Over half the Nobel Peace Prizes awarded since 1946 are illegitimate because they are in breach of the terms of Alfred Nobel's will, claims a Norwegian peace activist.
Fredrik Heffermehl, who is also a lawyer, says all but one of the 10 prizes awarded in the last 10 years are illegal under Norwegian and Swedish law.
Heffermehl's verdict, which caused controversy when it was set out in his book 'Nobels Vilje' (Nobel's Will) published in Norwegian in 2008, is likely to stir up passionate discussions when Greenwood Press publishes 'Picking Up the Peaces: Why the Nobel Peace Prize Violates Alfred Nobel's Will and How to Fix It' this August.
Heffermehl says according to the dynamite inventor's will, the Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to individuals who have engaged in a struggle to end wars through an international order based on law and abolition of military forces.
However, few of the recent winners seem to fulfill this criterion.
Among those awards Heffermehl names as illegitimate are: Mother Teresa (1979); Lech Walesa (1983); Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin (1994); Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi (2003); Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai (2004); and Al Gore (2007).
The will, dated November 27, 1895, disbursed large sums to various relatives, friends and servants before leaving the bulk of the estate to establishing the awards that bear his name.
The sentence setting out the terms of what Nobel called a prize for the 'champions of peace' reads: "One part 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."
"Nobel's Will is a revelation. It is quite clear that over many years the Nobel prize committee has frequently made the award on the basis of what it would have liked Nobel to intend, not on what he clearly did intend. If the executors of any ordinary will do this they would either be sued or prosecuted," The Independent quoted Bruce Kent, a member of the Movement for the Abolition of War, as saying.