The Torch

The Torch (Danish: is a Danish web-magazine devoted to cultural trends and social comment in a humanist worldview. Edited by Rune Engelbreth Larsen and Carsten Agger.



Peter Tudvad
SAK - An Unscholarly Biography of Kierkegaard

Rune Engelbreth Larsen
The Cartoon Crisis and the Danish Prime Minister

Jens-André P. Herbener
New Scholarly Translation of the Hebrew Bible

Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Matrix and the Metaphysical Film Revolution

Carsten Agger
Assault Against the Freedom of Speech

Totalitarian and Fascist Tendencies in Denmark

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Totalitarian and Fascist Tendencies in Denmark | THE TORCH


Professor: Danish workfare violates human rights

In 1991, international human rights were violated when an upper wage limit of 80 kroner an hour was introduced for unemployed in public activation ("workfare") jobs, as associate professor Jens Brøsted of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Copenhagen points out in a book from the Danish Association of Legal Policy. An employee in a 7-month job offer lost 90,000 kroner a year compared to a person hire according to the normal aggreements in the labour market, writes Information on December 2nd.

Brøsted furthermore accuses the Ministry of Labour of misinforming the labour organization of the UN (the ILO) in connection with a complaint from the trade union of the academics - a case which is currently pursued by Dansk Magisterforening (another trade union for academics) at the ILO.

According to Brøsted, the human rights violations may mean that the Government is required to pay refunds to unemployed in the job offers in question.

Brøsted believes that the Government has covered up the law's discrimination "through disinformation" and by claiming that job offers are not "real work".

Per Clausen, chaiman of Dansk Magisterforening, is disappointed that no other trade unions have taken up the case: "It is definitely disappointing that we are alone in this. And surprising, since this discrimination also means that the trade unions have lost their right to negotiate the salaries of their members. Maybe they are trying to please their comrades in the Government." (Information, December 2nd).

On August 8th 1998, Magisterbladet writes the following about the legal action taken by Dansk Magisterforening at the ILO: "Dansk Magisterforening will not tolerate that salaries and aggreements may be dictated unilaterally by the Government as it happened after the Budget compromise in 1991 where the Government decided to introduce an upper limit for salaries in public job offers corresponding to the unemployment benefit, that is, at most 80 kroner an hour. This has since been index linkaged to 85 kroner an hour.

This is unreasonable for our long-term unemployed members forced to work for about half the salaries of their colleagues in the same workplace. And it undermines the credibility of the aggreement system since it is a violation of the collective right of negotiation and thus also violates the conventions adopted by the UN's labour organization (ILO). This is the point of view of Dansk Magisterforening and consequently we want the case tried at the ILO where it expected to come on this winter."

Banks discriminate the poor by giving them the highest interest rates

Most financial institutions have different interest rates for the same loan, depending on the economic capacity of the borrower. The poorer a client, the higher the interest to be paid on the loan - hereby the poorest finance the low interest rates of the well-to-do.

On December 3rd Århus Stiftstidende writes, based on calculations from Pengeguiden ("the Money Guide") published by Politiken in collaboration with the Consumer's Council: "A loan of 30,000 kroner may vary from 8,8 per cent a year to 21,3 per cent in Jyske Bank".

A comparison between the expenses involved in various engagements with financial institutions for singles with a good or bad financial situation shows a rapidly increasing imbalance: "A single person with a good financial situation will only have to pay 2,951 kroner in average for his or her engagements, while singles with a poor economical situation must pay 3.609 kroner. A year ago the difference was 301 kroner, today it is 658."

The Europol must be able to monitor all telecommunications in Europe

A confidential document from the Europol which has been leaked on the Internet reveals that the Europol wishes to be able to monitor all telecommunications throughout Europe, also when it comes to mobile phones and communication over the Internet.

The document is a recommendation from the Europol to the European Council dated September 9th, 1998. Ekstra Bladet writes on December 5th: "Technically, the proposal will be realized by requiring telecommunications companies to use equipment which conforms to common European standards for monitoring. The telecommunications companies will have to hand over data on request from Europol. The 42-page document states clearly that the Europol is well aware how comprehensive their wish is: 'We observe that the conditions for a monitoring may violate the legislation of individual states.' "

As we went to press, the document was still available on the Internet:

More calculations show a conspicuous discrimination between Danes and foreigners

Associate professors at the University of Copenhagen Morten Ejrnæs and Simon Thorbek have studied all laws and articles in the new Integration Act and document that the difference between the public benefits obtained by Danes and refugees may be much greater than it appears in the information that the Ministry of the Interior has sent to the UNHCR.

