7 May 2015
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twentieth and twenty-first periodic report of Denmark on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the report, Carsten Staur, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Denmark was becoming an increasingly culturally diverse society; this posed challenges and also enriched the society and created new opportunities. In response to data showing that 45 per cent of persons with ethnic minority background experienced discrimination, the Government had set up an anti-discrimination unit to combat discrimination based on ethnicity or disability in all spheres of society. There was a firm commitment to prevent hate crime and ongoing analysis would clarify the extent of the problem and be used as a basis for possible specific initiatives. The police had intensified efforts to combat hate crime and was establishing a monitoring system to strengthen its handling of such cases.
Adam Worm, Government of Greenland, said that in 2010, the Government had taken over the full administrative and legal responsibility for mineral resources, and the law on “legally fatherless” was passed in 2014, giving the possibility to children born out of wedlock to initiate proceedings to determine who the biological father was. The Greenlandic Council for Human Rights was established in 2013 with the task of promoting and protecting human rights, and the mandate of the Danish Institute for Human Rights was extended to Greenland in 2014.
Margretha Nonklett, Government of the Faroe Islands, said that the rising number of immigrants to the Islands demanded an active integration policy and initiatives to eliminate racial discrimination and intolerance towards other cultures. Discrimination on the basis of race was prohibited, while the European Convention on Human Rights and the 1971 Danish Act prohibiting racial discrimination also applied. In addition to this legislative framework various measures to combat discrimination had been taken in different segments of the society, and respect for every human being regardless of age, sex, ethnicity and religion was embedded in the primary school curriculum.
Jonas Christoffersen, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Institution of Denmark, addressed the impact of Government projects, campaigns, initiatives and polices. He urged the Committee to refrain from making any recommendation that was not clearly linked to specific or structural discrimination, such as regarding the issue of migration. Denmark had to connect the dots and realize that it faced very serious issues concerning structural differential treatment and tackle the root causes.
During an interactive dialogue Committee Experts welcomed the establishment of the anti-discrimination unit. They said issues of concern included the application of the Convention by the Danish courts and its incorporation into Danish law, the low number of charges and convictions in view of the occurrence of hate crimes in Denmark, and the high rate of discrimination experienced by persons belonging to ethnic minority groups. Questions were asked about the status of the Convention and anti-discrimination measures in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as measures to prohibit hate speech and extremist behaviour. Experts asked about support for members of the Roma community and for more information on the ‘integration programme’ for immigrants and about the rules for family reunification for migrants.
In concluding remarks, Marc Bossuyt, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur, said the Committee’s recommendations would address issues including the incorporation of the Convention into domestic legislation, discrimination against Roma, racially-motivated hate speech, efforts to recruit and maintain ethnic minority candidates into the police, and for Greenland and Faroe Islands, the introduction of non-discriminatory laws that were applicable on the grounds of race and ethnic origin, as well as a complaint mechanism.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Staur said the Government’s firm ambition to improve the integration of foreigners into Denmark was an attitude that had a long history in Danish society, as a means of maintaining and advancing the very best features of the ‘Scandinavian model’ of social welfare. He also said it was not viable for Denmark to incorporate the Convention into domestic law and disagreed with the assessment that racist discourse in Danish politics and media was on the rise.
The delegation of Denmark included representatives of the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Employment; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Justice; Greenland Representation in Denmark; Foreign Service, Prime Minister’s Office, Faroe Islands; and the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Today’s country review was the last of the session. The Committee will publish its concluding recommendations on the six State party reports it considered (France, Guatemala, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Germany and Denmark) at the end of the session. The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 May, when it will discuss its follow-up procedure, adopt the annual report and close the eighty-sixth session.
The combined twentieth and twenty-first periodic report of Denmark can be read via the following link: (CERD/C/DNK/20-21).
