The Belarusian Human Rights Community Award Ceremony for 2023 Has Taken Place in Vilnius

The Belarusian Human Rights Community Award ceremony for 2023 was held on December 10 in Vilnius.

The laureates were:

  • In the 'Human Rights Defender of the Year-2023' category, there were two winners: Oleg Ageev and Natalia Matskevich.
  • The 'Journalist of the Year-2023' award was given to political prisoner Aliaksandr Mantsevich.
  • In the 'Human Rights Campaign/Initiative of the Year-2023' category, the winner is the evacuation service 'B**OL'.
  • For the new 'Human Rights Solidarity of the Year-2023' category, political prisoner Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk was recognized as the winner.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the organisers paid special tribute to human rights defender Aleh Hulak by presenting him with an honorary award outside the regular nominations.

“Today, we will first honour a human rights defender outside the regular nominations. I refer to Aleh Hulak, the head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, who tragically passed away just under a year ago, on December 16, 2022, at the age of just 55. Aleh’s contributions to the cause of human rights defence are monumental.

Aleh led the Committee for nearly 15 years and was esteemed by his colleagues as an adept negotiator and builder of long-term partnerships. He was instrumental in fostering interactions among human rights defenders, the public community, the state, and international community. The idea for the National Human Rights Index owes its origin to Aleh Hulak. Index is a unique initiative where not only legal and human rights experts, but also professionals in other fields, such as education and health, contribute their assessments, thereby adding a multi-dimensional perspective to human rights.

Aleh dedicated immense effort to promoting the idea that human rights should be a core value, not only for the state and human rights organisations but also for entities not directly involved in human rights work. He pioneered the adoption of a human rights-based approach. Under his leadership, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee began advocating for the integration of business and human rights in Belarus. Aleh focused on this particularly during the crisis of 2020-2021, highlighting the state's attempts to implicate businesses in human rights violations.

For many, Aleh was more than just a defender and a colleague; he was a friend. He was not only respected but also dearly loved. Now, it falls upon us all to ensure that Aleh’s remarkable contribution to human rights in Belarus is not forgotten and continues to inspire action.”
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