Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Jens-André P. Herbener
Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Denmark ranks itself internationally as one of the world's absolute foremost champions in the observance of human rights, but not only are there increasing international criticisms of the Nyrup Rasmussen government's violations of human rights - a word for word study of the 30 separate articles in the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights show that Denmark is in breach of a total of 20 of these.
By putting its signature to a list of international conventions and declarations on human rights, Denmark by so doing, assumed a legal obligation to abide by them. The most fundamental and most widely acclaimed of these being the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which came into existence in 1948, in the wake of some of history's most brutal and inhumane atrocities during the Second World War and which ever since, in the eyes of many, has stood as a monument over every governing power's basic obligation to view all people as free and equal individuals.
Ever since, the world roughly speaking has been divided into two parts: Those countries that seemingly observe human rights, and those countries that seemingly violate human rights. Furthermore, this bipolar division of the world is proportionally identical to the division of the world into the western countries on the one hand and the majority or all of the remaining countries on the other. For this reason, the issue of human rights has often, directly or indirectly, served to legitimise trade sanctions, armed intervention and direct warfare on the part of the West against a long list of states.
However, one should ask oneself how reasonable this presupposed division of the planet is, and not least, to what extent human rights actually function as anything other than a relatively non-binding replacement for the religious morality of earlier times. And if the danger, as a consequence of this, is not that the populations of Western countries, essentially risk being blinded and pacified by the contention that there exists for them an exceptional degree of freedom and equality "guaranteed" by the seemingly "binding" and absolute character of these human rights, out from which it is likewise acceptable to operate with extremely hostile attitudes towards other countries, it being officially "necessary" to blockade, intervene in, or declare war upon, in the name of human rights.
Equally problematic, is the question of to what extent the West even comes close to living up to the standard of human rights which it repeatedly emphasise, when other countries, in one way or another, do not seem to live up to the world order, which it of course regards itself as the legitimate enforcer of.
If one views the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights form the premise that it should be taken to be every bit as binding as a literal interpretation of the text implies, it becomes quite clear that the demands made to governments in the overwhelming majority of cases, are violated by a country such as Denmark, whose self-promotion as one of the world's pre-eminent guardians of human rights accordingly appears to be both hypocritical as well as potentially propagandist.
In the following, we shall see how Denmark violates not less than 20 of the 30 articles of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that is if one dares to take their meaning literally as was the intention, instead of regarding them as nothing more than vague symbolism and colourful grandiloquence - as is the practice.
As leader of the government and country, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen carries the overall responsibility for the hypocrisy that characterises Denmark today, as well as the political policies responsible for a list of violations, comprising not least of ethnic discrimination, forced labour, inequality before the law, torture-like solitary confinement, political and social registration as well as arbitrary interference in people's private circumstances ...
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Violation: All human beings are not "born free and equal in dignity and rights" in Denmark", due to the fact that children born to unnaturalised immigrants are not automatically entitled to Danish citizenship, in contrast to the children born of Danish citizens.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Violation: As will be shown in the comments to other articles, not everyone "is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind," - and as it only requires the violation of one other article for article 2 to be violated, it follows that article 2 is violated in Denmark.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Violation: The right to liberty does not apply to everyone, since asylum seekers who arrive at Denmark's ports without identification papers can be imprisoned indefinitely in isolation, despite the fact that they could not have broken any of the country's laws and therefore are innocent in the eyes of the law. In 1998 alone, there were 5,044 legally innocent asylum seekers imprisoned for shorter or longer periods as a result of this policy - more that 50% of all those seeking asylum in Denmark.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Comment: Considered from traditional interpretations of the term slavery, Denmark is not in violation of article 4 of the UN's human rights declaration. However, forced and compulsory labour is included in the same paragraph as slavery in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which emphasises: "No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour." (Article 4, part. 2), in regard to which the policy of forced activation as practiced by Danish municipalities can hardly fail to be in conflict.