Bjørn Engesland receives award

Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, is honored with an award commemorating his contribution to human rights defense in Russia.

“Your life is a brilliant example of serving a higher purpose and the rare conjunction of idealism with high professionalism”, said the founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmilla Alexeeva in a greeting statement to Engesland.

Persona non-grata

She is not able to welcome Engesland to Moscow to present the award. He is a ‘persona non-grata’, unwelcome by Russian authorities since 2009 because of his engagement in human rights.

Lyudmilla Alexeeva (90) is an icon of Russian civic society and still a leading activist. Photo: AFP

“The members of the Moscow Helsinki Group have been unanimous in their will to award you with this symbolic sign of recognition of your outstanding input into the development of human rights movement in Russia, Alexeeva said in the statement, and continued:

Founding father

“I will always be grateful to you for being among the very first Westerners to express their solidarity with a tiny group of Moscow dissidents challenging the totalitarian Soviet system, as well as for being among the founding fathers of the international Helsinki Movement for human rights.”

Engesland received the award at a Conference on human rights in Vilnius, Lithuania where he met with members of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

“I am deeply humbled by this honor from the bravest and most hardworking human rights defenders in Europe. I share this award with all the Russian activists who sacrificed their lives, those who are still risking their lives against injustice and my fellow dedicated colleagues at the NHC”, said Engesland.

Lev Ponomarev, The Moscow Helsinki Group and Bjørn Engesland, The Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

The NHC was founded in 1977, the year after the first Helsinki-group was born in Moscow. Engesland has been in charge of the organization based in Oslo for 22 years and has worked closely with partners in Russia since day one.

Personal efforts

“Many of my colleagues here in Russia, having been the victims of human rights violations themselves, witnessed your personal efforts to help the Russian human rights defenders in their pursuit to defend human rights values in our country”, said Lyudmilla Alexeeva in a greeting to Engesland.

“Despite great achievements made by many activists, there is now abacklash against democracyin Russia. We will continue to encourage positive changes and are proud to be apart of a global community, together with Russian partners, that defends human rights against authoritarian leaders», Engesland said.