Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Jens-André P. Herbener
Rune Engelbreth Larsen
UNHCR: New Aliens Act violates UN conventions
»With the laws to be passed now we will be able to receive and integrate foreigners in a dignified way.« This is what Minister of Interior Affairs Thorkild Simonsen stated under the third debate concerning the government's »foreigner programme«, the Bills L 59 and L 60 on June 26t(cf. Information, June 27).
So what does »in a dignified way« mean in today's Denmark? It means, among other things, a reduced integration benefit, which means that a newly arrived single refugee will recieve 2,000 kroner less than a single Dane would receive in welfare.
Besides, it appears to be »dignified«/ to limit the right of the refugees to settle wherever they choose. In the final version of Bill L 60, we read in article 32: "If the local authorities in the municipality to which the foreigner in question is moving have not agreed to take over the responsibility for the integration programme, the local authorities in that municipality may decide that the introductory benefit is to be reduced or terminated.« 210 years after the abolition of adscription it is reintroduced as »a dignified way« to integrate foreigners. Henrik Svane, refugee spokesman of the radical party, states about this point in the integration Act: »I would never ever make such a law for a Dane« (DR1 Television News, 23.6). Equality before the law is not a very popular principle among Denmark's current decisionmakers.
»In one and the same manoeuvre, more than 1,000 employees in the Danish Refugee Council and its language schools have been fired,« one of these employees, Torkil Sørensen, writes in a feature article in Aktuelt on August 8, whereafter he continues: »With regard to the public I am most amazed by the fact that these mass firings have got a lot less press than when I once experienced severe cutdowns as a turner at the shipyard B&W Motor.«
Dignified or not – the Minister of the Interior's great test, the integration Act, encountered really stormy weather when several ONG's asked the UNHCR to scrutinize it.
The special »integration benefit« for refugees, about 2,000 kroner less than the welfare given to unemployed Danes, is a violation of the UN refugee convention from 1951 which states that the host country must render the refugees »the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals,« as the UNHCR states quite unambiguously in a statement on August 13.
UNHCR also wonders that the Danish government did not adress the UNHCR concerning the Bill; as early as June 20, Søren Jessen, the vice High Commissioner of the Refugee Commision stated to Information: "Article 35 in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that there is a need for a supranational monitoring that the convention is implemented. Choosing to ignore the existence of article 35 is quite problematic. You can't just help yourself to the parts of this convention that you want."
Nevertheless, Minister of the Interior Thorkild Simonsen explicitly refused to ask the UNHCR. And as if that was not enough, the Ministry of Justice quite extraordinarily did not investigate the Integration Act's relation to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, only to the Danish Constitution and other international obligations. Why?
According to Simonsen's explanation in Politiken on August 25, this was because the Ministry of Justice left this task to the Ministry of the Interior, which did not, as it seems, find any faults. According to the Ministry of Justice, the series of events was quite different, however. Simonsen actually made an agreement with the law department in the Ministry of Justice that they, in their routine inspection of the law with respect to the Constitution and international treaties would avoid the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees!
The Chief of Department in the law department of the Ministry of Justice, Torsten Hesselbjerg, states in Information on August 20: »We made an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior that we were not to enter in these matters.«
Professor of constitutional law at the University of Copenhagen, LL. D. Henrik Zahle, emphasizes in the same newspaper, that the Ministry of Justice is under obligation to assess the relations to Denmark's international agreements and »control that the assessment of the ministry in question, in this case that of the Ministry of the Interior, is correct«.
In all cases, Simonsen refuses – to begin with, anyway – to endorse the UNHCR's declaration and feels it is unfair that they inteferre with Danish affairs since Denmark is so important an economic contributor to the UNHCR: »I will ask the bosses in Geneva if this is a fair manner to treat a country that supports them so much.« (Information, August 14).
Furthermore, the Minister of the Interior believes that it is »a great problem if they start evaluating the legislation of individual countries«, even though precisely the Danish government usually makes a virtue of demonstrating the necessity of other countries' observance of UN conventions– and of loudly proclaiming its own.
Birthe Rønn Hornbech, the spokesman for foreigner's affairs for Venstre, believes that not the integration law, but the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, ought to be changed: »I don't think we ought to change as much as a comma. The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees has nothing to do with the details in the Danish social legislation and does not state that anyone who has set foot on Danish soil must receive more than Danish pensioners. If that's the meaning of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees then that's what needs to be examined.« (Berlingske Tidende, August 19).
Simonsen prefers to ignore the whole case and declares to Information on August 14: »I think that instead we ought to be happy about our excellent new integration law that everybody seems to be so pleased with.«
A few days later, however, he goes to the office of the High Commisioner for Refugees in Geneva and a hastily summoned meeting results in a joint statement which the various Danish media interpret quite differently. Politiken: »The UN withdraws criticism«, Aktuelt: »Thorkild takes the first trick«, Kristeligt Dagblad: »Half victory for Thorkild Simonsen«, Information: "Simonsen on retreat«, Jyllands-Posten: »The Integration Act to be thoroughly investigated« and Berlingske Tidende: »The UN maintains its criticism of Act« ...
