The National Human Rights award of the website charter97.org was given on February 1, 2013, in Warsaw.
The ceremony held in the Warsaw office of the website charter97.org gathered Polish and Belarusian human rights activists, politicians, public figures and journalists.
Editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina said during the opening of the ceremony:
“February 1 is an important day in the history of Belarus. February 1, 1863 was the first day of the national liberation uprising headed by the famous Belarusian Kastus Kalinouski. Tomorrow, by the way, will be the hero’s birthday.
The struggle of the people like Kastus Kalinouski and his companions gave the Belarusians back their dignity and national self-conscience. The people that we celebrate today also struggle for the freedom of our country, and with their own example they make the Belarusian nation remember the dignity.
The civil initiative Charter’97 launched the National Human Rights award in 1998. Hundreds of courageous heroes for Belarus’ freedom have received the award during the past 15 years.
Today the website charter97.org continues the tradition of the civil initiative. We discussed candidates for the award 2012 with the editorial house of the website and founders of the civil initiative. The award “For Individual Courage” went to human rights activist Ales Bialiatski; first Belarusian leader Stanislau Shushkievich; musician Siargei Mikhalok; organizers of the teddy bear attack Tomas Mazetti, Per Cromwell, Hannah Frey and Linda Karlsson; trade unions leader Giannadz Fiadynich.”
Natallia Radzina gave the first award to Stanislau Shushkievich.
“I have the honor to give the National award to the person whom I deeply respect – the first leader of independent Belarus Stanislau Shushkievich.
This person long ago left his name in the history: for destroying the “evil empire”, for getting rid of the nuclear weapon located in Belarus. And today he is one of the most prominent politicians of the country. Journalists like us enjoy interviewing Stanislau Stanislavavich because we know for sure that he always tells the truth, and that he is not afraid of being banned to leave the country or of becoming a subject of a criminal case.
This year Stanislau Shushkievich published a book ”My Life: Collapse and Resurrection of the USSR” with an analysis of the Belarusian history. The politician remains faithful to his ideas and gives an adequate and honest evaluation of the events: dictatorships resurrect in the post-soviet countries and we must fight against it,” the editor-in-chief of charter97.org said.
Stanislau Shushkievich said:
“I am very glad that this award ceremony is tied to the name of Kastus Kalinouski. Just imagine: he got killed when he was 26 years old, and by that time he had managed to write “Muzhytskaia Prauda”, considered today a masterpiece of pithiness and an outstanding leaflet. For me, there is another crucial date in February. Today is the birthday of Boris Yeltsin, the only Russian president who understood what the independence of Belarus means, what we were striving to, and who didn’t create any hinders. He said: “Take as much independence as you can get”. And we took just as much as we needed. I am also glad that the people of Charter’97 are so young. We can all be sure that the struggle for independent Belarus is in young experienced hands, and that young bright minds are working to achieve this goal.”
Natallia Radzina told about three peculiar details of the National award 2012. Firstly, this is the first time the website charter97.org gives the award instead of the civil initiative Secondly, for the first time in 15 years the award was given to foreigners – the Swedish pilots Per Cromwell, Hannah Frey and Tomas Mazetti, who got the award in Sweden for a couple of days ago. Thirdly, this is the first time charter97.org suggests giving the award to our foreign friends because today international solidarity in the development of the Belarusian civil society plays a vital role.
Marcin Wojciechowski, vice president of the Polish International Solidarity Fund, gave Ales Bialiatski’s award to his wife Natallia Pinchuk.