Politiken prints a couple of examples on December 12th: "A Danish pensioner has 4,379 kroner to himself when taxes, the rent and the heating is paid. A refugee older than 67 has 1,424. When the regular outlays are paid, the Dane has 3,258 kroner a month for food, clothing, telephone and other things. The refugee must get by with 1,424. Even though their regular outlays are identical."

The difference is due to the rules for rent subsidy, where Danes can have agreater subsidy for the rent than refugees who cannot get more than 15% of the rent. Morten Ejrnæs characterizes the Integration Act as "overt discrimination", but Minister of the Interior Thorkild Simonsen refuses to forward the calculations to the UNHCR who in a year will assess whether the Integration Act actually discriminates or not.

On December 18th, the Minister of the Interior declares to Politiken: "It is true that a refugee older than 67 years who doesn't work gets less than a Danish old age pensioner, but nothing prevents the refugee from working 15-20 hours a week in order to equalize the imbalance."

The Minister of Social Affairs attempts to deteriorate the legal protection of refugees without hearing the organizations.

Minister of Social Affairs Karen Jespersen attempts to change the Aliens Act and avoid the usual hearing of organizations as the Danish Centre for Human Rights, the Board for Ethnic Equality and the Danish Refugee Council. The Act is to be discussed in the Parliament's social committee and will expand the temporary character of the residence permit for certain foreigners from three years to six. - thus, the period of waiting is expanded three more years after which refugees who "have not have a satisfactory integration" or who "will need permanent help" may be thrown out of the country.

The three organizations sharply criticize the fact that they have not been heard before the Act was read. Director of the Danish Centre for Human Rights Morten Kjærum writes in an unsolicited letter to Karen Jespersen that the Centre "finds occasion to express serious concern regarding the implications for legal protection in law which effectively makes it impossible for a foreigner to predict his status before the end of the integration period." (Århus Stiftstidende on December 12th).

According to the same newspaper, press chief of the Danish Refugee Council Klaus Rothstein declares: "This is a serious matter. Our asylum and integration department will now scrutinize this Act and make a statement. The consequences for the individual whose residence permit is discontinued are obviously very grave."

Søren Søndergaard of Enhedslisten declares to Kristeligt Dagblad on December 12th: "With this Act, Karen Jespersen is fertilizing the ground for the conservative politics of making residence permits temporary for seven years."

Chief psychologist at the Centre of Rehabilitation of Torture Victims Edith Montgomery declares to Politiken on December 12th: "Three years is already along time to live in uncertainty. Not knowing where you stand may cause a tremendous anxiety. It is a great problem that they want to expand this to six years where the foundation of people's lives may be torn away beneath them. Especially for families with children."

An increasing number of homeless are turned off at packed shelters

A proposal to open churches at night has failed so far. Flemming Pless, minister of Christian's Church in Christianshavn in Copenhagen declares to Kristeligt Dagblad on December 12th: "It is due to indolence in the Church that we cannot find together and do something for the weakest in our society." Pless was once the promoter of the idea of opening Brorson's Church in Nørrebro at night; there,visitors were also offered a meal - but presently, Brorson's Church is also closed at night.

Pless adds: "The charity we find when it comes to opening the churches or the parish halls for homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts and mentally ill persons would fit easily on the proverbial pinhead."

In the meantime, the pressure on the shelters of Copenhagen increases; these are all occupied in December and have to reject many homeless even though it means sending them back out in the cold.

Social worker Thomas Hjort of the Social Work of the Methodist Church declares to Aktuelt on December 12th: "As it looks for the moment, we continuously receive requests from homeless people whom we have to turn down. There is too much pressure for the moment."

Bjørn Bendorff, principal at the Salvation Army shelter in Hillerødgade, says to the same newspaper: "For the moment, we have an occupation of 110 per cent and we reject between ten and twenty a day. This great pressure is obviously connected to the whether, because the street is not a nice place to be when it's cold. But it also has to do with an increasing pressure on the shelters throughout the country, especially in the City of Copenhagen, where the number of public shelters for homeless has recently been decreased."