In the version of the joint declaration from the Danish news agency Ritzau's Bureau, however, Simonsen emphasizes: »It has always been important for the government that there is no doubt of our will to fulfil international obligations ...«
This is exactly the opposite of Simonsen's original refusal to ask the UNHCR about the Bill before it was passed, and exactly the opposite of Simonsen's original criticism of UNHCR's »treatment« of Denmark. His statement that the criticism »was voiced without the UNHCR having the advantage of the more extensive knowledge about the integration Act supplied by today's meeting.«
Furthermore, the joint statement informs: »The Danish Minister of the Interior and the UNHCR have agreed that not only a joint revision of the Danish integration Act, but also a revision of the Danish social legislation will be useful with respect to comparing it to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. According to Information on August 18, Makiko Shinohara, spokeswoman of the UNHCR in Geneva, even emphasizes: »It is a judicial fact that the integration Act violates the convention and that cannot be helped.«
In the same newspaper Morten Bødskov, chairman of the social democratic youth organization (DSU), acknowledges the failure of the social democratic tactics: »Originally, the integration benefit was a concession to the right wing in order to reach a broad agreement. That has failed, but now this concession means that the social democrats are behind a policy that discriminates people.«
In the meantime, Simonsen is working on a loophole that may satisfy the UNHCR as well as those political forces that demand an ever tighter policy towards immigrants and refugees in order to avoid a social democratic loss of voters to the Danish People's Party.
The trick appears to be simple, according to Politiken on August 25. All we have to do is call the immigration benefit something else, for instance a »labor market arrangement«. Voilà! For the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees demands that refugees as well as citizens must have the same Social Security Act, but if the benefits are attached to the labor market, a certain discrimination is allowed.
Keine Häxerei, nur Behändigkeit. The same thing is in the tube, but we call it something new. And isn't it excellent that Denmark yet again may be found among the good boys in the class, abiding conscientiously by the rule. »Integration benefit« becomes »labor market arrangement« and everything is all right.
And Simonsen may draw the very same conclusion as when all trouble started: » I think that instead we ought to be happy about our excellent new integration law that everybody seems to be so pleased with.«
Everybody except those it concerns, naturally.
Forcible activation of persons on long-term sick leave
In Farum, a number of persons on long-term sick leave have been asked to appear in the so-called »municipal production house« in order to be activated (put to work) – should they fail to appear, their sickness benefit will be withdrawn.
On June 13, Leif Frimand, manager and spokesman of the local authorities, characterizes the arrangement as »a way of helping people to return to the labor market after a long term of illness.« The problem is this »after«. Those on long-term sick leave naturally are not in a condition after a long-term illness – they are ill.
»If work is so healthy then give it to the sick, « according to a Portuguese proverb adopted by Jacob Haugaard in his ironic election campaign.
Well – apparently, the irony stops here.
More rigorous sentences without an explanation
According to Jyllands-Posten on June 29, Minister of Justice wishes to put forward a Bill that, among other things, implies that prisoners will no longer have the right to know which episodes caused them to be put in solitary confinement or moved from an open to a locked prison.
With this, a judicial principle of right of access to documents is violated. The Lawyer's Council has warned the members of the Danish Parliament against putting this proposal into practise, comparing it to the use of anonymous witnesses.
40% more asylum-seekers are deprived of money for food and clothing as well as their pocket money
The new Aliens Act which came into effect on July 3, has meant that 40% more asylum-seekers are deprived of their money for food and clothing as well as their pocket-money because they do not cooperate sufficiently with the Danish authorities with information concerning their case or their itinerary, Information writes on July 27.
Before the new Aliens Act, 109 asylum-seekers were subject to »motivational arrangements«, meaning that the Danish Immigration Service stops all support to the asylum-seeker except food, housing and necessary medical aid. Less than a month after the new law, 41 more have been added.
Previously, the Immigration Service had the possibility of withdrawing money for food, clothing and minor expenses, now they are obliged to take such measures.
Kim Kjær, lawyer at the Danish Centre for Human Rights, have seen 38 of the 41 decisions and is concerned that the Immigration Service apparently fails to distinguish between asylum-seekers without identification papers and the »failure to cooperate« that puts the asylum-seekers on bread and water. He criticizes the arguments in the decisions for being unclear and declares to Information: »You can't see if asylum-seekers without ID actually refused to procure informationr. If the applicant, as in one of the cases, explains that he is the victim of ethnic cleansing and therefore was unable to bring his passport, I think putting him on bread and water is a very dramatic step if he hasn't actually refused to cooperate.«
The Danish authorities do not, for example, take into account that asylum-seekers may have handed over their passports to people smugglers, which may be necessary for them in order to escape. Kjær also does not believe that the authorities may prove any kind of »failure to cooperate« with relation to events which did not even take place in Denmark and on which the asylum-seeker does not necessarily have any influence at all: »If these measures are directed against something that has already taken place, it is a sheer punishment or harassment.«
At the same time, those asylum-seekers who are deprived of their allowances even have to pay themselves if they wish legal advice in order to complain about the decision; this is obviously impossible in most cases. »... decisions concerning motivational measures are not, I believe, of a character that makes legal advice necessary in order to formulate a complaint,« assesses Claes Nilas, managing director of the Immigration Service, hereby making himself the judge of a decision of decisive importance in the asylum-seeker's life and into the bargain depriving the defendant of the assistance of a defence counsel.
It is also a question if the »motivational measures« that send the asylum-seekers on bread and water are even meant as a means to further the »motivation« among asylum-seekers to anything else apart from staying far away from Denmark the pioneer country.
In all cases, this is how it works for the Somalians. In Jyllands-Posten on July 22 Mohammed Gelle, the chairman of the Council of Somali Associations, declare: "... around the world it is rumoured that Somalian refugees no longer are welcome in Denmark."
