OSLO – As activists seethe over Donald Trump’s first days in the White House, some experts say this year’s Nobel Peace Prize may prove to be an emphatic call on the president to respect human rights.
As the final day to submit nominations for the award passed on Wednesday, some of the names believed to be on the secret list bore the hallmarks of Trump’s opponents — though the U.S. president himself was also nominated.
Kristian Berg Harpviken of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, who has followed the peace prize process closely for years, put the American Civil Liberties Union at the top of his list of possible winners.
The group, nearly a century old, made headlines this week after presenting a legal challenge to Trump’s immigration decree that temporarily blocks nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
“A peace prize to the ACLU would certainly be understood as a criticism of President Trump,” Harpviken wrote on his website.
But “it would more importantly be a celebration of long-standing, tenacious legal craftsmanship and the fight for civil rights, in the USA primarily, but also as part of a global struggle.”
After sharp criticism from around the globe, Trump has made exemptions for all dual citizens.
But in addition to the travel ban, the first days of Trump’s presidency have been marked by repeated attacks on the media and a pledge to push ahead with a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico — moves that have worried civil liberties and rights advocates.
Nobel Peace Prize predictions are notoriously difficult, especially since the Nobel Institute keeps the list of nominations secret for 50 years.
Only those who are allowed to submit nominations are free to disclose their choices publicly.
Lawmakers and cabinet ministers, former laureates, and some university professors are among the thousands of people around the world entitled to suggest candidates.
The five members of the Norwegian Nobel committee can also make nominations at their first meeting on Feb. 16.
Pope Francis has once again been nominated for his peace and reconciliation efforts.
“He is one of the rare ones to stand up to Donald Trump,” said Knut Arild Hareide, the head of a small Norwegian political party that put his name forward.
In an interview with Spanish daily El Pais conducted as Trump was being sworn in as president on Jan. 20, Francis warned against populism, saying it could lead to the election of “saviors” like Hitler.
He also condemned the idea of using walls and barbed wire to keep out foreigners.
According to Harpviken, Trump himself has been nominated — as he was last year — for the Nobel by an unidentified American who wants the U.S. leader recognized for “his peace through strength ideology.”
In a sign of the geopolitics at stake, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also believed to be in the running, reportedly nominated by a French think tank, the Centre of Political and Foreign Affairs.
Norway’s public broadcaster NRK reported last week that Russian authorities organized a disinformation campaign in 2015, including a fake letter, to torpedo the Nobel chances of Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
Russia denied the report, attributing it to “paranoia.” The prize that year went to a quartet of Tunisian rights’ organizations.
Former French president Jacques Chirac is also reportedly in the running this year, as are Syria’s White Helmets volunteer rescue workers; the jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi; and Edward Snowden, who revealed the scope of America’s NSA electronic surveillance program.
The date of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement has not been announced, but is expected to fall on Oct. 6. Last year, it went to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.