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Ales Bialitski Received the First Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

(This article expired 31.12.2013.)

Since the Belarussian human rights defender is currently imprisoned after a politically influenced trial, the prize was handed over to his wife during the ceremony in Strasbourg.

The Belarussian candidate, human rights defender, Ales Bialiatski is the first person to be awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – an award that the Parlamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will grant every year to individuals and non-governmental organisations that actively fight for human rights. This award, which is named after a former Czechoslovak and Czech president, is awarded by PACE together with Charta 77 Foundation and Václav Havel Library in Prague. The winner is appointed by a seven-member board and among others receives 60 000 EUR. All of the above mentioned subjects are represented in the board. The chairman is Mr. Jean-Claude Mignon, the chairman of PACE; other members are for example Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner for Human Rights; Mr. Marek A. Nowitzki, Polish dissident; professor František Janouch, chairman of the board of the Charta 77 Foundation; and Mr. Martin Palouš, member of the board of the Václav Havel Library. Out of all 27 of this year‘s candidates the bord shortlisted three candidates: Ales Bialiatski (Belarus), the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (Georgia) and the Rights Defence Network (China). The board decided unanimously. 

The prize was awarded on 30 September 2013 in a crowded Hemicycle of the Council of Europe in the presence of many Council of Europe’s dignitaries and under a great interest of the media. Bialiatski, whose wife was handed the prize from the chairman of PACE, was in 2011 sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment in a biassed trial after he criticised the Belarussian regime in front of one of the PACE committee in April 2011. Bialiatski is a founder of  Belarussian Human Rights Centre Viasna and a deputy chairman of International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), being the first representative of post-soviet countries elected to the board of this organisation. Bialiatski has also been awarded Swedish prize in human rights field „Per Anger“, Lech Walesa Prize or American Human Rights Defenders Prize. Together with the Viasna organisation he was also awarded the Homo Homini Prize by the Czech non-governmental organisation „Člověk v tísni“ (People in Need).

The Václav Havel Library together with Charta 77 Foundation organized in Bialiatski’s honor an international conference called Civic Society: Freedom Is Not To Be Taken for Granted. The conference took place on 2 October 2013 in an international spiritual centre Prague Crossroad and was attended by all representants of this year’s Václav Havel Prize shortlisted candidates.

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