The civil servants of the Ministry of Justice are above the law
Minister of Justice Frank Jensen confirms to the Danish Parliament that the civil servants had special rights during the interrogations this spring regarding the disturbances on Nørrebro in May 1993.
The civil servants in the Ministry of Justice participated in formulating the law that defines the rules for the extended investigation, the very law that adorns themselves with special privileges. »While Minister of Justice Erling Olsen as the counterpart of the civil servants was never allowed to read one single word of the record before he was interrogated, the leading officials of the Ministry of Justice were allowed to read everything before they testified,« according to Ekstra Bladet on July 9.
Contrary to common practice, the civil servants of the Ministry of Justice were able to study the statements of other witnesses in advance, since they possessed a copy of the record containing all evidence in the case.
Law for a DNA register for criminals and suspects
Minster of Justice Frank Jensen has given up the idea of a DNA register for the whole population – because of the expenses which would exceed 14 billion kroner. On the other hand, he does support an idea from a working party set up by the Ministry of Justice which in 1996 suggested a register for about 14,500 suspects and convicts in cases involving homicide, rape, robbery and grand larceny, and a Bill is expected to be ready this autumn.
As is well-known, being a suspect is not the same as being convicted, but it does not perturb the Minister of Justice that legally innocent people are also going to appear in the register, and according to Jyllands-Posten on July 1, the crime rate among suspects is »far higher than among the population as a whole«.
On May 20, however, Politiken informs that the working party's figure for what according to Jyllands-Posten is a »far higher« crime rate means that one out of eight of all suspects are later convicted for a similar crime.
One out of eight.
Frank Jensen adds to Jyllands-Posten: »How we are to exploit the DNA test in the future is something we have not finished discussing in the government.«
Yet another undocumented police report on »organized crime« in Denmark
In 1995, a commission under the Ministry of Justice elaborated a report about »organized crime« in Denmark, which was intended to document the necessity of an increased access to tapping of rooms and telephones, secret searches and the use of civilian agents towards the committee for legal affairs of the Danish Parliament as a countermeasure to the alleged increase of organized crime in the biker environment.
From the report it appeared that members of Hells Angels until 1989 had 17 convictions of deadly violence and 9 convictions of rape. In Weekendavisen on 25.8.95, however, the journalists Erik Glyngfeldt and Søren Brun were able to document that this was far from the truth. The correct numbers were 2 and 0, respectively.
Helge Adam Møller from the conservative party and Bjørn Elmquist of the radical party promised, among others, to follow up on this scandal but nothing happened, nobody was held responsible and everything was forgotten.
In 1997, the National Police's status report concerning organized crime in Denmark in 1996 was published; this report is to form the basis of the EU's general assessment of the status in the area of the individual member countries. The report claims that Hells Angels and Bandidos control the drug market and that they seek to »influence public administration processes and seek insight in the activities of public authorities« (a highly incriminating conclusion which, however, turns out to mean that some members have used their ordinary right of asking for access to documents pertaining prison staff) and that they »form groups in the prisons« (it is not mentioned that it is the authorities themselves that place members of the same club in the same prison). Chief constable Jens Henrik Højbjerg, responsbile for the report, recognized that the alleged connection of the clubs or the »biker war« to the drug market cannot be documented but referred to »indications«. Chief Inspector Per Larsen, however, rejected all such allegations and declared that »there is no evidence and no indication that the war is about drugs« and in complete harmony with the lawyer Thorkild Høyer made it clear that »This is a war about honor«. (Jyllands-Posten, 15.8.97).
In July 1998, the Danish police's latest report for the EU is published. Once again, Hells Angels and Bandidos are prime targets, and once again the accusations of organized crime are undocumented – and that in what is usually called a »constitutional state« which might be supposed to praise the principles that all people are innocent until proven guilty. Nor did it occur to anyone to confront the relevant authorities with the somewhat flawed credibility of the police in the light of earlier falsifications and undocumented allegations.
The national police who previously believed that the »biker war« constituted the country's most dangerous cocktail of crime, now appears to see the »biker peace«, which has lasted about a year, as the most serious problem. Once again, the responsible person is chief constable Jens Henrik Højbjerg, who says to Politiken: »The aura of violence surrounding the bikers has not diminished since the war. Now when the biker war is over, that leaves room for new crime« (July 1).
The chief constable emphasizes very carefully that police surveillance still has to be »very massive«, according to Politiken because »modern technology also has been adopted by the bikers.« Jens Henrik Højbjerg elaborates on this, adding that the clubs now can use the Internet to communicate by email across the borders, a correspondance that may be coded by so-called encryption. The chief constable does not mention that encryption is completely legal nor that everybody on the Internet with effortless ease may utilize this publicly avilable and widely disseminated code system which maintains the secrecy of the mails and prevents intruders from reading one's private mail.
The lawyers Thorkild Høyer and Peter Hjørne take vigorous exception to the undocumented and highly incriminating allegations of the report, which they characterize as describing a »false threat.« Thorkild Høyer, who negotiated the peace between Hells Angels and Bandidos, criticizes the police for pronouncing a public sentence over one particular group, and says to Politiken: »As far as I know there are no cases which corroborate the allegations of the police. From the point of view of the police, the bikers always represent a nice bogey to summon in front of the politicians when you want them to give more money.« Peter Hjørne says to the same newspaper: »This is simply a statement put forward by the police in order to secure the large means given to them because of the biker war. They have to keep up the steam, you know.«
The Ministry of Justice refuses compensation for the expropriation of property occasioned by the Biker Act
Hells Angels seek a compensation of 2,5 million kroner from the Ministry of Justice as a consequence of the closure of three shops, among other things, in connection with the Biker Act. According to article 73 of the Danish constitution, the government commits itself to pay a compensation when expropriating property.
