Charter’97 has granted National Human Rights Award 2008 to human rights activists and former political prisoners. Prize “For Personal Courage” is given to Alyaksandr Barazenka, Andrei Kim, Syarhei Parsyukevich, and Halina Yubko.
The National Human Rights Award was founded by Charter’97 in 1998. It is given for the 10th time this year.
“We are presenting the National Human Rights Award for the 10th time. It is remarkable that it takes place ahead of big holidays, I mean not only Christmas. We mark 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next year. I believe Belarus will meet very important and positive events,” Andrei Sannikov, international coordinator of Cahrter’97, told opening the ceremony.
The first prize winner was Alyaksandr Barazenka, activist of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, who was sentenced to 1 year of restraint of liberty on December 9, 2008, for participation in protest rallies of entrepreneurs. The young oppositionist had to spend two months in the detention facility before the trial. Alyaksandr Barazenka received the prize from Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich, former political prisoner.
“Paul the Apostle writes in the Epistle to the Romans: “Render therefore to all their dues”. A person, I will give this prize, returned to his motherland not to have debts to anyone, though he had good opportunities to arrange his life and get excellent education. He didn’t just return, but being in prison by his courage called on all his friends, the Belarusian youth, the Belarusian society to get rid of fear. He said after the trial that modern Belarusian Star Chamber ha inspired him to more effective activity. I wish courage, strength, and undying faith to Alyaksandr Barazenka,” Zmitser Dashkevich said giving the prize to the former political prisoner.
Alyaksandr Barazenka said in response: “This prize belongs to my colleagues, activists of the “European Belarus” initiative and other youth organizations who helped me in hard times and continue struggling for free Belarus.”
Coordinator of Charter’97 Zmitser Bandarenka awarded human rights activist Halina Yubko with a prize “For Personal Courage”. An awful tragedy happened in the family of Halina Yubko 3 years ago – her sister Katsyaryna was killed and burnt. The law enforcement bodies said it was an accident. But Halina Yubko has gathered and continues gathering facts and proofs that stayed beyond attention of investigation and court. She demands to punish people guilty in her sister’s death. Moreover, halina Yubko saved one of the suspected in murder of her sister from prison. The man was accused of murder, and he admitted his guilt under arrest. Later, he told he had been pressed on in the detention facility. Halina Yubko managed to prove innocence of the man, who had alibi. Investigating the murder of her sister, halina Yubko also helps other people, who have faced legal outrage.
“Psychologists say: if you have a problem, the best way to solve it is helping others. It’s just a theory, but when you meet a trouble, when it possibly deals with crime, it’s difficult to overcome this, not to give up, but try to seek the truth and try to help other people to seek the truth. That’s why the National Human Rights Prize in the nomination “For Personal Courage” is given to Halina Yubko,” Zmitser Bandarenka said.
Prize winner Halina Yubko told about her tragedy and her human right activity: “It happened that I had to launch my own investigation of my sister’s death. I found one of the accomplices, I appealed to all governmental institutions, even appealed to the President’s Administration. I am constantly meeting with our authorities, prosecutors, courts, and I say to officials: our judicial system, our prosecution agencies have already reached the bottom. But I am trying not only for myself, striving for investigation of my sister’s death, but also try to help other people to defend their rights.”
Andrei Kim, youth leader and former political prisoner, received the National Human Rights Prize from Lyudmila Hraznova, head of “Human Rights Alliance” and deputy of the 13th Supreme Council. In April 2008, Andrei Kim was sentenced to 1.5 years of imprisonment for defending the rights of entrepreneurs at a protest rally. The political prisoner was released in August 2008 on demands of Belarusian and international community.
“There are specks of gold in our society. There are people who are ready to risk not for themselves, but for all of us, sacrificing health, freedom, and relatives. I realize, there just few such people, but they are are backbone of the country. So, with great pleasure, I am giving this award to Andrei,” Lyudmila Hraznova said.
“I think the sacrifice, you have been speaking about, will help to keep faith in people, b cause it is very important now to go on believing,” Andrei Kim noted when receiving the prize.
Mikalai Khalezin, head of Belarus Free Theatre, awarded Syarhei Parsyukevich, leader of entrepreneurs and former political prisoner. One of the leaders of entrepreneurs’ movement, former militia major Parsyukevich was sentenced to 2.5 years in a minimum security penal colony in April 2008. The oppositionist was brutally beaten by prison guard Alyaksandr Dulub in the prison on Akrestin Street, where he was serving his term of arrest for participation in a rally of entrepreneurs. The prison guard accused Parsyukevich of beating to avoid charges with excess of power. Parsyukevich didn’t admit his guilt. The political prisoner was serving his term in the penal colony and was released in August 2008.
“Unfortunately, it is commonly supposed that we have no heroes in the country. This model was introduced by the authorities, who are deleting all names from the informational environment expect for one. However, I know the heroes exist, there are so many of them that after some time we will sink in the stream of hero names who are doing their best now to change the situation in the county for the better. I am proud to hand in this award today and to stand by these people. Syarhei Parsyukevich is one of these heroes. I hope, we’ll soon see these people on front pages of newspapers, the newspapers that now print only portraits of Kolya’s father. Syarhei Parsyukevich has gone through what most of the Belarusians will hardly meet. His courage, strength, energy, persistence is an example for all of us of how one should behave in such a situation. I am proud I can give this award to him,” Mikalai Khalezin said.
The leader of entrepreneurs thanked all people who had supported him during his detention and those who hadn’t left his family in trouble.
“I express profound gratitude for being supported, for the support of my family. If the authorities hope that by methods of force they would be able to intimidate decent people, and remove them from their field of action, their hopes are to deceive them. I think that after what they have done to us, there is no way back. I am convinced that our country is on the edge of great events. Not much time is left before our victory. I think it is likely that the next year our life will change drastically. I and my friends will do our best for that to happen,” Syarhei Parsyukevich said.
The National Human Rights Award in the nomination “For Defence of Freedom of Speech Principles” has been given to “Nasha Niva” press photographer Yulia Darashkevich for her work in covering the events in Belarus. However Yulia couldn’t attend the ceremony because of her professional duties.