The Homo Homini Award for 2020 will be presented to Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana LasitsaPublished: Apr 27, 2021 Reading time: 4 minutes
This year People in Need will award the Homo Homini prize to four currently detained members of the Belarusian human rights organization Viasna who have been persecuted for tracking detained protestors, documenting human rights violations and helping victims of police violence. They face up to 12 years in prison for legitimate human rights activities. The mayor of Prague, Zdeněk Hřib, will present the award to Nathalia Satsunkevich, a colleague from Viasna who will represent the detainees. The ceremony will take place online on May 10th as part of the launch of the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.
Viasna is one of the leading human rights organizations in Belarus and its activities are crucial to Belarusian dissidents. In last year’s violent suppression of post-election protests, members of the organization played a key role in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, while tracking detainees and providing assistance to victims of police violence. Viasna members continued their work even in the face of detention and interrogation. Having committed no crime, Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa are nonetheless facing long prison sentences.
"Four human rights defenders from Viasna are in prison. Some for over seven months. Dozens of Viasna’s members and their relatives are being repeatedly interrogated and their homes searched - and this is clearly retribution for their human rights activities. Our mission is to help people and protect and promote human rights in Belarus. Now we need support and solidarity ourselves," says Viasna. "The support people have shown us from all over the world is encouraging and very important to us, above all it gives us the hope and strength to continue working. Thank you for that!”
Marfa Rabkova is the coordinator for the volunteers in Viasna who help trace and document detained protesters and provide them with necessary assistance. On September 17, 2020, she was arrested and charged with organizing mass riots, membership in a criminal organization, and incitement to hatred. She faces up to 12 years in prison.
Volunteer Andrei Chapiuk was detained in October 2020 and accused of participating in mass demonstrations and later also of belonging to a criminal organization. He faces up to seven years in prison.
Leanid Sudalenka is a prominent Belarusian lawyer who has received the French Liberté - Egalité - Fraternité State Prize for his work in the field of human rights. He has been in custody since January on suspicion of organizing and financing mass riots and faces up to three years in prison.
Volunteer and human rights activist Tatsiana Lasitsa has been in custody since January on suspicion of rioting.
"It has been exactly fifteen years since Václav Havel presented the Homo Homini award to Ales Bialatski of the human rights organization Viasna with words about his belief that things will soon turn out well for the Belarusians. Unfortunately, less than two hundred and fifty days since the elections in 2020 and the beginning of mass protests, this is not the case,"says Veronika Mítková, director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy of People in Need. "Although the regime has not fallen yet, the whole country has changed. People across society have taken part in the protests, with new civic activists who were previously apolitical businessmen, lawyers, athletes and workers. Many of them are or have been behind bars, they have been or are being tortured. However, they still hold out hope. All of them deserve our great admiration and support, because, as Havel said: Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
Two women from Latin America were shortlisted for this year's Homo Homini Award: Nora Morales de Cortiñas from Argentina and Katherine Martínez from Venezuela. For over 40 years, Nora Morales de Cortiñas has been trying to get justice for her son and up to 30,000 victims who were "disappeared" by the military dictatorship that governed Argentina between 197 and 1983. Katherine Martínez is the director of the Venezuelan non-profit organization Prepara Familia, which promotes the rights of pediatric patients and their families at JM de Los Rios Hospital in Caracas.
The Homo Homini Award has been given by People in Need since the 1990s to people and groups who have made a significant contribution to the protection of human rights, democracy and the non-violent resolution of political conflicts. Laureates from previous years include Chinese literary critic and dissident Liu Xiaobo, Kyrgyz activist Azimjan Askarov and Vietnamese dissident Pham Doan Trang.
The current form of the award, a 20-centimeter-high glass block, was designed by Daniela Chodilová, a graduate of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. The award is made of clear crystal, which is supposed to symbolize purity, justice and balance. At the bottom is a glass crystal cut by wedge-shaped cuts resembling bars.
For more information please contact:
Vesna Evans, media coordinator, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, People in Need
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: +420 773 776 501