A Nobel Peace Prize for Assange?

Feb. 1 was the last day the Norwegian Nobel Committee accepts nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, and one potential nominee for the 2011 prize has already been revealed: WikiLeaks. The organization was nominated by Norwegian parliamentarian Snorre Valen, who called WikiLeaks "one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency" in the 21st century.

Nobel nominations are not a terribly exclusive honor -- the committee accepts them from members of all national parliaments, law and political science professors, and previous winners. (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that a Russian official also may have nominated Assange.) And there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Assange will actually win the prize, which is announced in October. Journalist and Nobel Peace Prize specialist Scott London invoked Alfred Nobel's will, which calls for "fraternity among nations," as a reason why Assange's odds are not so great. "It might be truer to say that he has undermined that fraternity by creating a culture of anxiety and suspicion in international affairs, especially between countries in volatile regions like the Middle East," London told the AFP. Assange's still-unresolved sexual assault charges won't help his case, either.

But the Nobel nomination process happens so far in advance of the actual award that it can be difficult to predict a winner. This year's timing is especially awkward, given the enormous human rights story currently unfolding, although no potential nominees have emerged yet from Egypt's largely leaderless and amorphous anti-government protests (the opposition's best-known figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, already has a Nobel). The five-member Nobel committee itself can also contribute to the list of nominees at its first meeting of the year, at the end of the month. "Maybe a leader [of the popular uprisings in the Arab world] will stand out by then," Nobel expert and historian Asle Sveen told the AFP.

Other speculated nominees include human rights activists Svetlana Gannushkina of Russia and Sima Samar of Afghanistan.

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