Both the Ministry of Justice and the chief constable in Roskilde refuse to pay compensation. Politiken writes: »In his refusal, the chief constable compares the Biker Act to the right of the Minister of Agriculture to seal off a farm in order to exterminate contagious diseases among animals.« (July 21).
The right to exterminate contagious diseases among animals ...
One wonders if there are any possible sanctions from the authorities that may not be defended with such creative arguments?
Discrimination of Muslims
The local authorities in Greve and the cleaning company Redous Rengøring are behind a job advertisement in the municipal employment exchange where new cleaning staff is sought such that »foreign persons may apply (women without a headscarf)«, according to Politiken on July 7.
Britta Hatar, the proprietor of Redous Rengøring says that the command not to wear a headscarf has existed for several years: »I just don't want the girls to wear a veil that only shows their eyes. If they have to work in a hotel it is important for the guests to be able to see the women.« We are not told why this is so important, nor are we told why it is not possible to »see the women« if they wear a headscarf.
This is not the first case concerning the headscarfs of Muslim girls and women. In 1994, a social services centre in Copenhagen dismissed a trainee because she insisted on keeping her headscarf on. In 1996, an Iraqi doctor was expelled from a hospital in Copenhagen because of her headscarf which supposedly caused »sanitary problems« and which, in all cases, differed from the uniforms worn by the rest of the employees. For years, two teachers from a school in Odense refused to teach Somalian pupils wearing headscarf during classes.
Only a few cases become known but the problem is pervasive. Eric Tinor-Centi, centre leader of the Centre for Documentation and Counseling on Racial Discrimination, says to Politiken: »We have been contacted by several Muslim women who have been discriminated because they wear a headscarf. The discrimination is practised by private employers as well as by the caseworker at the social office or the employment exchange.«
The Muslims also experience an increasing harassment in the Danish schools. At the Minister of Education's annual meeting in Sorø, Jørgen Bæk Simonsen, leader of the Institute for Middle East Studies, said: »The teachers patronize the parents of the pupils and fail to pay attention to the culture of the pupils (...) When facing the Muslim minority, the public school has let them down. Many young people and their parents are treated in a most shocking way, because the institutions have forgotten to adjust their ideals to reality." Even schools with many Muslim pupils ignore the festivals of Islam completely. (Jyllands-Posten, July 29).
Policemen acquitted of shoplifting and violence
A vice commissioner of police from Århus walked through the counter in a supermarket with a deodorant, a pen and a can of fish oil capsules in his pocket. Without paying.
A detective employed by the supermarket did spot the thief, however, and when the vice commissioner made for the exit, he was apprehended. He subsequently asked the detective and a manager not to report the matter to the police, since it would have serious consequences for him, but to no avail – the vice commissioner of police was reported to the police for shoplifting.
In court he explained that he had intended to pay after passing the counter but the detective maintained that he had been walking in the direction of the exit. He was acquitted, however, by two of the three judges in court, since they did not find the detective's explanation sufficiently plausible, just as they did not believe that the vice commissioner had attempted to avoid getting the case reported to the police.
»Stress and distraction« made the vice commissioner forget to pay, was the verdict with two votes against one (Politiken, July 16).
One might expect that this case would create a precedent so that henceforward we may avoid the many situations where innocents are branded as shoplifters and humiliated by detectives and other staff members, when the court soberly realizes how easy it is to forget about the contents of your pockets as a consequence of the quite widespread »stress and distraction«. Of course, not only people in trusted and highly paid positions suffer from this disease, actually the »stress and distraction« caused by not having basic necessities in order to make ends meet when people, such as homeless or unemployed, have to scrape through all the time.
From the private guard service companies another tune is heard, however. Instead, chief guard Gert Poulsen from Falck-Securitas demands that all shops introduce a clearly marked line with the text: »You're a shoplifter if you cross this line with unpaid goods.« For, as Poulsen declares: »This would introduce a clear criterion for whether you're a shoplifter or not." (Politiken, July 26). And policemen in leading positions would have a chance to see how far they can go.
In July 1996, it became more serious than unpaid fish oil capsules for the Nigerian-born Veronica Ugwuoha, when she was arrested by three policemen and handcuffed in front of a discotheque in Copenhagen. »This is how Negroes are treated in Denmark, and if you don't like it just get the fuck home« as one of the policemen said, according to the woman's own statement, when she complained about heavy pain in the leg.
Veronica Ugwuoha asked for medical treatment three times without any result before the police from Station 1 on Halmtorvet in Copenhagen allowed a doctor to attend her. At that point, she had spent six hours in the detention with a broken leg and a split kneecap.
None of the three policemen wanted to say who had broken her leg and split her kneecap, and even though the Public Prosecutor has established that it happened during the arrest, on July 16 he decided not to press charges. The three officers cannot be charged collectively, and since it cannot be established which of them is the perpetrator, all three of them are let off.
This principle is, of course, crucial in a constitutional state, but the question is if it really is all that impossible to spot the perpetrator just because none of the three wants to confess. Lawyer Thorkild Høyer believes charges should have been pressed: »This is very disappointing. I believe, as did the Police Complaint Board, that it's easy to find out who broke Veronica's leg. As I see it, the Public Prosecutor has cutt corners in this case.« (Aktuelt, July 18).
