The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday named Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist Nadia Murad and gynaecologist Denis Mukwege from Democratic Republic of Congo the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018. Murad and Mukwege were chosen for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

The panel that chose the winners called Mukwege “the helper who has devoted his life to defending victims of war-time sexual violence”. Murad is the “witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others”, the panel said.

“Mukwege...has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” it added. “Dr Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Mukwege has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.”

The committee said Murad was “one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the Islamic State army”. “The abuses were systematic and part of a military strategy,” the panel said. “Murad...has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.”

The statement further said: “Following her escape from Islamic State [group], Murad chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.”

The committee chose the winners from among 331 candidates, which included 216 individuals and 115 organisations. This was the highest number of candidates in contention for the peace prize since the 376 nominated in 2016.

Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The 2018 prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor (Rs 7.3 crore).

The Syrian civilian aid group White Helmets, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, former United States government contractor Edward Snowden, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were among the nominees this year, AP reported.

Among bookmakers’ favourites for the peace prize were United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, The Guardian reported. The two leaders held a historic summit in Singapore on June 12, and Pyongyang pledged denuclearisation.