Presentation of the Report
CARSTEN STAUR, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, said that Denmark was becoming an increasingly culturally diverse society; this posed challenges and also enriched the society and created new opportunities. An anti-discrimination unit had been established in the Ministry of Children, Equality, Integration and Social Affairs in April 2014, to combat discrimination based on ethnicity or disability in all spheres of society. A new action plan for integration had been proposed, which aimed to orient integration initiatives even more towards employment, and for the young immigrants, to education. As per the data from the National Integration Barometer, 45 per cent of persons with ethnic minority background experienced ethnicity based discrimination; part of the solution was to strengthen the participation of immigrants and their descendants in society, promote tolerance and teach how to combat discrimination issues in primary schools, and raise awareness of the legal framework protecting individuals against discrimination. Following the recommendations of the Expert Committee issued in August 2014, the Government had decided not to incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and a number of other international human rights instruments into Danish law. It carried a risk of shifting the powers conferred upon Parliament and Government to the courts and the Government believed that it was important to maintain the responsibility of elected representatives for ensuring compliance of Denmark with its international obligations. The Convention remained a source of law which was invoked and applied by the courts and other law-applying authorities.
Turning to discrimination against minorities, Mr. Staur said that 22 per cent of the total dwellings in the country were social housing units which were part of the effort to secure equal access to housing irrespective of income, economic resources, ethnic or national background or health. Some of the social housing neighbourhoods were socially and economically segregated, which the Government sought to combat with a policy seeking to create a mix of tenants resembling that of any other Danish neighbourhood. Equal access to employment for ethnic minorities was considered an important issue; as of January 2014, third country nationals over the age of 30 who received cash assistance were offered an integration package, i.e. a job at an ordinary work place, reduced hours, job-training, or employment with subsidy. There was a firm commitment to prevent hate crimes, and the analysis and mapping of those crimes was currently being conducted, which would clarify the extent of hate crimes and the basis for possible specific initiatives. The police had intensified efforts to combat hate crimes and was in the process of establishing a monitoring system to help strengthen the handling of such cases.
ADAM WORM, Government of Greenland, said that since the Act on Self-Government of 2009, which recognized the right to self-determination of the Greenlandic people, the new system of self-governance was being implemented. The Act had recognized Greenlandic as the official language of Greenland and an act on language policy, passed in 2010, aimed to ensure the Greenlandic language as a community building language and to strengthen it as a mother tongue and second language for some inhabitants of Greenland. In 2010, the Government of Greenland had taken over the full administrative and legal responsibility for mineral resources, and the law on “legally fatherless” had been passed in 2014, giving the possibility to children born out of wedlock to initiate proceedings to determine who the biological father was. The Greenlandic Council for Human Rights had been established in 2013 with the task of promoting and protecting human rights, and the mandate of the Danish Institute for Human Rights had been extended to Greenland in 2014.
MARGRETHA NONKLETT, Government of the Faroe Islands, said that the Takeover Act of 2005 had significantly expanded the field of responsibilities of the public authorities and that the areas not yet taken over included Immigration and Border Control, Police and Prosecutorial Authority and related elements of the criminal justice system. The rising number of immigrants to the Faroe Islands demanded an active integration policy and initiatives to eliminate racial discrimination and intolerance towards other cultures. Discrimination on the basis of race was prohibited in the Islands, while the European Convention on Human Rights and the Danish Act prohibiting racial discrimination from 1971 also applied. In addition to this legislative framework, various measures to combat discrimination had been taken in different segments of the society. Respect for every human being regardless of age, sex, ethnicity and religion was embedded in the primary school curriculum.
Questions by the Country Rapporteur
MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur, commended Denmark for its consistent engagement with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and welcomed the establishment of the anti-discrimination unit in the Ministry of Children, Equality, Integration and Social Affairs. There were several issues of concern for the Committee regarding racial discrimination in Denmark, and some were recurring ones. One related to the application of the Convention by the Danish courts and its incorporation into Danish law; over the period of 14 years (2001-2013) only three published Danish judgements contained explicit references to the Convention and the latest dated from 2006. The enforcement of legal provisions prohibiting racial discrimination was another issue of concern and the Committee Rapporteur noted the low number of charges and convictions in view of the occurrence of hate crimes in the country and the high rate of discrimination experienced by persons belonging to ethnic minority groups. How could this phenomenon be explained and what was being done to reverse this trend? Mr. Bossuyt invited Denmark to take note of the general recommendations 31 and 35 on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and the criminal justice system, in order to end the use of hate speech and prosecute offenders, including politicians who stirred racial hatred in their utterances. A distinction between freedom of expression and hate speech needed further review, and one should not be mistaken for the other.
