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The testament of Alfred Nobel is shown by a senior curator at the Nobel Museum.
Reuters/ TT News Agency
Reading between the lines?

Peace activists want to sue the Nobel Peace Prize committee for missing Alfred Nobel’s point

By Olivia Goldhill

The Nobel Peace Prize is not without its share of controversies. The prestigious award was even charged with single-handedly killing political satire, when it honored Henry Kissinger in 1973. And now the Nobel committee has been accused of subverting Alfred Nobel’s original intentions by awarding the prize to the wrong kind of recipient.

Fredrik Heffermehl says his group, Nobel Peace Prize Watch, is taking legal action against the Nobel Foundation’s board members (pdf). Heffermehl is the former vice president of the International Peace Bureau, which was awarded the prize in 1910. He founded Nobel Peace Prize Watch in 2014.

The Nobel Foundation didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nobel Peace Prize Watch has asked the Stockholm city court to declare that awarding the 2012 peace prize to the European Union was an illegal use of funds because the EU hasn’t helped to build a peace movement.

When Alfred Nobel died in 1896 he left much of his estate—the equivalent of around roughly $207 million today—to a series of prizes for those who had “conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” His will describes the recipient of the peace prize as follows:

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.

Heffermehl, a lawyer and peace activist, told CBC News that the vast majority of peace prize recipients have been undeserving because they don’t live up to Nobel’s standard.

Nobel Peace Prize Watch (NPPW) has also criticized the latest decision to give the 2015 award to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for its “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”

“An encouragement to the Tunisian people is fine, but Nobel had a much greater perspective,” NPPW member Tomas Magnusson told journalist David Swanson. “The committee continues reading the expressions of the testament as they like, instead of studying what type of ‘champions of peace’ and what peace ideas Nobel had in mind signing his will on Nov. 27, 1895.”

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 95 times to 128 laureates, including US president Barack Obama, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, and former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. The full list of recipients is detailed on the Nobel Prize website.