Officers concerned over colleague's conviction for violence on duty, claiming it will now become impossible to do police work

A police officer is fired from the Copenhagen Police after conviction for violence and a sentence of 60 days in prison. The officer is convicted for twice striking a calm arrested person described as a "biker type" with his truncheon in front of discotheque Beverly Hills in Copenhagen in November 1997.

On December 16th, Jyllands-Posten writes: "Remarkably, the 32-year-old was convicted because of the depositions of his fellow officers. Many of them explained - though in few words and with many reservations - that the biker type had not attempted to strike the police officer, as the 32-year-old himself had claimed. On the contrary, explained a female officer, the 'biker type' had been standing calmly with the hand at his sides when the blows fell. Strongest was a deposition from one officer from station 2 who simply observed that the 32-year-old without a doubt and for no reason at all had gone for the 'biker type' and hit him, not twice but four times on his arms and chest."

Two years ago, the same police officer and a colleague from Station 2 were acquitted of a number of allegations of violence, racism and unlawful arrests because of depositions from colleague in favour of the accused. This time, things went differently.

In court a number of officers appeared, and Jyllands-Posten obtained some comments after the verdict: "The officers Jyllands-Posten has talked with do not see this case as a case of violence where a tarnished officer crossed the line. But as proof that it eventually - with such verdicts - will become impossible and dangerous to solve police tasks in a bad environment with aggressive, violent and drunk individuals where police officers need to decide whether to use their truncheon or not in split-seconds. And afterwards, if their judgement was wrong, they risk being convicted of violence as thanks."

In this particular case, the question is how dangerous and impossible it would have been for the officer in question to solve his job in front of a person who according to other officers stayed perfectly calm without striking hin 2-4 times with a truncheon.

"In Denmark, the police have the right to let their mad dogs savage people on arms, legs and genitals "

On December 14th, Østre Landsret concluded in a libel suit taken by the Danish Police Association that it was defamatory but not a criminal offence, when the movie director Christian Braad Thomsen in 1996 wrote the following in Politiken: "In Denmark, the police have the right to let their mad dogs savage people on arms, legs and genitals, and in Denmark the last persons to call if you want to get past an unpleasant doorkeeper, for in our country the police have the right to knock down innocent people in front of the nocturnal disotheques. This has happened before and it will happen again because nobody protests against it."

The High Court did not find the statements punishable "because the allegaitions were made in good faith and in the justified attention of obvious public interest " (Aktuelt, December 15th).

Innocent abuse of power in the Ri-Bus conflict?

The legal epilogue to the Ri-Bus conflict (a labour conflict which lasted several months after the privatization of the buses in Esbjerg led to lower wages and a strong deterioration of working conditions for the drivers), which started in the city court in Esbjerg in August 1997 has finally ended in the High Court (December 18, 1998). The very extensive indictment presented by the police of Esbjerg against the "generals of vadalism" Peter Kleist Christiansen, John Andersen and Bjørn Marcher with allegations of crimes which might have resulted in up four years of jail has in in the meantime been suspiciously reduced and has ended in city court as well as in High Court with the acquittal of Bjørn Marcher, while Peter Kleist Christiansen and John Andersen have been sentenced to five and two months in prison, respectively, of which they already served 53 days in custody.

Apart from the three activists a fourth, Thomas Kjær, was also charged in the case. During the conflict he was an informer to the police and in this context he collaborated very closely with police inspector Søren B. Thomsen. He was arrested in connection with a case of vandalism on Rømo which he himself helped arrange, and of which he had informed Søren B. Thomsen in advance. The same case was also the formal basis of the arrest of the other three alleged "generals of vandalism", even though none of them participated in the vandalism. Subsequently, a strong criticism was raised of the methods used by Søren B. Thomsen and by the police direction of Esbjerg woth respect to Thomas Kjær, whom the critics have considered an illegal civil agent or agent provocateur, which means that he was used to provoke the crime of which he simultaneously informed the police. The trial thus came to be increasingle about the position and methods of the police of Esbjerg during the conflict and ever less about the "generals of vandalism".

On December 12, before the verdict of the High Court, Aktuelt writes: "The police, having built up an extensive case with 27 counts against some of the activists from the support committee of the Ri-Bus drivers, have already seen large parts of the case crumble in city court. If the High Court also changes the central point concerning the collaboration of Søren B. Thomsen with the informant Thomas Kjær - so that Kjær is acquitted this time - it will be a serious defeat for the police." Kjær was not acquitted but the High Court actually did change the verdict of the city court on this "central point" and concluded that the police of Esbjerg used Thomas Kjær as an illegal civil agent during the vandalism on Rømø.

