Norwegian PEN gave the Ossietzky Prize to Edward Snowden in Moscow


DATE: 30 APRIL 2017

Norwegian PEN president William Nygaard, Secretary General Hege Newth Nouri and the Ossietzky Prize winner Edward Snowden. Photo: Bodil Voldmo Sache/NRK

On April 21st, Edward Snowden received the Ossietzky Prize for 2016. President William Nygaard and Secretary General Hege Newth Nouri of Norsk PEN gave him the award in Moscow.

«I’m grateful for the support from Norwegian PEN,» said Edward Snowden when he received the award, a lithography by Norwegian artist Nico Wideberg.

On April 21, it had been a year since Edward Snowden filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian state together with Norwegian PEN. The lawsuit was filed in order to allow Snowden to travel to Norway without fear of extradition to the US, where he faces decades of imprisonment under the Espionage Act. Norwegian courts dismissed the case, the final dismissal fell in the Supreme Court in November 2016.

As a plan B, Norwegian PEN would go to Moscow and hand over the prize to Snowden personally. Last week, William Nygaard and Hege Newth Nouri traveled to Russia and met Edward Snowden. Accompanying Norwegian PEN were Snowden’s Norwegian lawyers from Schjødt Advokater and journalists from the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, who have followed the case the last year. The meeting took place in a hotel in Moscow.

Edward Snowden arrived a little late. He explained that the bus was so crowded he had to wait for the next. He lives an almost normal life in Moscow, but at the same time he has isolated himself in the Russian society. He has chosen this way of life because he once again hopes to return to his native country and be brought to justice in the United States in a fair and impartial trial. Snowden will be tried under the so-called Espionage Act of 1917, a law which is unacceptable according to international human rights standards. This First World War law will condemn him to life imprisonment without a jury and defense, a sentencing he will serve in a high-risk prison under extremely severe conditions.

Edward Snowden explained that he spends most of his life online, digital communication is both his profession and way of life. He teaches via skype at several universities and holds speeches all over the world. Edward Snowden is also board of directors in the organisation Freedom of the Press Foundation, an NGO that works to protect and support freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We talked about the drone warfare, international law, the protection of whistleblowers, Trump and Putin, love and everyday life in Russia, future prospects, but most of all we talked about the issues that Snowden has fought for for almost four years in involuntary exile: how to secure and strengthen individual privacy, whistleblowers, journalists and others’ ability to communicate securely.

Snowden has a leave to stay in Russia until 2020, but his future is as uncertain as it was in 2013. Norwegian PEN, together with his Norwegian lawyers, will assist Edward Snowden if he wishes to apply for asylum in countries other than Russia.

Norwegian Broadcasting Company has followed Norwegian PEN through the last year’s work to give  the Ossietztky Prize to Edward Snowden in Norway. Watch their documentary «Snowden plan B» on Tuesday 2 May at 21:30/9.20 pm.

For further information contact:
William Nygaard, Chairman of the Board: +47 908 92 601
Hege Newth Nouri, Secretary-General: +47 930 02 262

Supreme Court rejects Edward Snowden's lawsuit for safe passage to Norway


Supreme Court rejects Edward Snowden’s lawsuit for safe passage to Norway

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s lawsuit against the Norwegian state to establish that Norway has no right to extradite him to the United States, was rejected by the Supreme Court yesterday. Snowden has, with Norwegian PEN and the Norwegian press organizations as intervention parties, sued the Norwegian state to ensure a safe passage to Norway to receive the Ossietzky prize for 2016 in Oslo.

– Just as Carl von Ossietzky in his time was not permitted to come to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Snowden has been prevented from coming here to receive the Ossietzky Prize. Our battle is lost, but the long term goal remains the same: that Edward Snowden, and others who report misconduct, must be able to do so this without fear of prosecution and in the worst case, life imprisonment, says William Nygaard, President of Norwegian PEN.

Norwegian PEN, in collaboration with PEN International, will intensify their efforts to shed light on the whistleblower’s lack of protection in international law. Equally important is to prove that mass surveillance is a threat to our freedoms as individuals. Efforts to protect Edward Snowden’s position as a whistleblower and human rights advocate will prevail.

In what appears to be political loyalty to the US, the Norwegian government decided to not confirm that Snowden could come to Norway without fear of extradition. Thus, the request had to be tried in court. The lawsuit has been tried by the District Court and Court of Appeal with negative outcome. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The court’s main argument is that the US government has only requested extradition if Snowden comes to Norway, furthermore that the formal extradition request has not been handed over to Norwegian authorities. Thus, the lawsuit is basically rejected on formal grounds.

