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9 December 2022

Volha Harbunova of Belarus receives Front Line Defenders Award

Front Line Defenders is pleased to announce Belarusian woman human rights defender Volha Harbunova as one of the winners of its 2022 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

As the former head of the non-governmental organisation Radislava, Harbunova has dedicated herself to fighting to protect women and children from gender-based violence in Belarus. For security reasons, Harbunova could not be named when Front Line Defenders hosted its award ceremony in Dublin on 27 May. Having since fled to safety from Belarus, she was honoured at a special ceremony held in Vilnius on 9 December, International Human Rights Defenders Day.

“It is a great relief that we can now safely name Volha Harbunova among the laureates of Front Line Defenders’ 2022 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, who was in Vilnius to present the Award.

“She joins a distinguished group of courageous women and men we have honoured with this Award over the years, who prioritise fighting for human rights even when it comes at great personal cost. We hope this recognition goes some way to assisting her in her longstanding efforts to fight for the human rights of women and children in Belarus.”

In November 2021, Harbunova was arrested in Minsk for her alleged involvement in organising women’s rights marches in 2020. During her detention, the Belarusian authorities reportedly included her on a list of detainees they considered were “inclined to extremism and other destructive actions” – a reflection of their intimidation tactics even while she was behind bars. Following her sentencing, she was able to escape from Belarus.

The Annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005 to honour the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) who are courageously making outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves. The Award focuses international attention on the work and struggles of HRDs, providing a greater national and international platform to speak about and advocate for the human rights issues they are defending.

Human rights defenders from five global regions (Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and Central Asia, and Middle East & North Africa) received the 2022 Front Line Defenders Award. The winners work on issues including women’s and children’s rights, protection against gender-based violence, racial justice, labour and education rights, and enforced disappearances. In each case, working in contexts where states have cracked down on human rights defenders, the HRDs have faced various forms of harassment, threats, and violence, and some have been detained and charged. Each has demonstrated incredible courage, grace, and perseverance.

This year’s other winners were:

Winners receive support on digital and physical security, advocacy, visibility, well-being and more.