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UN anti-racism body rules Denmark failed to protect rights of victims of racist attack

GENEVA (16 April 2012) – Danish authorities failed in their obligation to investigate the racist nature of a violent assault by 35 Danish youngsters against an Iraqi family in their house in the town of Soro, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has found.

On 21 June 2004, a group of 15 to 20 young people attacked the house of Mahali Dawas, of Iraqi descent, who lived in Soro with his wife and eight children, all of whom are recognized refugees. More individuals joined the attack and at one point the group exceeded 35 people. Windows were broken, the front door damaged and two of the family members, including Mr. Dawas, were beaten. Other attackers outside the house shouted “go home”.

The family had to flee the house after the attack and seek alternative accommodation from the municipality. Before the attack, a sign saying “no blacks allowed” was placed near the house, and Danish pejorative term for “foreigners” was used by one of the perpetrators.

A police investigation was carried out and four men were convicted on counts of violence, vandalism and illegal possession of weapons, but only light sentences were ordered, with no compensation to the victims and without addressing the possible racist element of the attack.

The petitioners argued that they suffered from physical and mental injuries as a result of the attack. The condition of Mr. Dawas, who was already traumatized from past political persecution in Iraq, had further deteriorated since the assault. His spouse also experienced a nervous breakdown after the incident. But a subsequent civil lawsuit by the victims was rejected by the District Court of Naestved and the High Court of Eastern Denmark.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that Denmark had failed in its obligation to ensure effective protection from racial discrimination.

“In circumstances as serious as those in this case, where the petitioners were subjected, in their own house, to a violent assault by 35 offenders, some of them armed, enough elements warranted a thorough investigation by public authorities into the possible racist nature of the attack against the family,” the Committee stated in its decision.

“The onus was on the State party to initiate an effective criminal investigation, instead of giving the petitioners the burden of proof in civil proceedings.”

The Committee also determined that the investigation into the events was incomplete, depriving the complainants of their right to effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination, in violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

“The Committee recommends that the State party grant the petitioners adequate compensation for the material and moral injury caused by the… violations of the Convention,” it stated. The Committee also recommended that Denmark review its policy and procedures concerning the prosecution of alleged racial discrimination or racially motivated violence.

To read the full text of the decision, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/jurisprudence.htm

ENDS

For further information or requests for interviews, please contact Carla Edelenbos at cedelenbos@ohchr.org or at +41229179241.

To learn more about the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/

For the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm

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