Henning Koch , professor of Law at the University of Copenhagen calls the verdict a "slap over the fingers to the police" (Information on December 19, 1998) but the police direction of Esbjerg regrets nothing and also refuses to blame the responsible police officer Søren B. Thomsen. "It is understandable and forgivable," declared chief constable Jørgen Illum tothe same newspaper, "that a policeman makes a judgement in the heat of the battle that oversteps the mark".

It is not stated why this "understanding" is only extended to the police and not to the "misjudgements" in the heat of the battle for which the Ri-Bus activists have now been convicted.

But the understanding and forgiving of the police work of precisely Søren B. Thomsen is, on the other hand, apparently very extensive. In a number of articles, Aktuelt recounts a number of cases in the police district where the very same Søren B. Thomsen was in charge of the investigation and where his methods have been severely criticized for being unnecessarily harsh and, in a number of cases, in clear violation of the law. In one case, a license to sell alcohol seems to have been with held for no actual reason, simply because Søren B. Thomsen with the backing of the police of Esbjerg did not "wish" the bar in question to exist (Aktuelt on December 3, 1998). Furthermore, Søren B. Thomsen has been criticized for not writing reports after interrogations and for independently (re)formulating the depositions of witnesses without subsequently letting them read and correct the statements, which on several occasions - including during the Ri-Bus case - has caused the testimonies given in court to deviate signifiantly from the depositions in the reports of Søren B. Thomsen, which in many cases were not even signed by the witness (Aktuelt on Decmber 2, 1998).

But all of this is, since Søren B. Thomsen is a police officer, obviously understandable as well as forgivable.

Danmark has lost eight cases at the UN labour organization ILO - but Danish legislation was only changed in one case

During the last 15 years, complaints were lodged against Denmark with the UN labour organization ILO more than ten times. Eight times the government lost, but only in one case the defeat brought about an actual change in the legislation.

On December 21st, Per Clausen, chairman of Dansk Magisterforbund, declares to Jyllands-Posten: "It seems that Danish governments are convinced that the Danish system is so outstanding that no consideration for the international conventions they have signed is necessary."

Lawyer Christian Harlang has represented unions in several cases when Danish governments were accused of human rights violations in labour issues and he believes that Denmark's attitude is embarassing. In the same newspaper, he states: "The conventions of the ILO, which we ourselves have chosen to sign, are consistently and systematically ignored, There are many embarassing cases and the Danish attitude is very embarassing. Because it is a matter of principle: we have signed a convention which we do not respect."

Einar Edelberg, director of labour law in the Ministry of labour is not concerned because the decisions of the ILO are not implemented in the legislation: "Of course we have to take the statements of the ILO seriously. But many of the cases where Denmark was criticized do not concern me since they are too trivial. The case is that some countries might use it to say that if even Denmark is criticized, they don't have to worry either."

Per Clausen, on the other hand, believes that Denmark's attitude sends an unfortunate signal concerning human rights to the rest of the world: "The consequence of Denmark not abiding by this is that any banana republic in the world may say that they don't have to either. So there's a lot of hypocrisy involved."

The Prime Minister's promise of an investigation of a social democratic intelligence service shelved

Arbejderbevægelsens Informationscentral (AIC), the intelligence service of the Danish Social Democratic Party which operated from World War 2 and until 1972 registered and monitored communists in the labour movement. According to the historian, Ph.D. Kurt Jacobsen, there was a "very close cooperation" between the official Danish intelligence services, the CIA, the Social Democrats and the labour movement. (Politiken, October 10th, 1998).

In late October, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and, Hans Jensen, chairman of the LO, announced an investigation of the operation of the AIC, but one and a half month later, the State's Social Research council which were supposed to be involved in such an investigation had heard nothing of such an inquiry, according to nformation on December 12th.

Because of the announced investigation, the archive of the AIC has been closed for everybody except the future investigators - who, as we see, have not been appointed yet.

Kurt Jacobsen declares to Information: "It is an outrage that nothing has happened in the case."