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Violation: Denmark cannot claim itself free of the practice of psychological torture or "degrading treatment or punishment". Imprisonment in isolation for indefinite periods is equated with torture by a number of international organisations, including the United Nations. Approximately 1,500 people are imprisoned in this manner every year in Denmark, with almost a third suffering permanent psychological damage as a result.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Comment: Denmark abides by article 6. Nonetheless, "a person before the law" is a term rich in possible interpretations and therefore non-binding.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Violation: All are not "equal before the law" in Denmark, and all are not "entitled to equal protection against any discrimination": 1) Criminal immigrants (embracing so-called, first-, second-, and third-generation immigrants) can, despite extended or life-long residence in the country, be sentenced to deportation as an extra sentence on top of the normal prison sentence; 2) Muslim women, who for cultural or religious reasons choose to wear head-scarves, can be refused employment as a result; 3) homosexual women do not have equality of status with heterosexual women with regard to state offers of artificial fertilisation; 4) employers can demand clean criminal records and reject former criminals, even in the case of a minor infraction without any significance for the job in question, while infringements of the Working Environment Act and marketing laws are deliberately not registered on criminal records, thereby differentiating between former criminals, as well as between former criminals and non-criminals.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Comment: It is very difficult if not impossible, to precisely determine whether a decision reached by the courts is an "effective remedy" or not, if the individual's constitutional and legal rights are violated, whereby the article in question quickly loses its significance.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Violation: There is no longer any substance to the claim that, "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest" in Denmark. In the draft legislation on "head coverings" (Bill no. L 196, § 134 b), which was adopted in May of 2000 and according to which the wearing of all forms of head covering under demonstrations and gatherings etc. shall be prohibited by law, it states: "Any person, who in connection with a public meeting, gathering, demonstration or the like, has his or her face entirely or partly covered by a hood, mask, body paint or the like, in a manner that is conducive to the hindrance of identification, is liable to a fine, simple detention or imprisonment for up to six months. Part 2: Similar sanctions can be applied to any person, who in a public place, is in possession of articles which can be construed as serving the purpose of covering his or her face as laid out in part 1." The prohibition's very wide ranging possibilities for intervention into the legal right of congregation and demonstration can easily result in the law being applied in an arbitrary fashion.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Comment: Denmark abides by article 10.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Violation: Not everyone charged with a penal offence in Denmark has "the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty", as is laid out in part 1 of the above article: 1) A person charged with an offence can be imprisoned in isolation and thereby subjected to treatment which takes the form of punishment, despite the fact that they are legally innocent; 2) The registration of suspect's DNA-profiles in special cases, regardless of whether or not the suspect is later found to be innocent.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Violation: There is no longer any substance to the claim that no one in Denmark is " subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence": 1) The police have the power to open and read private correspondence without notifying the individual concerned. 2) as of the 01.01.2000, there are 146 "specific exceptions" - laws and decrees - which give the authorities in Denmark access to private homes; in 1999 alone, eight new laws were adopted and 28 new decrees issued which grant access to private homes without a warrant.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Violation: Not everyone has the "right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state": 1) Immigrants do not have equality of status with all other citizens in Denmark when it comes to "freedom of residence". They can, for a number of years, be forced to reside in an area dictated to them by the authorities; 2) persons who are "forcefully activated" have the right to one months vacation for every eleven months of activation, but do not earn holiday allowance and are forbidden to take their vacation outside of the country's borders, while at the same time continuing to be subject to the restrictions imposed on welfare recipients; 3) poor people on welfare can be prevented from taking up residence in the municipality of their choice, since the authorities are allowed to demolish existent public housing for the specific purpose of preventing poor people from moving in.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Violation: Everyone does not have the right "to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." This is the case in a number of European countries as a result of a practice first introduced in Denmark. With regard to the airlines and shipping companies etc. that transport asylum seekers without travel papers or the proper visas into the country, the Danish Aliens Act § 59 a, states: "Any person that brings to Denmark an alien who upon his entry is not in possession of the requisite travel document and visa, cf. section 39, is liable to a fine."
