Swedes clear Nobel Committee

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Sweden’s Nobel Foundation, which oversees the awarding of all the Nobel prizes, has determined that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has not violated the foundation’s rules regarding the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Oslo lawyer who has complained for years that it has, doesn’t appear to be giving up his fight.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee meets here at the Nobel Institute in Oslo to decide on Peace Prize winners. Complaints persist about how they meet the terms of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel's will. PHOTO: Views and News

Fredrik Heffermehl has sharply criticized the Norwegian Nobel Committee several times, claiming that its Peace Prize awards are not in keeping with the terms of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist who set up and funded the prizes more than 100 years ago. Instead of giving the award to champions of disarmament and active peace brokers, the committee has awarded many prizes to human rights and environmental activists, for example. Heffermehl believes such prizes are not in line with Nobel’s intentions.

After years of having his complaints rebuffed by officials of the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Herffermehl took his fight to Stockholm, where the regulator of Swedish foundations (Länsstyrelsen) recently agreed to ask the Nobel Foundation (Nobelstiftelsen) to evaluate and comment on Heffermehl’s claims.

It did, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that Nobelstiftelsen has written back that it doesn’t see that the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s awards have violated the foundation’s rules. The Swedish foundation noted that it’s important and desirable to discuss how Nobel’s will should be interpreted, but they found no deviation.

The foundation’s report is viewed as a recommendation to the regulator Länsstyrelsen, which will make the final response to Heffermehl’s claims.

Geir Lundestad, director of The Nobel Institute in Oslo, told news bureau NTB that the Swedish foundation’s response was made in line with the Norwegian committee’s understanding. He said it was based on both the foundation’s interpretation of Swedish law and “our reaction to Heffermehl’s complaint.” Lundestad noted that an earlier complaint from Heffermehl was rejected in 2008, “and in our opinion, he hasn’t come with anything new now.”

Heffermehl appeared undaunted, telling NRK Wednesday that “great forces are at work here” but he still believes the Norwegians are not adhering to Nobel’s will. There’s also been some speculation that a new Swedish law will transfer responsibility for awarding all the prizes to the board of the Swedish Nobel Foundation.

While all the other Nobel Prizes are awarded by various committees and organization in Nobel’s native Sweden, he specifically wrote in his will that he wanted the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded in Norway, by a committee formed by the Norwegian Parliament. There also has been controversy over how the committee itself is formed, with committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland firmly defending its independence from the Norwegian government.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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