The Constitution and the Criminal Code should explicitly prohibit the organizations that promoted racial discrimination, and also the participation in and the financing of racist organizations. The delegation was invited to provide additional information on experimental programmes aimed at developing or building on the mother tongue of minority students, and on the adverse impacts on minority groups and socially disadvantaged people of measures to eliminate segregation in housing. In light of the September 2015 general elections, the Committee noted its concern about the increase of xenophobia and political propaganda targeting non-citizens, racist publications in the media, the increase in Islamophobia, and the terror attack against Jewish community in Copenhagen in February 2015. Training of police in identifying and dealing with hate crimes was in serious need of improvement; poor documentation and collection of data by the police did not provide a full picture of the number of hate crimes, nor did the courts always invoke section 81 of the Criminal Code arguing extenuating circumstances during sentencing. The Committee noted with interest the amendments to the Alien’s Act of January 2013 which allowed foreign spouses and children victims of domestic violence to retain their residence permit despite cessation of cohabitation. Other issues that the Country Rapporteur raised included discrimination against children in asylum centres in access to education, restrictive conditions of family reunification, and lack of information on compensation to victims of racial discrimination.
Questions by the Committee Experts
Concerning the status of and the situation in Greenland, Committee Experts asked whether the Convention should be ratified by Greenland and whether customary law was integrated and applied in the Greenlandic legal order. They also asked about the situation of sex tourism.
Another Committee Expert stressed that integration did not equal assimilation and did not cover culture, language and tradition, and asked about what was being done to avoid the increase in the number of disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Other Experts asked why the Convention had not been incorporated into Danish law and how its incorporation would shift the power away from the Parliament and towards the courts, and what were the barriers to the ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The delegation was requested to provide information regarding the definition of hate crimes, related statistics and the elements used to decide on the racial motivation of crimes; results and impact of the activities by the Centre to Combat Human Trafficking; the contribution of Denmark to finding structural solutions to the human tragedy in the Mediterranean; and discrimination in access to citizenship on ethnic grounds.
A Committee Expert recognized that the significant number of immigrants of different cultural backgrounds created some tensions in the society, and noted a number of areas where more could be done, including in prohibiting violent organizations, or the organizations which could become violent. Hate speech could be expressed also indirectly and the Government should take this into consideration. Denmark applied very strict standards and long waiting periods for refugees, which caused lack of stability and reduced the potential of individuals and families to contribute to the society.
Experts asked the delegation to describe their approach to integration, to explain what “holistic approach to integration” entailed and whether it included specific targets around discrimination, and to share their practice on integration of Roma.
Replies by the Delegation
Concerning the question of why the responsibility to protect was included in the report, the head of the delegation said that of the four crimes outlined in this context, genocide and ethnic cleansing were related to racial discrimination. Denmark had been active in the implementation of the responsibility to protect principle, and deemed that it covered not only international situations, but also situations domestically and in the region.
An Expert Committee had been appointed to assess the appropriateness of the incorporation of a number of human rights instruments into Danish law. The Convention was dynamic, it was developing and it was important to keep the responsibility for its implementation at the level of elected representatives. The Convention was a relevant source of law in the country.
The decision of the director of the public prosecution on whether to prosecute or dismiss a case was based on the evidence and the law; the decision to discontinue the case could be challenged. A special reporting scheme had been set up to ensure the efficient treatment of hate crime. The director of public prosecution made the decision on whether to prosecute politicians for hate speech on the basis of the content of the statement; freedom of expression should not be used to refrain from penalizing hate speech. There were no plans to abolish the section of the Criminal Code relating to hate speech.
Victims of crimes, including race crimes and racism, were entitled to compensation for suffered physical injury and tort. Several legislative steps had been taken to improve the support and care for victims in general, including the setting up of the Crime Victims Fund, while the criminal justice compensation board had been strengthened to make decisions on victims’ compensation faster and in more efficient manner.
Family reunification was not possible if a person received social benefits, but the fact that benefits were received did not automatically revoke a residency permit. Primary and secondary education of asylum seeking children was considered a priority, regardless of the decision on their residency. Children were taught in Danish and English, and if possible in the child’s native language.