Norwegian PEN will travel to Moscow to give the award to Edward Snowden.

William Nygaard, head of the Norwegian PEN: +47 908 92 601
Hege Newth Nouri, General Secretary of Norwegian PEN: +47 930 02 262


Edward Snowden – Ossietzky of our time



Edward Snowden – Ossietzky of our time

Norwegian PEN awards the Ossietzky Prize 2016 to the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

This year it is 80 years since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Carl von Ossietzky, an event that we commemorate by holding the award ceremony in the University Aula of Oslo, where Ossietzky in 1936 should have come to receive his prize.  Norwegian PEN invites Edward Snowden to receive the award in Oslo on Friday 18 November, and we will do our utmost to ensure that Snowden may receive the prize in person.

The Ossietzky prize is Norwegian PEN’s award for outstanding efforts for freedom of expression. The prize is awarded annually to a person or institution that over time, or in connection with a particular issue or event, made an exceptional effort for freedom of expression.

The grounds
Edward Snowden has revealed the questionable, extensive global surveillance and espionage conducted by states on their citizens and on single countries. Snowden’s disclosure of NSA’s surveillance of millions of phone calls resulted in a ruling in the US court of appeals, that the NSA’s storage of telephone metadata is indeed illegal, because it was not approved by Congress. Nonetheless, Snowden has not met any understanding from the US authorities. They uphold the indictment for espionage and theft of government property, and demand he be extradited to the US, where Snowdon may risk a life sentence.

With this year’s Ossietzky Prize Norwegian PEN wants to highlight that surveillance may only be carried out within the framework of internationally accepted legal standards for the protection of individual civil liberties. By awarding the prize to Edward Snowden, Norwegian PEN wish to pay  respect to the unique role he has undertaken as a whistle blower. The award will expose the need for an international debate on surveillance regarding the boundaries set by international and national law. The prize is also a recognition of the whistleblower’s personal courage during the revelations of  governmental/public and  secret encroachment  on the personal integrity of individuals.

This year’s Ossietzky Prize laureate has renounced his personal life and career in order to alert the world to the US government’s surveillance activities. He received the Bjornson prize in September 2015 for his work on the right of privacy, and for being instrumental in heightening the critical awareness to privacy, and to direct a critical spotlight on states’ illegal surveillance of their own and other states’ citizens. In a televised speech during the prize ceremony in Molde, Snowden stated that he was aware of the consequences of his actions. He had expected to be thrown in jail not given awards. Yet, he would do the same again. Thus he also represents a courageous defender of the whistleblowers’ freedom of expression, at a time when massive surveillance threatens freedom of speech for citizens worldwide.

Political challenges
Snowden has been instrumental in raising public awareness, and human rights organizations worldwide have supported his revelations of  illegal surveillance. It is disturbing that Norwegian and European politicians, also outspoken critics of electronic mass surveillance, hesitate or refuse to comment or support Snowden. In a non-binding resolution (adopted by a narrow majority) the European Parliament in 2015 confirmed that they recognized Snowden’s status as whistleblower and human rights defender, and urged member states to grant him asylum. All EU countries have an extradition treaty with the US, and so far none of the countries followed the invitation of the resolution.

Snowden lives in Moscow. He holds a temporary residence permit in Russia that expires in August 2017. It is high time for a political initiative to challenge the threats towards the prizewinner, an initiative that should conclude with an offer of stay and protection. A suitable start of such a process would be for the Norwegian government to guarantee him safe passage to receive the Ossietzky Prize for 2016.

From Ossietzky to Snowden
The Norwegian PEN Ossietzky Prize is named after and dedicated to Carl von Ossietzky. Ossietzky revealed how German authorities ran secret re-armament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. For his revelations he was convicted of treason and imprisoned. Edward Snowden has, like Carl von Ossietzky, contributed to a democratic openness through his revelations.
The board of Norwegian PEN decides who will receive the Ossietzky Prize.

During the award ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936, Carl von Ossietzky’s chair was empty because German authorities refused to let him travel to Oslo. Norwegian PEN asks the Norwegian Government to ensure that Edward Snowden may receive his award in Norway by guaranteeing that he will not be extradited to the United States. Norwegian PEN will do everything in our power to ensure that Snowden will sit in the chair on the stage on November 18 2016.