And yet. One cannot quite reject the notion that the Nigerian woman had her leg broken and her kneecap split because of the »stress and distraction« that is a part of a policeman's tough everyday life ...
New social legislation: Thousands of unemployed lose more than 1,000 kroner a month
With the introduction of the new social legislation, thousands of welfare recipients lose more than 1,000 kroner a month – from one day to the other. According to Aktuelt on July 19, welfare recipients risk losing as much as 1,600 kroner because the new social law demands that housing subsidies must be deduced from the »workfare« benefit. Birgitte Videbæk, one of the originators of the new association Bistandsklienter i Danmark, BiD (Welfare Recipients in Denmark) which protests against the law reports to Ekstra Bladet: »Yesterday I spoke with a man from Hvidovre. He loses 2,800 kroner each month - if you count all the different supplements.« (July 12).
On July 20, Århus Stiftstidende writes: »With only a few days' notice, the welfare recipients in the City of Copenhagen have had their already fragile economy reduced with 1,200 kroner. In Odense and Aarhus, the course of events has been nearly identical.«
Kirsten Ketscher, professor and Ph. D. in social law, remarks that the local authorities have known the new social legislation for more than a year now, and believes that it is »completely unacceptable« that welfare recipients have had next to no notice: »The local authorities can't expect the citizens to know the new and complicated rules. They have a counselling obligation and you can't say that has been fulfilled with a week's notice.«
The new social legislation means that the activation benefit added to the social security benefit is reduced from 15 to 10 kroner an hour for activated recipients more than 25 years old and increased from 8 to 10 kroner an hour for activated less than 25 years old.
Ejvind Larsen, leader of the largest care centre, criticizes the »wages« in the law's activation offer: »I should say that it's indecent to let grown people who incidentally have ended up in the welfare system do a normal work for 53 kroner an hour when others get at least 85 kroner an hour.« (Information, July 7).
BiD points out that there is an obvious speculation in the profit in making forcibly activated persons do normal work for a lower price: »I have an example in Frederiksværk, where an employee of the municipality was fired after 20 years. The first activation job the person in question was assigned by the municipality was the person's own job,« states Birgitte Videbæk til Politiken in Politiken on August 1.
The discontent with forcible activation also starts to appear within the governing social democratic party itself. Erling Frederiksen, chairman of the Social Democratic party in Svinninge, writes in a comment in Aktuelt on July 24: »The traumatic point about the activation and a lot of jobs in this society is that it is often pointless or downright harmful. So when Karen Jespersen claims that we contribute to the community through work, it is a naive cliché. Some work contributes, some does not.«
If the activated person refuses or stays away, the municipal purse is shut completely or partially. This is also true for drug addicts, mentally ill and other weak groups who as a minimum have the duty to attend at special institutions a number of hours a week.
Everybody is thought of in the new social legislation.
Forcibly activated persons may not travel abroad
The new social legislation also contain a tightening of the right to vacations abroad. Forcibly activated persons have the right to one month's »vacations« – but they cannot, however, decide for themselves where they want to spend it. If they go abroad, their welfare is withdrawn.
Not only this sets a bizarre limit to where the individual can spend his spare time, the conditions for activated persons with family abroad are worsened dramatically – which obviously affects immigrants more than others. Disease in the family abroad is actually a valid reason for going abroad but then other absurdities come into force because of the so-called mutual maintenance obligation.
The mutual maintenance obligation for married couples implies that if one spouse loses the welfare, the benefit is automatically withdrawn from the other as well. On July 18, Aarhus Stiftstidende writes: »The social centre allowed a woman to go to Lebanon in order to visit her father who was ill with cancer for fourteen days. She did not, however, return on July 1 as she had to in order to keep her welfare. But her husband's welfare was also withdrawn. Now he's alone with three children for whom he cannot provide, a rent which has not been paid and no money for vital medicine which he needs because of a kidney transplant.«
The counselling service of the anti disrimination association IDFAD experience an increase in the number of cases about mutual maintenance obligation. Resident counsellor Souhail Ibrahim declares to Aarhus Stiftstidende: »We have examples of women refusing child care opportunities and consequently the welfare is withdrawn for both the husband and the wife – even though the husband is activated 37 hours a week.«
Thus many birds may be killed with the stone of the new social legislation, a law which forces without using the word »force« and which prohibits without using the word »prohibition«: unemployed are forced into »activation« for 30% less than minimum wages, unemployed with family abroad are forbidden to visit their parents, and the children of unemployed immigrants are forced into day care institutions.
Mentally ill are jailed contrary to the prison rules
The European prison rules state that mentally sick persons should not be placed in prison but must be sent to hospitals and the recommends that criminally insane persons may not be imprisoned for more than seven days. Because of lack of space in the psychiatric hospitals, however, criminally insane persons may be imprisoned for months in direct violation of the rules.
