Give the Nobel Peace Prize Posthumously

Foreign Policy (2017)

4 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2017 Last revised: 6 Oct 2017

See all articles by Zachary D. Kaufman

Zachary D. Kaufman

University of Florida Levin College of Law; Boston University - School of Law; Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law; University of Houston Law Center; Stanford Law School; Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: October 5, 2017


Regardless of who wins the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow, the controversy over a previous recipient should prompt revision of the award’s future selection criteria. As the atrocity crimes perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya escalate (possibly amounting to genocide), so too does criticism of the country’s state counsellor and de facto leader, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. And rightfully so. She is inflaming anti-Rohingya sentiment and blaming “terrorists” for “misinformation” about the crisis, and the government she leads is refusing to grant visas to members of a United Nations probe investigating the horrific violence and preventing international organizations from delivering vital aid.

A growing chorus, including an online petition with over 425,000 signatures, is now calling for Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize or other recognitions — such as honorary Canadian citizenship, “Freedom of the City” awards from Dublin and Oxford, and a distinction from Harvard — to be stripped. The problem isn’t just that Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent conduct makes her undeserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, but that the imprimatur of the Nobel on Aung San Suu Kyi may have made the Rohingya crisis worse. For too many and for too long, the award has cloaked Aung San Suu Kyi’s deplorable actions in presumed benevolence and credibility.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute has stated that it has no authority or procedure to revoke a Nobel Peace Prize. But even if it is unable or unwilling to respond to the criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi specifically, the institute should revise its regulations going forward. Since 1974, the Nobel Foundation’s statutes have stipulated that a Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless the awardee died after being announced as the winner. To protect its integrity, the Peace Prize should instead now be awarded only posthumously.

Keywords: Nobel, Nobel Prize, Nobel Peace Prize, Peace, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma, Myanmar, Rohingya, Genocide, Terrorist, Terrorism, Hero, Heroism, Saint, Malala Yousafzai, Gandhi, Yasser Arafat, Henry Kissinger, Pulitzer, Medal of Honor, Incentive, Award, Prize, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony

Suggested Citation

Kaufman, Zachary D., Give the Nobel Peace Prize Posthumously (October 5, 2017). Foreign Policy (2017), Available at SSRN:

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