Detained Belarussian activists win People in Need’s Homo Homini Award

The annual One World festival of human rights documentary films got underway on Monday evening under the motto Connection Lost. The festival, which has moved entirely online due to Covid-19 restrictions, started by presenting its annual Homo Homini prize for human rights advocacy.

During the virtual opening ceremony on Monday evening, the People in Need foundation presented this year’s Homo Homini prize to four 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.

Despite having committed no crime, they were detained and face up to 12 years in prison. Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib presented the award to Nathalia Satsunkevich, their colleague from Viasna.

Zdeněk Hřib,  Nathalia Satsunkevich | Photo: Lukáš Bíba,  One World

For the first time in the 25-year history of Homo Homini Award, it was presented to the same organization. People in Need director Šimon Pánek explained the decision to Czech Television:

“15 years ago Ales Bialatski, founder of Viasna, received the Homo Homini Award. He saw what was happening at the time and put together a group of people to defend the rights of detainees. In the end, he himself ended up in prison.

“He was presented the award by Václav Havel, who said he hoped Belarus would live to see its 1989, but unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.

“For a while it looked as if Belarus has resigned, but the new generation of young people have not accepted the situation and despite the brutality of the regime, they have repeatedly taken to the streets.”

Since cinemas in the Czech Republic are still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 23rd edition of the One World festival is taking place completely online, under the motto “Connection lost.” Festival head Ondřej Kamenický explained its choice to Czech Radio:

Photo: Lukáš Bíba,  One World

“Over the past year, we have all become aware of this phrase, because we have been all forced to go online. We though the motto could be applied to a sudden social change related to life during the pandemic.

“There are still many people, who don’t have access to the internet and who are not technically skilled. We have to think about these people and make sure the system doesn’t ‘lose connection’ with them.”

The festival was launched with the screening of the Belarusian documentary film Courage, about an underground theatre group The Belarus Free Theatre, which has been criticising the practices of Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime for the past 14 years.

The festival, which runs until May 19, will present over a hundred films in 15 thematic categories, the main one focusing on technology and its impact both on the society and individuals. Some of the screenings will also be accompanied by live discussions as part of the One World Live Programme.

People in the Czech Republic can also watch the films on the One World Online platform, where they will be available from May 20 to June 6.