As an example, to university students had their permission to study the archives in connection with a thesis withdrawn only to days after it was given on October 24th. Business manager of the ABA Henning Grelle told the two students that the papers in question from the archive of the deceased Prime Minister Hans Hedtoft "came from the military intelligence service (FET)". Per Hansen describes the conversation with Grelle to Information: "He did not want us to get hold of these things. He said there was nothing in it for us and that we had already looked more than enough. (Information, December 12th.).

The Hedtoft archive was closed, but from October 26th to October 29th, the students were actually allowed to study the AIC archive a few hours each day. But after the Prime Minister on October 29th sent out a press release requesting that the ABA should allow investigators to access the full material abot the AIC, the AIC archive was also closed immediately. Paradoxically, Grelle saw the closing as a consequence of the Prime Minister's wish that the archive should be open for future investigators.On December 15th, the only comment from Henning Grelle, business manager of the ABA, to Information concerning the case was: "I have no comments at all."

Middle East correspondent for TV2 concering Operation Desert Fox: The Western conscience is on trial at the war crimes tribunal

The coverage in the Danish pres of the United States' and England's attack on Iraq under the name of "Operation Desert Fox", where more cruise missiles were launched than during the whole Gulf War, has not presented a lot of criticism of the two NATO countries.

Especially television has uncritically passed on the information from the American and British armies. Steffen Jensen, Middle East correspondent for TV2, voiced these quite atypical considerations in an article in Aktuelt on December 21: "We have created a set of moral and ethical rules for what can be done and what cannot be done during war. One of them is that we cannot eliminate the leader of a foreign countries. We do not send out hired killers to shoot a dictator a silenced bullet through the head. But we have no problem punishing a whole population. For eight years, Iraq has suffered from ruthless sanctions, and no matter how much we - with some right - maintain that Saddam is the real culprit, this does not exempt us for part of the responsibility for the slow and agonizing death of hundreds and thousands of small Iraqi children from undernourishment or trivial diseases which formerly were easily cured in Iraq (...) The objective of this attack, which we all now agree to call Operation Desert fox is, if we are to believe the American leaders, to destroy the chemical and biological weapons and missiles of Saddam Hussein. But if the West and especially the United States were in possession of exact information concerning what he has and where to find it, this information would have been passed on to the weapon inspectors of the UNSCOM, who might have destroyed it. The problem is that we do not have this necessary exact information. It was thus inevitable that once again mistakes would be committed, innocent civilians would be hit and Saddam Hussein - the real criminal - would escape. (...) One day, when the American combat planes land for good and the smoke over Iraq is finally dispersed, the score will have to be settled. Not only the score over a few day's bombing, but the score over eight years of sanctions, starvation and several inner 'desert foxes'. We have to ask ourselves if our own Western conscience perhaps also will be on trial at the war crime tribunal some day."

200 Danish scientists protest against political control with their research

The Ministry of Research has received a warning from about 200 Danish scientists who criticize the political wish for more control with the research, writes Jyllands-Posten on December 12.

One of the promoters, research professor Ib Bondebjerg of the University of Copenhagen declares to the same newspaper: "The independence of the universities is reduced. Money for research is increasingly granted to specific projects controlled by political or other interests. The number of students increases but the funds do not follow suit. There are many symptoms that something is totally wrong with the way the whole field is run."

New Year's Speech of the Prime Minister: Poul Nyrup Rasmussen can finally see the outcasts

About a year ago, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen denied that people were cast out from the labour market, as he said to Information on December 18, 1997: "Nobody gets expelled from the labour market, I don't know them."

In his New Year's Speech of January 1, 1999 the prime minister suddenly ackowledges that outcasts exist: "Apparently, things are going quite fine. Many people thrive in the fast, modern and effective society. Many people think it's fun. But some people fail to hang on. Det går tilsyneladende ret godt. Mange trives i det hurtige, moderne, effektive samfund. Mange synes, det er sjovt. Men der er nogle, som ikke kan hænge på. Some people fall off in the middle of the road, get expelled."

The prime minister, however, would like to reduce the number of expulsed to the mentally ill: "We must remember the people that dropped out - those who live a twilight life on the sideline. Mentally ill persons live a miserable life." In an editorial in Information on January 4, Ejvind Larsen informs the prime minister that not "only" mentally ill persons are expelled from the labour market. For instance, the number of Danes of the age 15-66 on transfer income has increased from 180,000 in 1960 to 900,000 today.

By Christoffer Gertz Bech, Rune Engelbreth Larsen, Jeppe Berg Sandvej
Translated by Carsten Agger