KYIV, Ukraine — While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine added greater urgency to their work, the Center for Civil Liberties, which was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, has been monitoring and documenting rights violations and potential war crimes in Ukraine for years.
One of Ukraine’s leading rights organizations, the Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 with the goal of pressuring the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy and ensure that it was governed by rule of law.
When a conflict with Russian-backed forces erupted in eastern Ukraine in 2014, the group began documenting rights abuses and the disappearances of Kremlin critics, journalists and activists. And since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country this year, it has worked alongside national and international partners to document potential Russian crimes against Ukrainian civilians in an effort to bring accountability.
“It’s a big honor for us to receive this prize and also for our partners,” Oleksandra Romantsova, the organization’s executive director, said in a telephone interview. “It’s very important for the establishment of human rights and for the affirmation of human dignity.”
Oleksandra Matviychuk, the head of the group’s board — who was on a train from Warsaw to Kyiv at the time of the announcement — said she was “delighted that the Center for Civil Liberties I lead has received the Nobel Prize today along with our friends and partners.”
“All of my 20 years of experience in the fight for freedom and human rights has shown me that ordinary people have far more influence than they think,” she said. “Mass mobilization of ordinary people in different countries of the world and their joint voice can change world history faster than U.N. intervention.”
Under the group’s Euromaidan SOS project, which was restarted this year, several hundred local volunteers have been gathering civilian testimonies of rights violations.
The project was first established to provide legal assistance to protesters who took part in the 2013 and 2014 demonstrations in Kyiv’s Maidan Square, and to monitor abuses carried out by the security forces of the country’s then president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The organization also actively campaigned for Ukraine to become affiliated with the International Criminal Court. Although it is still not a full member, Ukraine has since 2013 accepted the court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory.
The Center for Civil Liberties has also done crucial work mapping accounts of the forced disappearances in Ukraine of rights defenders, journalists, activists and local government representatives since the 2014 conflict began. That work has carried over into the current war, in which there have been hundreds of accounts of disappearances in territories occupied by Russian forces.
Ms. Romantsova said on Friday that the award made it clear how crucial their work had become.
“By our own example, we will show this and continue to work on it,” she said.