Viasna Human Rights Center wins Human Rights Tulip 2022
The Human Rights Tulip for 2022 is awarded to the Viasna Human Rights Center in Belarus. Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra presented the prize at a ceremony in the Peace Palace.
‘The work of human rights defenders protects our right to live freely and to be free,’ says the foreign minister. ‘They do the essential job of creating genuine change for people and society.’
The Viasna Human Rights Center is a Belarusian human rights organisation that does valuable work documenting cases of political prisoners. It was established in 1996 during mass protests by the democratic opposition in Belarus. Viasna’s main objective is building a just and free society. In practice this means giving Belarusians advice on legal matters, exposing and documenting abuses, and providing relief to victims of political repression.
‘I greatly admire the courage and dedication of Viasna’s activists,’ Mr Hoekstra says. ‘They are making sure that the truth is revealed, however hard the Belarusian authorities try to conceal it. Despite all the risks that this involves.’
In 2003 the organisation was outlawed by the Belarusian authorities. In 2021 Viasna was raided and prominent members were arrested. Many of them are still imprisoned today. Others have fled the country.
The other two shortlisted candidates for the Human Rights Tulip were Leng Ouch, who has been working for environmental rights in Cambodia for 22 years by investigating abuses and exposing corruption, and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, an organisation that offers pro bono legal assistance to people who are detained for defending their civil and political rights.
The Human Rights Tulip is a prize that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs awards each year to a human rights defender or human rights organisation to support their important work. The winner receives a bronze tulip and €100,000 to pursue and expand their human rights activities.