Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: Center for Civil Liberties, Kyiv

By Oleksandra Matviichuk

VIDC online magazine Spotlight

This article was published in Spotlight March 2023. If you want to receive the quarterly Spotlight, invitations and documentations please subscribe here.

Further reading and links

Orwell, George: Homage to Catalonia (1938), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937).

Arendt, Hannah (1963): Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

Kissinger, Henry (1994): Diplomacy.

Judt, Tony (2005): Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945.

Van Middelaar, Luuk (2013) The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union.

Sands, Philippe (2016): East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity.

Snyder, Timothy (2017): On Tyranny.

Harari, Yuval Noah (2018): 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

Oleksandra Matviichuk’s Nobel peace prize speech on behalf of CCL, 10 December 2022.

Center for Civil Liberties


Oleksandra Matviichuk is founder and permanent head of the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), which was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. She is a Ukrainian lawyer, human rights defender, civil society leader based in Kyiv, as well as author of many reports for the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the International Criminal Court.

CCL team after a press conference on the occasion of the Awarding of the Nobel Prize, © CCL

CCL’s pioneering role as a powerful human rights organization

The Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) is a Ukrainian human rights organization founded in 2007. For 15 years, the Center has been working to protect people's rights in Ukraine and in the OSCE region and has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. CCL witnessed the most important events of modern Ukrainian history, including the turbulent events of the Euromaidan protests (2014), the war in Donbas (2014-2022) and the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022/2023.
Among the values of the Center for Civil Liberties is respect for human dignity, freedom, human rights, rule of law, democracy, solidarity and non-discrimination. The CCL's mission is the establishment of human rights, democracy, and solidarity in Ukraine and the OSCE region for the affirmation of human dignity.
In 2013, the “Revolution of Dignity” marked the beginning of an important stage for both the country and the Center. It launched the "Euromaidan SOS" initiative, uniting thousands of people to provide legal aid and other assistance to protesters persecuted by Ukrainian authorities.

In 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, CCL sent its own mobile teams to document war crimes. The Center became the first human rights organization in the world to do so. Since then, during all these years the Center has been collecting stories told by people who survived captivity, the families of the victims, as well as those who witnessed war crimes.
The Center for Civil Liberties coordinates the Human Rights Agenda platform – a coalition of Ukrainian human rights organizations created to organize joint actions. The focus of the platform is the implementation of reforms – in law enforcement, in the Security Service of Ukraine, in the judicial system and in the Institute of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. Additionally, the platform concentrates on the implementation of the international human rights law in the Ukrainian legislation, expert assessment of the legal situation in Ukraine, consolidation of the population efforts in order to strengthen democracy and it supports democratic institutions in Ukraine.
CCL actively participates in international networks and solidarity actions for the protection of human rights in the OSCE region. Since January 2022, the Center has been acting as the Secretariat of the Civic Solidarity Platform, a decentralized network of human rights groups in the OSCE region, aimed at improving cooperation between NGOs.

The success story of CCL

The Center for Civil Liberties is actively working to free all illegally imprisoned Ukrainians. One of the most successful examples of the Center's advocacy work was the #SaveOlegSentsov international campaign. Thousands of people in about 40 countries of the world simultaneously organized demonstrations with a common appeal to their governments to help release Oleg Sentsov and other political prisoners. Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director, writer, bright thinker, and activist from Crimea. After the Russian annexation of Crimea, he was arrested in May 2014 and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a Russian court in August 2015 on charges of plotting terrorism. In 2018 he was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize. On 7 September 2019, he was released in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine. Today he is soldier at the frontline, who voluntarily joined Ukraine’s  military forces.

After Oleg Sentsov was released from prison and left Russia in 2019, the initiative was renamed #PrisonersVoice, a campaign aimed at the release of all civilian prisoners without any terms, conditions, or prisoner exchanges. After all, this is what is guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions.
The OZON Public Observation Group is an initiative of the CCL that engages public control over law enforcement bodies, the courts, and local governments in different regions of Ukraine. Throughout wartime, this initiative has been monitoring air-raid shelters in different parts of Ukraine and influencing authoritative powers to ensure their smooth operation.
The Center, together with the ‘Euromaidan SOS’ initiative, has also created a Map of Disappearances that registers violent acts against human rights defenders, journalists, activists and representatives of local authorities. The information contained in the map is being updated constantly.
Another successful project is the Kyiv School of Human Rights and Democracy – a free educational platform. Through this platform one can become a volunteer, learn more about human rights, or become involved in human rights activities. For the past 15 years, the Center for Civil Liberties has been working with volunteers to help human rights activists. Due to volunteer efforts, CCL has been able to implement large-scale projects protecting human rights and upholding justice. For this reason, the Center has launched its own award for volunteers – the Volunteer Award issued by the 'Euromaidan SOS' initiative. This is an all-Ukrainian, non-governmental award that has now been presented for 9 years as a recognition of a remarkable contribution to the volunteer movement in Ukraine and awarded to "ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”
After 20 years of experience fighting for freedom and human rights, I can convincingly say that ordinary people have much more influence than they think. The mass mobilization of ordinary people in different countries of the world and their joint voice can change world history faster than the intervention of the United Nations.

"The international system lies in ruins, like Ukrainian Mariupol."

CCL is actively working at the international level to use existing mechanisms in the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the EU, the International Criminal Court, diplomatic corps and politicians, international human rights organizations and networks as well as with foreign and national media to stop the brutality of Russian aggression.

From the first day of the Russian invasion, CCL worked on documenting war crimes, fighting impunity, promoting the international criminal justice system and International Humanitarian Law compliance, implementing legal mechanisms of the future court processes on Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine, advocating for the Rome Statute adoption, and promoting the interests of Ukraine abroad and in international organizations.
Our work helps to highlight issues that need to be addressed immediately to prevent further mass human rights violations, such as the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens from the occupied territory of the Russian Federation. Currently, we are conducting work aimed at the release of Ukrainian civilians who were kidnapped by Russia in the occupied territories and deprived of their freedom. Ukrainian civilians are not prisoners of war and we demand Russia to release them immediately and without any conditions.
The main priority of the CCL is the restoration of justice for all victims of war crimes, in addition to punishing those guilty of atrocities. To reach this, the UN and member states must reform the international peace and security system in order to create guarantees for all countries and their citizens regardless of their participation or non-participation in military blocs or military power. Russia should be expelled from the UN Security Council for systematic violations of the UN Charter.
For us, the Nobel Peace Prize is an additional opportunity to make our work visible and to bring important issues to the world. However, this prize is  not only awarded to CCL, but to all people in Ukraine who are currently fighting for freedom in all its forms (13 March 2023).