The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1980 to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.
Pérez Esquivel, architect and sculptor by profession, has held the chair of architecture in Buenos Aires. In 1974, having decided to devote his life to the struggle for human rights, he took on the day-to-day running of the organisation Servicio Paz y Justicia, which has its head office in Buenos Aires as well as subsidiaries in a number of Latin American countries.
The aim of this organisation is to work to promote fundamental human rights, basing itself exclusively on non-violent means. The organisation has developed a network of contacts spanning the entire continent coordinating the activities of the many local groups that share common basic views.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has previously awarded the Peace Prize to individuals and organisations working for human rights, and to individuals working for a solution of conflicts by non-violent means. This year’s laureate represents in this respect the same views as the 1975 Prize Winner, Andrei Sakharov.
In the early 1970s Argentina experienced a form of civil war in which extreme terrorist organisations created an atmosphere of insecurity and fear by their murders, bomb attacks, abductions and blackmail.
The military regime that was subsequently set up has itself made use of extreme violence. Thousands of persons have vanished without trace, and in many cases we know that they have been brutally treated and put to death. All this has been carried out under cover of complete silence, without the semblance of legal procedure. This has disrupted the lives of men and women who have nothing in common with terrorism.
Pérez Esquivel is among those Argentinians who have shone a light in the darkness. He champions a solution of Argentina’s grievous problems that dispenses with the use of violence, and is the spokesman of a revival of respect for human rights. He is not alone: in his work he has promoted thoughts and ideas that have found expression in the words of Argentina’s great poet, Jorge Luis Borges:
“My position on Argentina is a purely ethical one. I cannot ignore the serious moral problem which arose in my country, with both terrorism and repression. In no way can I be silent in front of all those dead all those who disappeared. I do not approve of any action where the end justifies the means. I am no politician. I can tell you only one thing: the repression itself was a form of terrorism. Two terrorisms, from left and right. When people are arrested without being brought to court, I cannot be silent. They tell me one must not say such things, to save the image of our country. But truth is more important than any image.”
In the opinion of the Committee Pérez Esquivel, too, represents in his struggle for human rights the struggle for Argentina’s image and reputation in the world.
The Prize Winner is an Argentinian, but the views he represents carry a vital message to many other countries, not least in Latin America, where social and political problems as yet unsolved have resulted in an escalation of the use of violence.
Oslo, October 27, 1980
A new Nobel Prize Lesson is now available and ready to use in the classroom.