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Comment: Denmark is in violation of article 15, due to the fact that not everyone can change his or her nationality and achieve Danish citizenship, if this can be characterised as "nationality". On the other hand, the article is so wide in its scope that I would venture to claim that all countries are in violation of it, rendering it devoid of any meaning as a result.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Violation: The right to marry and found a family " without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion" is violated in Denmark by bill no. L 208, which has gained the support of a majority in the Danish parliament, and according to which the legal right to be united with one's chosen marriage partner in Denmark is to be denied those living in the country without Danish citizenship and who are under 25 years of age. Despite the fact that the legal age is 18 and not 25, persons without citizenship under 25 years, must have their marriages approved and deemed voluntary by the authorities, which in reality means that a certain group of people, as opposed to other citizens, are obliged to prove their love.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Comment: It is very difficult to determine precisely when someone is "arbitrarily" deprived of his or her property, rendering part 2 of the article meaningless. Example: The so-called biker law, the Law of Prohibition of Residence on Certain Premises, gives the police the power to decide, on their own initiative and without a warrant, if a person should be denied access to his or her property, thereby in reality depriving the person of his or her property for an indefinite period.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Violation: The right to change one's religion is violated in Denmark if one chooses to leave the state church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark: 1) one must continue to contribute to the salaries of the church's priests through ordinary income tax; 2) only state-recognised religious communities may perform marriages which are recognised by the civil authorities.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Violation: The so-called racism section of Danish legislation holds the individual responsible for statements that in a court of law would be punishable for their racist content, whereby the "freedom to hold opinions without interference" is not unlimited.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Comment: Everyone has in principle the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Denmark, though advance permission from the police is required for this purpose. The authorities cannot compel someone to belong to a specific association and everyone has in principle, the right to freely form an association, again with prior permission from the police, though usually this is regarded as a formality.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Violation: Not everyone in Denmark has the right to take part in the government of his or her country, only persons with Danish citizenship have the right to vote and run for parliament. Immigrants who are resident in the country and have been living here for many years, are nonetheless precluded from taking part in the democratic process, so long as they have not achieved Danish citizenship.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Violation: Not everyone in Denmark has the right to social security, and the realisation of his or her social and cultural rights, due to the fact that welfare recipients who refuse - or whose spouses refuse - an "offer" of forced activation from the authorities, can completely loose their right to basic social welfare payments. In the Law on active social policy § 41, it states: "Help is rescinded if the recipient or the recipient's spouse, without reasonable cause, refuses an offer of work or job activation pursuant to § 16 part 2, no's 1-5 and 8, or any other employment enhancing arrangement, for as long as the possibility to avail of the offer remains."
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Violation: Not everyone in Denmark has the right to free choice of employment or to equal pay for equal work: 1) Welfare- and unemployment insurance recipients can be forced to participate in any and every type of municipally organised employment or activation project; 2) activated persons do not have the right to equal pay for doing the same work as people employed under normal conditions; 3) activated persons do not have the right to organise themselves in unions.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. Violation: Not everyone in Denmark has the right to periodic holidays with pay; holidays for forcefully activated persons are restricted, and are without pay. Where holiday money has not been accumulated from the previous year the activated person receives only welfare payment, which is less than the minimum wage.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Violation: Not everyone in Denmark has "the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services", since a refusal to allow oneself to be forcefully activated, as mentioned in the comment to article 22, can result in a loss of social security benefits. The remark that the right to security is conditional upon the loss of employment being the result of "circumstances beyond his control", does not nullify the unconditional "everyone" is this article nor in article 22, any less than it does the right to free choice of employment, which is guaranteed in article 23, since it is emphatically emphasised in article 30 that "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein". The wording of one particular section of the Declaration cannot be interpreted as having an invalidating effect on the wording of any other, wherefore one must distinguish between the circumstances addressed in article 25, part 1 a) "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself etc." and b) "the right to security in the event of unemployment", which must have a special significance independent of the aforementioned right. The latter is conditional upon the loss of employment being the result of "circumstances beyond his control". Denmark is in violation of article 25, part 1 in the first stated connection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children
Comment: Denmark abides by article 26, even though it is plainly obvious that it is difficult to determine precisely when an education is "directed to the full development of the human personality" and is promoting "understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups", wherefore they quickly become nothing more than loose guidelines.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Comment: Denmark abides by article 27.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Violation: Not everyone in Denmark is entitled to a social order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized, since it is evident that a number of articles have been violated.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Comment: It is difficult to determine precisely when it is a case of duties to the community "in which alone the free and full development of one's personality is possible" - especially when one considers the number of possible interpretations that can be applied to "meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society" - which in effect neutralises the article.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. Violation: It is the intention that the interpretation of individual articles in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be consistent with all other articles. Wherefore Denmark is in violation of article 30 when for example, the right to work is used to legitimise forced activation without free choice of employment.
