The award ceremony of the wibsite Charter97 took place in Warsaw on 1 February 2013. The event was attended by Polish and Belarusian human rights defenders, politicians, public activists and journalists.
The national prize for human rights advocacy was established by the civil initiative “Charter’97” back in 1998. Over its 15 years this prize has been awarded to many courageous fighters for the freedom of Belarus. This time, the prize “For Personal Courage” was awarded to human rights defender Ales Bialiatski; the first governor of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich; the musician Siarhei Mikhalok; the Swedish pilots Tomas Mazetti, Per Cromwell and Hannah Frey; and the trade union leader, Henadz Fiadynich.
The prize for Ales Bialiatski was passed to him through his wife Natallia Pinchuk by the vice-president of the Polish International Solidarity Fund Marcin Wojciechowski.
“Dear Natallia, dear Mr. President, dear friends. Ales Bialiatski is a symbol. The symbol of freedom, independent thinking, human rights, human dignity and struggle for these values. Pitifully enough, at present Ales is not with us, he is in a penal colony.
Poland is responsible for the arrest and the verdict to him to some extent. We regret on this occasion. This mistake shouldn’t have been done. The only thing we can do now, apart from giving support to the family and colleagues of Ales Bialiatski, is to keep saying that he is kept in prison for his convictions, for his activities, for making Belarus a free and democratic country. It is a great honor for me to pass this prise on behalf of charter97.org to Ales Bialiatski’s wife, Natallia Pinchuk. Thank you for speaking about what is going on in Belarus and about the situation of Ales Bialiatski and his colleagues,” said Marcin Wojciechowski.
Natallia Pinchuk answered:
“Recently speaking on behalf of Ales Bialiatski has become my mission. I would also like to thank the website of Charter’97 for awarding this prize. This award is given for personal courage, human rights advocacy, support to victims of political repressions and dissemination of information about the abuses that take place in Belarus.
The fact that Ales Bialiatski is kept in jail overshadows this solemn event. The issue of human rights abuses in Belarus remains acute – it is not by chance that human rights defenders continue receiving such awards. The most bitter thing is that there are still political prisoners in the country and Ales Bialiatski is among them.
I would also thank charter97.org for the fact that the website constantly turns the public attention to the situation of political prisoners and does everything possible for their release and complete rehabilitation. I managed to pass the information about the award to Ales Bialiatski. He expressed his gratitude and said that he considered this award not only as a personal one, but also as an award to the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in which he has worked all these years,” said Natallia Pinchuk.