Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, founder of the organisation Viasna (Belarus), receives the 2020 Right Livelihood Award at the digital award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden on 3 December, 2020Reuters

The Nobel Peace Prize was on Friday awarded to human rights champions Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, Russia's Memorial group and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties for their work to document war crimes and rights abuses. 

The committee called for the release of Bialiatski, who has been jailed since 2021 in Belarus, and insisted its prize was not directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched an invasion of Ukraine in February.

Svetlana Gannushkina, Russian human rights activist and founder of the "Memorial" organization, listens during an interview with Reuters at her house in Moscow on 6 October, 2011

"They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy", the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, told reporters.

"This prize is not addressing President Putin ... except that his government ... is representing an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists," Reiss-Andersen said.

Last year, the Peace Prize crowned two champions of freedom of the press, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa and her Russian colleague Dmitry Muratov.

The prize comes with a gold medal, a diploma and a prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $900,000). 

The award will be presented at a formal ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of the prizes' creator, Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

Reiss-Andersen said she hoped Bialiatski would be able to attend.

"We do hope ... that he can come to Oslo and receive the honour bestowed upon him", she said.

The Peace Prize is the only Nobel awarded in Oslo, with the other disciplines announced in Stockholm.

On Thursday, French author Annie Ernaux, known for her deceptively simple novels drawing on personal experience of class and gender, won the Nobel Literature Prize.

She is the 17th woman to get the nod out of 119 literature laureates since 1901.

The Nobel season winds up Monday with the Nobel Economics Prize.