Statement by the National Human Rights Institution of Denmark
JONAS CHRISTOFFERSEN, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Institution of Denmark, addressed the impact of Government projects, campaigns, initiatives and polices. He reported that 45 per cent of immigrants in Denmark said they had experienced discrimination within the last year, according to the Government’s own integration barometer. In 2013, 60 incidents of hate crime motivated by the race or ethnic origin of the victim were reported to the police. Hate speech flourished in particular on social media platforms and the internet, just as the language used in mainstream media and everyday public debate was harsh. Children of non-western immigrants scored 1.5 points lower after the ninth grade than children of Danish parents, and the drop-out rate of young boys in particular was higher. The financial crisis hurt the employment rates of non-western immigrants more than ethnic Danes, and one in five housing applications by persons with a ‘Middle Eastern-sounding’ name was discriminated against. Psychiatric patients with an ethnic minority background were hospitalized more frequently compared to patients with Danish ethnic origin. The poor quality of translation offered to ethnic minorities accessing health services frequently impacted upon the quality of the service they received. With regard to access to justice, the 2009 European Union Midis Survey found that approximately 80 per cent of persons with a Somali or Turkish background did not know how to complain about discrimination.
Mr. Christoffersen urged the Committee to refrain from making any recommendation that was not clearly linked to specific or structural discrimination. He said all comments, questions and concerns regarding migration and similar issues that did not raise clear issues of specific or structural discrimination should be left to the other Committees. He urged the Committee to discard the idea that the Danish prosecution system should be changed just because some believed that the courts left too much room for free speech, adding that the Committee misunderstood the Danish legal system. Mr. Christoffersen noted that neither Greenland nor the Faroe Islands had a civil law that prohibited discrimination in the labour market, an administrative complaints authority or data on racial and ethnic discrimination. He also highlighted that there was no national human rights institution in the Faroe Islands. Denmark had been aware for many years that it had difficulties breaking the ‘social barrier’ but it had been blind to the fact that the social barrier had colour, said Mr. Christoffersen. Denmark had to connect the dots and realize that it faced very serious issues concerning structural differential treatment and tackle the root causes. Mr. Christoffersen said he trusted that the Committee’s concluding observations would help Denmark develop a new action plan to seriously combat specific and structural racial and ethnic discrimination to replace the action plan launched in July 2010 shortly before the last examination in Geneva.
Response by the Delegation
Responding to the questions and comments made by the Committee Experts, a delegate spoke about the three-year Integration Programme which was laid out in the Integration Act, and aimed to integrate newly-arrived immigrants into Danish society so that they could take part in Danish life on an equal footing with Danish-born citizens. In 2013 the Government introduced ‘integration plans’ for newcomers which had a holistic approach and took into account their individual needs, including their children, language, employment, housing and education. The incentivized programme included three years of free-of-charge Danish language lessons and training in social functions. The Action Plan for Integration contained a job-orientated aspect that targeted not only newcomers but also sought to improve the labour-market participation of immigrants who had come to Denmark a long time ago and were still unemployed. The requirements for Danish permanent residency included a certain proficiency in the Danish language, so in that sense the integration programme helped newcomers.
In April 2014 the anti-discrimination unit was established within the Ministry of Children, Equality, Integration and Social Affairs, with the aim of preventing and combatting discrimination against ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities. Its tasks included mapping out knowledge-building areas and carrying out awareness-raising campaigns. The Unit’s campaign “YES! To equal treatment” was aimed at young people aged between 18 and 29 years of age who had an ethnic minority background and sought to strengthen their knowledge of their rights to equal treatment. The budget of the Anti-Discrimination Unit for 2013 to 2016 was 10.4 million Danish Krone, added the delegate.
The high number of persons with an ethnic minority background who experienced discrimination was a challenge that the Government took very seriously, said a delegate, sharing with the Committee some of the initiatives it had taken to meet that challenge.
Describing anti-discrimination initiatives aimed at young people, a delegate spoke about a project called ‘Your faith, My faith” that helped elementary school pupils in several cities develop greater respect, tolerance and understanding of their own religion and the religion of others. It consisted of three ‘guest students’ representing the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths holding a workshop in which they introduced their faiths to schoolchildren and then discussed ways in which the religions could work together to overcome prejudice. In January 2015 new teaching materials labelled “Diversity and Prejudice”, which were supported by the Government, were made available to elementary schools to better educate children on how to act in a tolerant and inclusive manner and combat stereotypes, including prejudice against members of the Roma community. Subsequently there had been a very high demand for the material. The ‘Give Racism a Red Card’ campaign, launched in 2012 by the Government, was today being led by the Football Association. A recent evaluation found that three out of four children who took part in the campaign stated that they would react if they witnessed or experienced racism.
