Human Rights Day
Ukrainian human rights organization receives Nobel Peace Prize

Oleksandra Matviichuk, human rights defender, Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), receives the Right Livelihood Award at the ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden

Oleksandra Matviichuk, human rights defender, Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), receives the Right Livelihood Award at the ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden

© picture alliance / EPA | Maja Suslin/TT

If you search the web for the “most beautiful town hall in Europe” you won’t get a clear result: some sites give the Hamburg town hall with its historic North German Neo-Renaissance style from 1897 as the most beautiful, while others favor the Vienna town hall, which was built from 1872 to 1882 in the neo-Gothic style. The Hôtel de Ville in Paris (1874-1882) and the Augsburg town hall with its famous onion domes are certainly among the most magnificent town halls on the Old Continent.

However, the city hall of the Norwegian capital Oslo rarely features in this ranking - no wonder, since the red brick building, which was completed in 1950 after a delay of several years, stands out more for its functionality than for its aesthetics. Nevertheless, this building has a meaning that goes beyond the borders of the Norwegian capital.

Once a year, on December 10, Human Rights Day, Oslo City Hall is the center of world events when the Nobel Peace Prize is accepted by its laureates in the imposing interior of this building.

The Nobel Peace Prize as a sign against the Russian war in Ukraine

The choice of this year's winners was as obvious as it was justified: with Memorial from Russia, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and the human rights lawyer Ales Bjalyazki, who was imprisoned in Belarus, three organizations and people who work for peace and civil rights in their countries and with their work bravely stand up against dictators like Putin and Lukashenko.

It is a strong sign, that the Nobel Peace Prize in the category “Unfreedom and War by Russia” is now being awarded for the second year– last year the Russian journalist and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, received it. Of course, the Oslo Nobel Committee could not ignore the massive violations of human rights in Russia and Belarus as wel, as the illegal war in Ukraine, with consequences for the entire peaceful and rule-based post-war order.

However, the committee did not want the award ceremony to be understood as a message to the Russian warmonger and ruler - even though the announcement of the award winners was made on Putin's birthday.

Center for Civil Liberties honored for human rights work

Oleksandra Matviichuk will accept the prestigious award on behalf of the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), which was founded in 2007 with the aim of promoting human rights and democracy in Ukraine and prosecuting human rights violations and war crimes, and the 39-year-old human rights activist is no stranger to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Oleksandra Matviichuk is one of many powerful women from Eastern and Southeastern Europe who, in cooperation with the liberal foundation, are committed to more rights and inclusion of women in society and politics. “When I went to school, I didn't have any concrete plans. I wanted to be a theater producer, but instead I decided to study law to protect human rights,” said Oleksandra, who is an ambassador for the foundation’s #Female Forward campaign for women’s rights in Ukraine, in an interview for the foundation.

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The Euromaidan of 2013-14 plays a pivotal role in the history and development of the CCL, which is almost exclusively driven by women: “It was indeed one of the most defining moments in our history since independence. For example, we have never provided direct legal support to people in need. We had to adapt quickly and flexibly to these new challenges in order to provide an effective response to the events,” said Oleksandra, who contributed to the Euromaidan SOS campaign, an initiative to search for missing protesters.

After the Maidan protests and the overthrow of the then Moscow-backed government, CCL activists drew attention to human rights violations in the annexed Crimea and in the Donbass areas, occupied and controlled by Russia. Since the Russian war of aggression began on February 24, CCL has focused its work on exposing Russian war crimes on Ukrainian soil and recording the crimes of the Russian occupiers.

Around 50,000 war crimes have been registered since the Russian attack on Ukraine - in addition to torture, sexual violence, killings and abductions, countless attacks on the civilian population have also been documented. In addition to the International Criminal Court, investigative authorities from a dozen countries are investigating. CCL, with its expertise and local networks, plays an important role in securing evidence, so that one day the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom congratulates Oleksandra Matviichuk and the Center for Civil Liberties for the Nobel Peace Prize. Slava Ukrajini!

Aret Demirci is a project assistant in the Regional Office for South Eastern and Eastern Europe.