Sweden questions Nobel Peace Prize selection basis

Wed Feb 1, 2012 12:50pm EST
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By Walter Gibbs

OSLO (Reuters) - Swedish authorities are looking into whether the Nobel Peace Prize has been going to the "wrong" type of people, like human rights campaigners and environmentalists, in violation of prize founder Alfred Nobel's will.

The issue has dogged the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which gives the prize, since 2008 when an Oslo-based author began arguing that the prize had drifted from Nobel's intent to promote only disarmament and "peace congresses."

"They are ignoring the will altogether," the author and peace activist, Fredrik Heffermehl, told Reuters.

In his view the last qualified peace prize winners were the United Nations and its then-secretary general, Kofi Annan, in 2001.

Heffermehl, a lawyer, has now won the ear of Stockholm County Administrative Board, whose duties extend to making sure the country's 7,300 registered foundations fulfil the wishes of their dead benefactors.

"Mr. Heffermehl has a couple of good arguments," Mikael Wiman, the board's attorney, told Reuters after he sent a letter this week to the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation board seeking comment.

While the annual prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics are given in Stockholm, Nobel specified that a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament should pick the peace prize winner. It is given in Oslo.

Nobel, who invented dynamite, wrote in his 1895 will that the peace prize should go to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."   Continued...

<p>Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee poses in New York October 7, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>