Peter Kramp of the Forensic Psychiatric Clinic in Copenhagen declares to Jyllands-Posten on July 26: »It is totally out of line when a mentally ill person has been convicted to treatment and yet is placed in jail where there is no place in a psychiatric hospital. Each time that happens is a violation of the prison rules.«
Legislation behind closed doors
Formally, Bills are elaborated in commissions, whose work is accessible to the public but in fact most of today's legislation takes place in hiding. On July 31, Weekendavisen writes: »In stead of formal meetings in appointed commissions personal lunches, confidential telephone conversations and close contacts with the ministries' principals and head clerks have become the way to go if you want to maximize your influence on the legislation.«
From 1980 to 1996, for example, the number of legislating commisions has fallen from 302 to 99. Professor Ove Kaj Pedersen from the Univeristy of Copenhagen declares to Weekendavisen that »today, the laws are elaborated in committees which are significantly more closed than the commissions. Thus, the informal contacts acquire a greater importance and personal contacts become an important prerequisite for influence. A professor in public law from the Unicersity of Aalborg criticizes the procedure in which internal committees consisting of civil servants have taken over: »The aliens programme is a good example of the fact that the use of committees solely consisting of ministry officials has gone too far. The consequence is helter-skelter legislation. This is what happens when ministers have to show their decisiveness under pressure from the media.«
At the same time, the legislation in the Danish Parliament is taking place in an ever increasing pace. Solely from the general elections in march to the vacations of the parliament at the end of June, 118 Bills and 52 suggestions for parliamentary decisions had to be handled – and in this period, three weeks were without assembly because of the referendum on the Amsterdam treaty.
The Danish parliament will arrange a conference to improve the quality of laws on October 1 and 2 which is to result in a number of working parties who are to examine the problem. That is bound to set things straight.
The Danish authorities repatriate Somalians on false passports
The Somalic Democratic Republic was dissolved in 1991, and yet the Danish authorities have repatriated 30 Somalians with passports issued there – and in that case they are not deported without identification, are they?
Mohammed Gelle, chairman of the Council of Somalian Associations, criticizes the procedure in Information on August 5: »These are passports from the Somalian Democratic Republic – a country an authority which doesn't exist – issued by the Republic of Somaliland – another country which doesn't exist. No holds seem to be barred when asylum-seekers who have been turned down have to be deported.«
13.400 drug users in Denmark
The counties estimate that there are about 13,400 so-called drug abuserd in Denmark (Politiken, August 8). Brugerforeningen (»the User's Association«), the association of the addicts, have made an investigation among its members – who, according to the association, belong among the »most nomal addicts« – of the addicts' own view of their conditions in today's Denmark.
71% think that there is too much »upbringing« from the drug workers.
75% state that they have committed crimes in order to obtain money for drugs.
93% have considered suicide.
Brugerforeningen warns again the criminalization of addicts; the chairman, Jimmy Aagaard Jensen, who himself has lived a normal life in society as an addicts, rejects the notion that a life with a »necessary consumption of drugs« can be considered »abuse« and he goes on to criticize the treatment of addicts for actually concetrating on one sole purpose: Control.
For his own part, he tells Politiken: »I have never been ill. But all that control was killing me.«
Parson: The Danish soil is totally unfit for Muslim burials
Niels Erik Søndergaard, candidate for Parliament of the Christian People's Party on Funen, takes strong exception from the wish of some Muslims to establish a cemetary on the island: »The purpose behind the Muslim wish for burial places in Demark may be to occupy part of our country.« (Aktuelt, July 25).
In a chronicle in Jyllands-Posten on August 2, parson Lis Conradsen also voices her virtuous indignation over the request from Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs Margrethe Vestagers that municipal and clerical authorities sell land for Muslim cemetaries.
She believes that it may be »expedient« to inform the Muslims »who refuse to be buried in Christian soil« that »practically every piece of land in Denmark is christened and hallowed!«
The parson is worried about the Danish soil: "... we definitely do not like neither the idea that the put their dead directly in the ground without a coffin, nor their demand that their graves have to persist forever. There is no room for that in little Denmark! Our soil is totally unfit for such a purpose, and you don't have to be a professor of Chemistry to know that!«
No, but you probably do have to be a theologian.
Registration of politics, religion and sexuality
According to Jyllands-Posten on August 17, every Dane is on the average registered in 60 registers. About 3,500 public registers, regulated by the existing Register Act, exist. Apart from that, about 7,000 registers contain so-called sensitive information and just have to be reported to the Register Authority on a form.
Today, it is not allowed to store information on the political affiliation of individuals but Minister of Justice Frank Jensen will now put forward a Bill regarding information on individuals which will allow a registration of political, religions and sexual orientation.
The Bill comes in the light of a directive from the EU which states that information on political, religious and sexual matters may be registered with the consent of the individual. Mette Reisman, jurist in the Consumer Council, is not comfortable with the security provided by this condition: "... we frequently consent to something wothout expecting to be registered forever, and the average Dane cannot grasp the consequences of such a consent.« (Jyllands-Posten, August 8.).
Professor, LL. D. Peter Blume of the University of Copenhagen also sees a quite new gap in the new law: »Today, it is not allowed to register sensitive information solely on the basis of consent but in the future it will be. The future legislation expands the access to register information concerning Danes.«
The EU directive on personal information even forces Denmark to let sensitive information from the CPR (Central Person Register) register be transferred to foreign countries, first of all personal numbers, addresses and names of perdons of which relevant companies are customerss: »It appears that from October we will have to allow that companies draw CPR information from Denmark for processing in Sweden or Spain, for instance,« declares Torben Jerlach, head of the CPR office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs to Jyllands-Posten on August 17.
In Politiken on August 20, Steffen Juhl, chairman of the Lawyer's Council warns: »I believe there has never been any totalitarian state with as high a level of registration as in Denmark today.«
The police Politiet get heavier weapons
The police need 11,000 new guns instead of the present Walther guns. Five new models are currently being tested. One thing they have in common is that they are 9 millimeter guns and thus heavier than the old 7.65m millimeter police guns.
