

The jury selected the well-known Homel human rights activist out of 60 nominees.

Leanid Sudalenka was the first Belarusian human rights activist to receive the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic. Of the 60 nominees, France chose five, and he is among them.

The Homel human rights activist gave a comment for the Homel Spring website.

- How did you find out that you received this award?

- I received an e-mail in French: Bonjour, Monsieur, congratulations, you are the winner ... They invited me to the ceremony in Paris on December 10 - on Human Rights Day. The award will be presented by the Minister of Justice. Candidates from 60 countries were considered for the prize, the French Government chose five of them. I am very pleased that my humble work was recognized in the year when the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is celebrated.

- What was your first reaction?

- I did not believe it at first. I thought it was a provocation or a joke. Now you can expect anything. When you wait for provocations every day, you stop believing even the obvious things. Only when I received the tickets, when they called me from the French Embassy and invited me to dinner with the ambassador, when the ambassador personally congratulated me - and we know him, he came to Homel in February of this year; he warmly congratulated me - only then I believed that I really received this award, that this is not a joke.

- How did France find out about you?

- Everyone remembers the case when a French citizen stood trial for a cartridge in Homel. I monitored that trial, starting from the iron cage in which he was put at the court hearing; and following the results of the trial, I gave an opinion, pointing out a violation of human rights standards. I published this report on the website of the Homel Spring, and before that I handed it to the representative of the French Embassy, who also came to court, and asked to pass it also to a lawyer.

- Which other countries, except Belarus, do human rights activists who received an award this year come from?

- I know that before it was received by human rights activists from Chechnya, Turkmenistan - from those countries where human rights suffer a serious crisis. One of the conditions of the award is the persecution to which a human rights activist is subjected. In my case, these are the events of 2015, when the authorities launched provocations against me, threatened me with a criminal case, seized equipment, conducted searches at home and at work... Also, when I spoke at the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of the mother of death convict Hrunau - I received threats, and my family. Maybe the embassy staff played some role in awarding me the prize, because earlier Belarusian human rights activists did not receive this award. I am the first Belarusian human rights activist who has been awarded such a high award.

- How did you get on the list of nominees?

- I am handling the work on the protection of human rights both at the national and international levels as the Chairman of the Homel branch of the public association “Legal Initiative”. It was my colleagues in the "Legal Initiative" who nominated me for the award this summer.