Denmark's human rights violations have not been the focus of international attention to the extent one might assume is evidently warranted by its political policies and practices. It is only in the last few years that the international media have slowly begun to realise that Denmark, far from being the "pioneer country" that Prime Minister Nyrup Rasmussen claims it is, instead is embarked on a political course of perturbing dimensions.
The International Herald Tribune, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well as Dutch television and other sections of the international press, have recently thrown light on the fact that the government of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has already implemented the tough policies aimed at foreigners which it officially takes vigorous exception to in connection with the EU sanctions against Austria, where the similar initiatives of Jörg Haider are still "only" on the drawing board.
Various committees under the UN have in recent years, likewise begun to cast a critical eye on Denmark's attitude to various human rights conventions, for example:
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Denmark. 15/02/95. CRC/C/15/Add.33: "The Committee is also concerned that certain provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly those guaranteed in articles 3, 12, 13 and 15, have not been adequately reflected in national legislation and policy-making."
Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture: Denmark. 09/07/96. A/51/44, paras. 33-41: "[The Committee is] concerned about the allegations received from some non-governmental organizations concerning one case of apparent torture, and some cases of ill-treatment, and the alleged use of leglocks by police forces, as well as solitary confinement applied in some places of detention."
Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Denmark. 18/11/96. CCPR/C/79/Add.68: "The Committee also expresses its concern with the methods of crowd control employed by the police forces, including the use of dogs, against participants in various demonstrations or gatherings which, on certain occasions, have resulted in the serious injuries to persons in the crowds, including bystanders."
Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Denmark. 27/01/97. A/52/38/Rev.1, paras. 248-274: "The absence of a specific law on violence against women was noted as a principal deficiency." "The Committee was also concerned that women were still paid less than men, despite efforts to initiate assessments of equal pay for work of equal value."
Concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Denmark. 14/05/99. E/C.12/1/Add.34: "The Committee is concerned at the information provided that highlights an emerging trend towards intolerance and violence against members of minority groups and foreigners in the State party."
The Danish Center for Human Rights, has among other things, issued the following remarks concerning Denmark's attitude to specific human rights:
6.5.99: Note concerning the
report on revision of part of the regulations for The Central Criminal
Register (Det Centrale Kriminalregister):
Conclusion: "The recording in the investigation register of judgements of acquittal as well as cases where prosecution has not been pursued or has been dropped, does not appear to be in accordance with the principles behind the fundamental protection of the individual in the European Convention on Human Rights, article 6, part 2: (Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.) The Center feels it is worth noting that the working group assigned to the problem has chosen to recommend a solution concerning access to the register, which does not afford optimal security against misuse. The Center has chosen to highlight three considerations concerning the regulations, which give cause for concern with regard to human rights: 1) The lack of clarity in relation to the criteria for inclusion in the investigation register. 2) The registration of children under 15 years. 3) The inability to gain access to one's own data."
19.8.99: Changes to the aliens legislation in recent years:
Conclusion: "Amnesty International, the Danish Center for Human Rights and the Danish Refugee Council, feel that the legislative process has been problematic. A number of adjustments have been carried out with unnecessary haste, rendering the standard consultations with the organisations almost illusory. More important however, is that a number of the changes already implemented are on a collision course with Denmark's international obligations, e.g. the rules regarding the imprisonment of asylum seekers, the new education rules and the integration legislation's rules regarding introductory payments. The individual adjustments have also had what must be assumed to be, unintended consequences on a number of points, presumably as a result of the hasty legislative process. As an example one can mention, that persons who have been refused asylum, but nonetheless, cannot be expelled from the country - even though they cooperate themselves to this end - must wait at least 9½ years before they can be allowed bring their spouses to Denmark under the present rules. The basis for the Danish Aliens Act was established through a thorough investigation of the subject by a select committee in the early 1980's. The law, which was adopted in 1983 on the basis of this investigation, was hailed as one of the worlds best and most humane in its field. Since then, the law has been changed approximately 20 times. Now - 16 years after the old select committee came with its proposal to the Aliens Act of 1983 - Amnesty International, the Danish Center for Human Rights and the Danish Refugee Council, are calling for the setting up of a select committee of experts, who on the basis of a thorough elucidation process can arrive at a proposal for the Danish Aliens Act of the future. A humanitarian law in full harmony with our international obligations."