Vice Commissioner of Police Erik Justesen motivates the purchase saying that the Walther gun is too old: »We fortunately don't use the guns very often but since many of the guns were purchased shortly after the war we need an up-to-date hand weapon.«
But the Commissioner of Police fails to inform why the hand weapon has to be heavier in order to »up-to-date «. Nor does he explain the connection between the purchase of an »up-to-date« hand weapon and the fact that Denmark is actually experiencing a decline of violence and crime.
According to the police statistics concerning reports on violence and crime for the first six months of 1998 it appears, among other things, that »reports concerning mild violence after article 244 of the Penal Code have declined almos to per cent compared to the first six months of 1997; reports of serious violence acccording to article 245 of the Penal Code have declined eight per cent; the number of burglaries has declined.« (Information on July 29). All in all, the reported violence and crime has declined 4,4 per cent from 1997 to 1998.
But the police need more »up-to-date« heavier guns.
Turk expelled after 28 years in Denmark because of possession of drugs.
In 1997, a 51-year-old Turk who had lived in denmark for 28 years was arrested during a raid with a few grams of cocaine, some hash and a little heroin on him, according to Berlingske Tidende on July 17; and in May this year he was arrested while in possession of 20 grams of cocaine and 8 grams of heroin. Verdict: Expulsion from Denmark for ten years!
A 31-year-old Gambian was also deported for ten years for selling 0.2 grams of drugs because he had previously been convicted of two similar offences.
After the law concerning drug offences was tightened in december 1995, 69 persons have been convicted and deportet from Denmark.
Police inspector Erik Bjørn does not believe that the sentences are too harsh and declares to Berlingske Tidende: »At long last we have reached the point where the situation has become tolerable for residents and shopkeepers on Vesterbro in Copenhagen. And also the foreigners have to adapht themselves to that.«
The background for the harsh measures against foreigners convicted of even very small quantities of drugs was a heated debate over »the many foreign pushers« protagonized Ekstra Bladet with »photographic exposures« of dark-skinned pushers on Vesterbro. There are actually very few foreigners among the drug dealers, and those of them who are foreigners mainly come from Northern Europe.
Den 19.7. skriver Berlingske Tidende: "Norwegians, Swedes and Germans are far more often arrested for and charged with drug dealing than Gambians, Turks and Pakistani. And even though the drug debate has been focused on foreigners, Danish citizens account for around 85 per cent of the charges for drug offences. In 1997, 8,234 persons were charged with drug-related crimes – 1,256 were foreigners.«
Enlistment pamphlet from the Home Guard: Defend your local community against migration
An enlistment pamphlet from southern Funen advertises the Home Guard with these words: »Do you want to defend your local community against a migration from third world countries?«
Company commande Henning Skov of the Home Guard in Vester Skerninge and the man behind the pamphlet, declares to Politiken on August 25: »We have to take out something which might interest people. Wars don't really appeal for the time being.«
The social authorities should perform arbitrary raids on homes and firms
On August 19, minister for Social Affairs Karen Jespersen presents a plan for fighting fraud with social benefits. On August 20, Politiken writess: »During the autumn, raids will be performed on companies and in private dwellings that are not necessarily under suspicion for fraud.«
According to Politiken, it is claimed that fraud with social benefits costs society 25 billion kroner a year – nobody asks, however, from which information this amazing number has been reached. Nor does anyone find a reason for considering whether fraud with social benefits might not, at least partially, be explained by the extreme cutbacks on the social benefits coupled with more force and more controlwhich have characterized the social politics, not leat while Karen Jespersen has been minister.
Ib Dam Schultz, vice chairman in the Association of Social Managers in Denmark, is not thrilled with the new tightening and declares to Politiken concering the raids: »I begin to feel sick when I hear of such raids. It reminds me of life in East Germany.«
No real changes in the practise concerning solitary confinement of suspects.
Denmark has for several years been severely criticized by the UN Committe for Human Rights, the European Committe for the Prevention of Torture as well as the Amnesty Internatioal for its use of solitary confinement without a time limit in cases involving crimes that can give more than six years' prison. 10% serve more than two months in solitary confinement and some serve as much as a year. Suspects, that is, legally innocent persons in solitary confinement.
This kind of imprisonment, internationally classified as torture, is exceptionally hard and its use therefore limited in a number of countries; for example, the time limit for solitary confinement in Turkey, whose jailing and police practices are usually criticized by Denmark. By way of example, neither the USA, Great Britain, Holland or Spain use solitary confinement of suspects at all.
Approximately 1,500 people are taken into custody in solitary confinement each year, and almost a third are seriously damaged by the imprisonment. In 1997, two doctors and a psychologist examined the matter and recommended that any and all use of solitary confinement of suspects should be stopped immediately (cf. Jyllands-Posten, 30.4.97).
Now something needs to be done, according to a commission from the Ministry of Justice; the commission recommends that the use of solitary confinement in Denmark is limited to a maximum of four months. This despite the fact that 43% of those who spend more than two months in solitary confinement may subsequently be given a psychiatric diagnosis.
And in reality, the four month limit means next to nothing at all. Minister of Justice Frank Jensen has already pleaded that it may be possible to place suspects in solitary confinement for longer time in cases concerning drugs related crimes with international ramifications. That was for instance the case with Peter Rohde, who spent nineteen months in custody and more than a year in solitary confinement before he was set free. Acquitted without a doubt. His case would have been no different after the minister's new formal limitation of the solitary confinement.
The lawyer is not enthusiastic about this elastic limit: »So the changes recommended by the Penal Commission will have no practical effect. [Solitary confinement] will be used at discretion.« (Berlingske Tidende, August 22). Also Torben Pedersen, chairman of the Medical Association, is critical towards the proposal: »It is neither reasonable nor necessary to have people in solitary confinement for as long time as we do in this country. The shorter time, the better.« (Politiken, August 22).
