Nobel winners demand release of Belarusian peace laureate Ales Bialiatski
BELARUS – PEN International, the literary and free expression organization, has released a letter signed by 103 Nobel Laureates, expressing solidarity with writer, human rights defender, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and PEN member Ales Bialiatski, and condemning the Belarusian authorities’ brutal, relentless, and systematic crackdown on independent voices. Today marks the International Day of Solidarity with Prisoners of Conscience in Belarus.
More than 100 Nobel laureates, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Olga Tokarczuk and JM Coetzee, have called for the release of Nobel peace prize winner Ales Bialiatski and said they “stand with the fearless people of Belarus who continue to fight for their human rights”.
Bialiatski founded an organization called Viasna (Spring) to provide support for demonstrators who were jailed after protesting against dictatorial powers granted to Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko following a constitutional amendment in 1996.
After its founding, Viasna evolved into a human rights organization that documents the authorities’ abuses against and torture of political prisoners.
Open letter condemning the detention of the human rights activist, who won the 2022 prize, signed by more than 100 laureates including Kazuo Ishiguro and JM Coetzee
Bialiatski’s work has seen him targeted by the authorities: he was jailed in 2011 for alleged tax evasion by the government, and released in 2014. But in 2021, the year after an election led to protests against Lukashenko’s dictatorship, Bialiatski was again jailed, this time without trial or conviction.
The Nobel peace prize was conferred on him in 2022, during his detention. Since then, he has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Now, 103 Nobel Laureates have signed an open letter from Pen International expressing solidarity with Bialiatski and condemning the actions of the Belarusian president.
The letter, also signed by authors including Svetlana Alexievich, Mario Vargas Llosa and Annie Ernaux, says that Bialiatski “has devoted his life to the promotion of democracy and human rights in Belarus.
“He has dared to hold President Lukashenko accountable for his brutal, relentless and systematic crackdown on independent voices,” continued the letter. “For this, he is paying the heaviest price: 10 years in prison on spurious grounds.
“Bialiatski is a symbol of hope and an inspiration to human rights defenders around the world, who should be celebrated as such.”
The signatories say they stand with Bialiatski and the fellow members of Viasna – Marfa Rabkova, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, Leanid Sudalenka, Andrei Chapiuk – who have also been imprisoned.
“We stand with the multitude of writers, journalists, cultural workers, human rights defenders and citizens of Belarus who are serving lengthy prison terms merely for peacefully expressing their views and speaking truth to power,” the letter said. “We stand with the fearless people of Belarus who continue to fight for their human rights.”
Bialiatski won the Nobel peace prize jointly with the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties. The citation for the prize said they demonstrated “the significance of civil society for peace and democracy”.
Who signature in this letter, List of Nobel winners
Nobel Prize in Chemistry Laureates: Peter Agre (2003), Thomas R. Cech (1989), Martin Chalfie (2008), Emmanuelle Charpentier (2020), Aaron Ciechanover (2004), Elias James Corey (1990), Johann Deisenhofer (1988), Jacques Dubochet (2017), Joachim Frank (2017), Alan Heeger (2000), Richard Henderson (2017), Dudley R. Herschbach (1986), Roald Hoffmann (1981), Robert Huber (1988), Martin Karplus (2013), Brian K. Kobilka (2012), Roger D. Kornberg (2006), Yuan T. Lee (1986), Robert J. Lefkowitz (2012), Jean-Marie Lehn (1987), Hartmut Michel (1988), John C. Polanyi (1986), Jean-Pierre Sauvage (2016), Richard R. Schrock (2005), Arieh Warshel (2013), M. Stanley Whittingham (2019).
Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Laureates: Esther Duflo (2019), Oliver Hart (2016), Guido W. Imbens (2021), Finn E. Kydland (2004), Eric S. Maskin (2007), Paul R. Milgrom (2020), Edmund S. Phelps (2006), Alvin E. Roth (2012), Vernon L. Smith (2002), Joseph E. Stiglitz (2001).
Nobel Prize in Literature Laureates: Svetlana Alexievich (2015), J. M. Coetzee (2003), Annie Ernaux (2022), Louise Gluck (2020), Abdulrazak Gurnah (2021), Kazuo Ishiguro (2017), Elfriede Jelinek (2004), Patrick Modiano (2014), Herta Muller (2009), Orhan Pamuk (2006), Wole Soyinka (1986), Olga Tokarczuk (2018), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).
Nobel Prize in Medicine Laureates: Harvey J. Alter (2020), J. Michael Bishop (1989), Elizabeth H. Blackburn (2009), Mario R. Capecchi (2007), Andrew Z. Fire (2006), Carol W. Greider (2009), Jeffrey Connor Hall (2017), Harald zur Hausen (2008), Jules A. Hoffmann (2011), Tasuku Honjo (2018), Sir Michael Houghton (2020), Tim Hunt (2001), Louis J. Ignarro (1998), Eric R. Kandel (2000), Barry J. Marshall (2005), Craig C. Mello (2006), Edvard Moser (2014), May-Britt Moser (2014), Erwin Neher (1991), Sir Paul M. Nurse (2001), Stanley B. Prusiner (1997), Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe (2019), Charles M. Rice (2020), Sir Richard J. Roberts (1993), Michael Rosbash (2017), James E. Rothman (2013), Gregg L. Semenza (2019), Hamilton O. Smith (1978), Harold E. Varmus (1989), Eric F. Wieschaus (1995), Torsten N. Wiesel (1981).
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Shirin Ebadi (2003), Dmitry Muratov (2021), Maria Ressa (2021), Oscar Arias Sanchez (1987), Juan Manuel Santos (2016).
Nobel Prize in Physics Laureates: Barry Clark Barish (2017), Albert Fert (2007), Jerome I. Friedman (1990), John L. Hall (2005), Serge Haroche (2012), Takaaki Kajita (2015), Wolfgang Ketterle (2001), Anthony J. Leggett (2003), John C. Mather (2006), Michel Mayor (2019), Konstantin Novoselov (2010), Roger Penrose (2020), William D. Phillips (1997), H. David Politzer (2004), Horst L. Stormer (1998), Kip Stephen Thorne (2017), Daniel C. Tsui (1998), Robert Woodrow Wilson (1978).
By Sarah Shaffi, Editing by Shasi Kumar | With special thanks to J.M Coetzee and Sir Richard J. Roberts.
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