Bialiatski joins small group of jailed Nobel Peace laureates

AP Photo/John McConnico, File
Nobel Commitee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland sits next to an empty chair with the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma during a ceremony honoring Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo at city hall in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, 2010.

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Belarussian pro-democracy campaigner Ales Bialiatski, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with human rights groups in Russia and Ukraine, is the fourth person in the 121-year history of the Nobel Prizes to receive the award while in prison or detention.

Bialiatski, 60, who founded the non-governmental organization Human Rights Center Viasna, was detained following protests in 2020 against the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He remains in jail without trial and faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen urged Belarus to release Bialiatski but acknowledged that chances of that happening in time for the Dec. 10 award ceremony were slim.

Here is a look at what happened to the other Nobel Peace Prize winners who were in captivity when they were awarded the prize.


The German journalist, a staunch opponent of militarism, was imprisoned for exposing secret plans for German rearmament in the 1920s. He was released after seven months but arrested again and sent to a concentration camp after the Nazis took power in 1933. Despite a campaign to set him free, the government refused to release Ossietzky, who was ill with tuberculosis.

His 1935 Nobel Peace Prize made Nazi leader Adolf Hitler so furious that he prohibited all Germans from receiving Nobel prizes.

According to biographical notes on the Nobel website, Ossietzky was barred from traveling to Norway to accept the award and was kept under surveillance at a civilian hospital until his death in 1938. He was the first Nobel peace laureate to die in captivity.


The Myanmar opposition leader was under house arrest for participating in anti-government protests when she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Her husband and sons accepted the award on her behalf.

The Nobel helped galvanize international support for Suu Kyi, but she remained in on-and-off house arrest until her release in 2010.

She eventually became Myanmar’s leader, but her peace prize glory faded and she faced criticism for ignoring and sometimes defending atrocities by the military, including a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi was detained again when the military ousted her elected government in 2021 and remains imprisoned, despite calls for her release by the Norwegian Nobel Committee and others.


The decision to give imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 deeply angered Beijing, which reacted by suspending trade negotiations with Norway.

Liu was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in China. No friend or relative was able to accept the award on his behalf. His wife was placed under house arrest and dozens of his supporters were prevented from leaving the country.

Liu’s absence was famously marked by an empty chair at the award ceremony in Oslo. The award prompted world, leaders including President Barack Obama, to call for Liu’s release, but to no avail. He died from liver cancer in 2017.