Solitary confinement means confinement to six square meters for 23½ hour out of 24. The last hour offers a lonely walk in a small courtyard covered with chicken wire. Day upon day upon day. Denmark's treatment of 1,500 annually – suspects, who, as is well-known, are innocent until proven guilty.
Or at least that was how it used to be.
"Thorough investigation" of the PET?
From 1968-74 Arne Nielsen, then leader of PET (the Police Intelligence Service), organized a registration of persons who »are solely known as members« of the direction of the political parties VS (the Left Socialist Party) and DKP (the Communists) even though a government declaration from 1968 had prohibited the registration of Danes »solely on the grounds of legal political activity« (our italics).
This was, with the words of minister of Justice Frank Jensen at the press meeting on August 24 »a direct contradiction of the government's declaration« and consequently – following this year's many expositions of illegal surveillance, registration and civilian agents in trade unions and the left wing – a thorough investigation of PET from the mid-sixties till today. With this move, he escapes answering about 200 critical questions asked to him in the discussions concerning PET in Parliament following this spring's disclosures.
Preben Wilhjelm sees Frank Jensen's manoeuver as a bitter necessity in order to escape a personal scandal like the one which befell Orla Møller, the social democratic minister of Justice 1975-77: »Either Frank Jensen had to go exactly as deeply as an independent court of inquiry – without having the right to take statements from the civil servants involved. Or he would have to continue giving meaningless answers. The Ministry of Justice staff are indeed masters in that craft, but he would not be able to get away with that in the log run. He was really getting mixed up in something bad here, just like Orla Møller who was almost killed politically because the intelligence services lied to him and he subsequently lied to the Parliament.« (Information, August 25).
The Minister of Justice will set up a court of inquiry to make a thorough investigation of PET's activities during the next several years. Spokeswoman of Justice from the radical party Elisabeth Arnold declares: »PET has acted like a state within the State. Democracy is endangered if it cannot control PET.« (Jyllands-Posten, 25.8.).
ians Some former politicians wholly or partially reject the necessity of an inquiry, however. dligere politikere afviser imidlertid helt eller delvist nødvendigheden af en undersøgelse. Hans Tabor, social democratic minister of Foreign Affairs from 1967-68 declare to Berlingske Tidende on August 30: "I am sure the rules have been kept. There is no case and it makes me sick to hear the hypocrisy about the democratic rights from those who then wanted to overthrow society. Poul Søgaard, social democratic minister of Defence from 1977-79 says to the same newspaper: "I think this case is too small to believe that anything may be obtained from it."
Jørgen Skat-Rørdam, leader of PET from 1970 and who according to a document from PET called off the registration in 1974, six years later than demanded by the government declaration, now chief constable in Hillerød, declares to Politiken in August 25: "I am not conscious of having done anything illegal. "
Another former PET leader, now chief constable in Glostrup Jørn Bro, warns emphatically against an equiry and even fears that PET will be destroyed: "I am deeply concerned about what shall become of PET after this stonebreaking court of inquiry. We risk that the service will be shattered and will have to start over completely." (Jyllands-Posten, August 27).
A third former PET leader, now chief constable in Vordingborg Niels Schmidt, also rejects all talk about a state within the State: "Talking about PET as a state within the State would mainly make sense in a totalitarian setting, and that's not what we've got in Denmark." (Jyllands-Posten, August 28).
In the same newspaper, a fourth former PET leader, now chief constable in Haderslev Mikael Lyngbo, agrees with his colleagues: "PET has always been a fantastically loyal organization."
A fifth former PET leader, the present Public Prosecutor Henning Fode does not want to make any statement at all: "I have been informed that the work of the court of inquiry will also include the years where I was the leader of the intelligence service and for that reason I have no comments to the case." (Information, August 28).
Like his former colleagues, Hans Toft-Nielsen, a sixth former PET leader who is now a city court judge, rejects that PET should be as state within the State: "That is a very harsh expression that cannot be justified at all. I can say that with absolute certainty." (Jyllands-Posten, August 30).
The question is, nevertheless, whether the Minister of Justice wishes be able to cover up the criticism by referring to the commission's work, or if the PET inquiry continually will report the possibly incriminating information that will surface to the public.
From the very beginning it seems clear that the first of these options is true – everything is to take place behind closed doors while only the final report is to be published.
Jørn Vestergaard, associate professor of criminal law at the University of Copenhagen, on the othe hand, believes that openness concerning the commission's work is of decisive importance and remarks: "It is absolutely necessary that the inquiry be given as free reins as possible. It is of decisive importance that the inquiry must survey the course of events and also if necessary point out the legal responsibilities involved. Everything else would be pointless." (Jyllands-Posten, August 28). Also the lawyer Henrik Holm Nielsen, former interrogator in the Tamil case as well as Gorm Toftegaard Nielsen, professor of criminal law at the Univeristy of Aarhus, emphasize the importance of openness in the same newspaper.
Nevertheless, all interrogations of former and present ministers, under-secretaries, leaders and PET staff will be secret and furthermore the work of the court of inquiry may not collide with present intelligence tasks, agreements with foreign intelligence services or deal with subjects such as ounterespionage, anti-terrorist measures or biker investigations. The question is, then, whether "every stone will be turned", or if a possible violation of PET's authority may not be covered by one or more of these elastic reservations ...
By Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Translated by Carsten Agger