Support grows for fugitive Snowden

Support is growing in Norway for fugitive American Edward Snowden, who set off an international controversy after releasing information about the US’ global surveillance programs. This week Snowden also was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts to reveal violations of human rights.

Here's where members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee decide who will win what's often called the world's most prestigious prize. PHOTO: Views and News

A Swedish professor wants the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which meets in this building in Oslo, to consider a Nobel Peace Prize for Edward Snowden. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that a Swedish professor of sociology at the University of Umeå, Stefan Svallfors, had nominated Snowden for the Peace Prize. Svallfors cited Snowden’s “heroic contribution at great personal cost” towards revealing the amount and depth of US surveillance of electronic communication “the world over.” Svallfors noted that the surveillance violates national laws and international agreements, and that Snowden’s release of information about it “has made the world a little bit better and more secure.”

‘Hero’ vs ‘criminal’
US authorities argue the opposite, calling Snowden a “criminal” who has endangered national security, not enhanced it. The surveillance, US officials have claimed, is necessary in the fight against terrorism, and Snowden, some US politicians claim, is little more than a traitor.

Not so, contend a growing number of Norwegian advocates of freedom of expression and personal privacy who have been writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, taking part in online debates and participating in demonstrations of support for Snowden. Last week, Amnesty International and Norsk PEN organized a rally in favour of Snowden in front of the Norwegian Parliament, criticizing a lack of principle by the Norwegian authorities who they claimed “were following a long string of European countries who have let allies’ interests come before human rights in this case.”

The Norwegian government quickly rejected Snowden’s application for asylum in Norway, and opposition leaders have been either mum or reluctant to comment on Snowden’s case as well. Most believe the lack of clear support for Snowden mirrors a fear of upsetting powerful American allies.

‘Alone against Big Brother’
Instead of focusing on the human rights violations that Snowden has revealed, going after those responsible and starting a process to prevent the surveillance from continuing, the US has chosen to indict Snowden for spying, claims Amnesty International in Norway, fearing that Snowden faces life imprisonment or even a death sentence.

“Snowden is alone against the world’s Big Brother,” says Beate Ekeløve-Slydal of Amnesty in Norway. As of Wednesday, Snowden remained stuck in the transit area of the Moscow airport as he continued to send out asylum appeals.

Norsk PEN, which works to safeguard freedom of expression and human rights, has asked unsuccessfully for the Norwegian government to reconsider its rejection of Snowden’s appeal for asylum. Jan Helge Solbakk, a professor in medical ethics at the University of Oslo, challenged the “moral cowardice” that the authorities have shown.

Writing in a commentary in newspaper Aftenposten, Solbakk claimed that Norway, “like all other members of the United Nations, has obligated itself to protect individuals when their human rights are in danger of being violated. With its quick “no” to Snowden, Solbakk wrote, the Norwegian government has chosen “to wash its hands of the matter and avoid all responsibility for Snowden’s life and fate.”

That, Solbakk argued, is “what a person who, with no personal gain for himself, gets for revealing that those we thought were our friends have violated our most fundamental rights: The right to a private life.”

Audun Lysbakken, shown here after being elected as new leader of SV, seems keen on asserting himself and now is calling for more distance between Norway and the US. PHOTO: Sosialistisk Venstreparti

Audun Lysbakken, head of the government coalition partner SV, has defied his own government colleagues in voicing support for Snowden. PHOTO: Sosialistisk Venstreparti

Fellow professor Svallfors clearly agrees and Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the peace research institute PRIO in Oslo, was among those agreeing that a Nobel Peace Prize for Snowden “was no stupid idea.” Audun Lysbakken, head of Norway’s Socialist Left party (SV) that’s a member of Norway’s government coalition, defied his own government by also supporting the idea of a peace prize for Snowden.

“I think it’s an exciting proposal,” Lysbakken told newspaper Dagsavisen. “If it’s realistic, I don’t know, but I think it’s positive that support is mobilizing for him.” Snørre Valen of SV calls Snowden “a hero.”

Some question whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee would dare to defy the US government, just a few years after awarding the prize to US President Barack Obama. Svallfors criticized that prize as “hasty” while others contend the Nobel Committee is independent enough to make its own decisions without thought to any ill effects on Norway. Its prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiabao, for example, is still hurting the Norwegian government’s relations with China.

Svallfors’ specific proposal, though, was for the Peace Prize for 2013, and the deadline for those nominations passed months ago. The Norwegian Nobel Committee could thus reject the nomination from coming in too late, or they could hang on to it for next year’s consideration.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  • Interrogative

    Hilarious. You couldn’t make this up if you tried.
    The Eurovision Song Contest currently has more credibility than the farcical Nobel Peace Prize.

    But given last years winner, I wouldn’t put it past the Naivety Committee to run with this horse.
    Better check the odds with my bookie….

    • Andy AUS

      Herbert that was a great line on sociology 🙂

  • herbert

    So Stefan Svallfors, a sociology professor, wishes Snowden to get the peace prize. It might be interesting to reflect that many universities in America have abolished sociology as a course of study including Yale, as an absurd course of study. Indeed, if a sociologist is asked to determine how many cars have crossed a bridge in an hour, he or she will typically count the number of tires and divide by four and then create an error factor for motorcycles. Mmost sociologists mental process fit that example and he is no exception

  • Wil Augustus

    This is surely something for comedy central and the daily show – lol – I wonder if Snowden wins the Nobel Peace Prize if they’ll ask Obama for a refund of the prize money he got. lol Norge, Norge…just so hard to take them fully seriously at times 🙂

  • HedmarkViking

    Where exactly is the evidence that “Support is growing in Norway for fugitive American Edward Snowden”? A Swedish professor located in Sweden and a group of Norwegian academics and politicians that have already indicated their views. This is extremely poor journalism.

    With regards to the wider debate as to whether he is worthy of a “peace prize” his case must surely rest on his ability to release information on the other military players (So far we have the US and the UK – he needs to leak info concerning the activities of Russia, China, Germany France, Israel, India etc.). Until such time then all he is actually doing is basically stoke the fires of anarchy (some might say his actions border upon treason) – in two of the World´s most stable democracies – and anarchists on current evidence don´t do peace

  • Tom Just Olsen

    “This is certainly not a cause they have historically been associated with…”
    But then you are not a historian, are you..?

    • Johan Consumares

      Neither are you; “far left” is a term without concrete definition which depends entirely upon historical and political context and can include anything ‘left’ of Christian Democrats to social anarchists. If you are really talking about Libertarian Socialism, then Adam may be generally correct.