“Dear Natallia, dear Mr. President, dear friends. Ales Bialiatski is a symbol – symbol of freedom, independent thinking, human rights, human dignity and fight for these values. Unfortunately, today Ales Bialiatski cannot be here with us because he is in prison. To a certain degree Poland bares a share of responsibility for his arrest and conviction. We are sorry for that. This mistake should never have happened. The only thing we can do now, apart from supporting his family and colleagues, is to tell about him being in prison for his ideals and work, for trying to make Belarus a free democratic country. It is a great honor for me to give this award to Ales Bialiatsik’s wife Natallia Pinchuk on behalf of charter97.org. Thank you for talking about what is going on in Belarus, about the situation around Ales Bialiatski and his colleagues,” Marcin Wojciechowski said.
Natallia Pinchuk replied:
”It has recently become my mission to speak for Ales Bialiatski. I would like to thank the website charter97.org for the award. This is an award for the individual courage, for defense of human rights, for helping the victims of repressions, for spreading information about the violations that are happening in Belarus. I just mentioned the reasons that the award was given for.
Unfortunately, Ales Bialiatski is in prison today. The problem with the breaches of human rights in Belarus is still acute. It is natural that human rights activists get such awards. But the bitterest thing is that there are political prisoners in our country, and that Ales Bialiatski is one of them.
Also I would like to thank charter97.org for drawing attention to the situation with the political prisoners and for keeping us informed of everything what is happening to them, for doing everything possible for their release and full rehabilitation.
I managed to tell Ales Bialiatski about the award. He was grateful for it and said that in his view this is not only an individual award, but a prize to the human rights center Viasna where he was working all this time,” the human rights activist’s wife said.
Deputy chairperson of the Freedom and Democracy Foundation Marek Butko gave the next award to Giannadz Fiadynich.
“I would like to thank you for inviting me to the event. We highly appreciate that our Belarusian colleagues invite us, Poles, to such events. The uprising of Kalinouski is the historical event that in those times united the people of Poland and Belarus. It is a very good reason for giving the award. Let me say a few words about the next prizewinner.
This is a person who has been involved in the trade unions movement for more than 20 years, a person that the trade unions movement basically relies on. He has enormous experience from this sphere; he knows how trade unions operate in a repressive country. It is not surprising that Lukashenka’s regime chose the trade unions for its first attack in the 90s.
Why is it so important? There is Europe with its programs and statements of support of the Belarusian democracy. But in the country an individual meets face-to-face with the repressive regime. Who will help these people if not colleagues from the trade union? I would like to stress how important the work of Giannadz Fiadynich’s is because I come from the country where the independent trade union Solidarity operated. I believe that Belarusian trade unions will go the same way,” Marek Butko said.
Prizewinner Giannadz Fiadynich said:
”I was surprised to get the award. Normally our work is evaluated by trade union members, for example, during elections, and we are used to that. This is not a fully individual award. This is an award to our team that works today despite all the repressions. People still join the trade union though we are pressed, arrested and thrown into prison, fired. During this time, we have done everything we could but not everything we planned. There is still much work ahead.
But everyone should know that the independent trade union of the radio-electronic industry will never compromise with the employers if they violate the workers’ rights. This is where we stand today, and will stand tomorrow.”
In the end of the ceremony, the editor of charter97.org pointed out that a living legend and one of the leaders of the underground Solidarity Zbigniew Bujak attended the event. The Polish politician said:
”When something is happening in neighboring countries, such as Belarus, we, Poles, are watching, are trying to help. I am happy that there is this award, that you are here, in Poland, that you can work. I envy you. Back that we had a feeling that we were fighting with the 19th century tools, for we only had access to a typography and could only print leaflets. Today I hear about satellite television, Internet-radio, portal www.charter97.org. And I see that you have some amazing modern technologies. This is a success. Use this success wisely. You will have victories, you will have free elections (presidential and parliamentary), you will create your independent court and administration. I speak from my own “solidary” experience.
I was in Tunisia, Egypt and Russia, and I was watching the “orange” revolution. We all share the same problem: we win and reform the key state structures, but the most important thing for common people is how these structures treat them. Poland is the place to study before any reforms. The powers should take care of their people. You are facing a reformatory challenge. And we all are ready to help you with it.”