23.2.00: Note concerning
proposals to the law on amendment of the Danish Aliens Act (the
requirement of possessing one's own dwelling-place in connection with
family unification, the demand for affiliation to Denmark in connection
with spousal unification, and proceedings against marriages that are not
based on the couples own free will):
Conclusion: "The introduction of an additional list of authorisations based on "assessment" is - viewed from the Center's interpretation of the right of citizens to protection under the law - regrettable, and virtually implies a phasing out of the character of "legal right" in the rules regarding family unification. Furthermore, the Center finds it regrettable that there is a new wave of legislation in the pipeline, which runs foul of the minimum rules regarding human rights to such a degree that both government and parliament have relegated Denmark's responsibility for the honouring of its international obligations to the administrative authorities. In addition, the Bill has been put together in such a manner that it is not possible to evaluate whether or not the individual components are consistent with Denmark's human rights obligations or its constitution."
One can debate the concept of human rights as a whole - to what extent it makes any sense to introduce absolute transcultural guidelines for all societies when almost everything is open to cultural interpretation, and when all forms of ethic and convention must of necessity be conditional upon variable cultural and historical contexts. In the West, there is a tendency to believe that the Western interpretation of human rights is the most humane, but this of course is highly debatable, it requires only a brief consideration of the West's roll in many of history's outrages to realise this.
What is not so easy to debate however, is that Denmark's attitude to human rights is marked by a distinct and very conspicuous double moral standard, which as of yet has not received nearly enough attention, both nationally as well as internationally, and that a word for word study of the 30 separate articles in the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, leads one to the unavoidable conclusion that Denmark is in violation of more than half of these.
Editor of the nursing publication Sygeplejersken (The Nurse), Peter Skeel Hjorth:
"The international principles of medical ethics say that nurses must
react when they witness human rights violations. For this reason, it
also has relevancy for us as a professional publication. And it is a
violation, when it is necessary for a young man to undergo four weeks of
hospital treatment as a result of being bitten by a police dog, without
there ever being any reason to charge him with anything." (Politiken,
25.11.96). There are approximately 300 cases every year in Denmark of
people being bitten by police dogs while being arrested, which doesn't
include the number of people bitten during street-clearing operations;
e.g. police dogs were used on 46 occasions during street-clearing
operation in 1995 (source: Sygeplejersken no. 36, 1996).
violation, when it is necessary for a young man to undergo four weeks of hospital treatment as a result of being bitten by a police dog, without there ever being any reason to charge him with anything." (Politiken, 25.11.96). There are approximately 300 cases every year in Denmark of people being bitten by police dogs while being arrested, which doesn't include the number of people bitten during street-clearing operations; e.g. police dogs were used on 46 occasions during street-clearing operation in 1995 (source: Sygeplejersken no. 36, 1996).
Associate professor in alien legislation, Jens Vedsted Hansen, from the Danish Center for Human Rights, criticises the humiliating age test that asylum seekers are subjected to, which is based on an assessment of the applicant's pubic hair and sexual organs: "To force someone to stand naked in front of a stranger and subject themselves to physical examination, must from the outset be based on some form of legal authority, but I can't find it anywhere in the Aliens Act." (Berlingske Tidende, 28.2.97).
Amnesty International: More than half of all asylum seekers are routinely imprisoned on their arrival in Denmark. According to Amnesty International, asylum seekers are imprisoned by a "conveyor belt" system, (source: Amnesty, April 1997). Kim Kjær, lawyer, expert in refugee legislation and researcher with the Danish Center for Human Rights, comments: "Asylum seekers are imprisoned on a routine basis. It is simply a case of conveyor belt decisions, and it is deeply problematic in relation to human rights."
Human Rights Commissioner for the Baltic Sea Region, Ole Espersen: "It is in conflict with the principles of religious freedom, that one is forced to pay to a religion which is not one's own." (Politiken, 01.03.99).
By Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Translated by Anthony Kiely