Even though Roma persons in Denmark were a relatively small group compared to other groups of immigrants, the Government had a special strategy for Roma inclusion. The Danish Welfare System was founded on the principle of equal access and Roma enjoyed the rights to the same social services as anyone else. Concerning the lack of data on the Roma community, he stated that Denmark did not routinely collect data on ethnicity, not least because the information contained in the National Danish Civil Registry System could be accessed by other public bodies.
‘A descendent’ was defined as ‘a person born in Denmark whose parents were immigrants’, clarified a delegate, adding that ‘an immigrant’ would be someone born abroad whose parents were also born outside of Denmark. Information in Danish Passports included information drawn from the Civil Registry System, and the place of birth for persons born outside of Denmark was included across the system correctly and ensured a high degree of accuracy. Exceptions were made in cases where the place of birth may mean the person would be unable to travel or risked being detained.
If you can prevent extremism you can prevent racism as the latter often came from the former, commented a delegate. She described the Action Plan To Prevent Extremism which among other efforts sought to counter images of ‘the enemy’ and show how immigrants made a positive contribution to communities. Under the action plan young people were trained to run workshops on combatting extremism and identifying positive relationships with other people. The Government recently supported seven projects to combat extremism and welcome newcomers into Denmark, with funding of five million Danish Krone.
The Danish Centre against Human Trafficking was part of the national board of social services and aimed to coordinate bodies working to combat trafficking and spread knowledge about the crime, noted a delegate in response to an earlier question. She also answered a question about marriage, noting that one in seven marriages in Denmark was “mixed”, and that that figure was slowly increasing.
The Danish National Police had intensified efforts to combat hate crime. They included a new monitoring system and a series of dialogues with civil society groups on how to strengthen those efforts. The intelligence bodies also continued to monitor hate crime and extremism, noted the delegate. He highlighted a new initiative between the Copenhagen Police, the Danish National Human Rights Institute and the Municipality of Copenhagen called ‘Stigmatized’ which included a mobile application developed to make it possible for citizens to register and report incidents of discrimination and hate crime, giving the police an overview of where, when and against whom incidents took place.
The Danish Government was committed to combatting intolerance and hate crime in all forms, and particularly racism on the internet, stressed a delegate. A recent initiative was the establishment of the ‘NC3 Cybercrime unit’ within the Danish Police which focused on websites and online forums that were notoriously used for racist activity. Another initiative called ‘A Strong Defence against Terrorism’ focused on preparedness and detection. The Office of the Public Prosecutor had issued detailed guidelines on how to handle hate crimes which were updated on a regular basis. It was crucial that hate crimes were reported to the police, and people were encouraged to do so through a number of awareness-raising campaigns including ‘Stigmatized’.
The Danish National Police Force attached great importance to ensuring diversity in the police force and worked actively to recruit persons with an ethnic background other than Danish, noted a delegate, although the number of applications had been limited. Consequently they had launched individual mentoring arrangements, cooperation with ethnic networks and a project on crime prevention to try to encourage more job applications from persons with different ethnic backgrounds.
Responding to a question about discrimination in nightclubs, a delegate said the National Police took the issue seriously. In particular the Copenhagen Police Force had issued guidelines stating that if the person who reported the discrimination was still at the scene a patrol vehicle and police unit should be sent to report on the incident, interrogate the alleged offender and check the licence of the bouncer, or doorkeeper. The unit would also take evidence, including photos of the victim to confirm or reject allegations that he was prevented from entering the nightclub on grounds of dress-code, drunkenness or being underage. The police unit would also inspect the nightclub to see the other guests present and talk to the manager about the nightclub’s entry policy.
A representative of Greenland, responding to the question about the ratification of the Convention, explained that the 2009 Act of Self-Governance of Greenland meant self-governance, not independence. Areas associated with the sovereignty of Denmark, including foreign policy and defence and security continued to be governed by Denmark. Greenland only had authority to conclude international agreements which concerned its fields of competence, for example fishery agreements. That authority did not apply to international conventions to which Denmark was party. The Danish Act on Civil Registration also applied to Greenland, which did not register ethnicity, he added. Greenland had some social problems which needed to be solved but ultimately Greenlanders were Danish citizens and had equal access to health, employment and education in Denmark. He also noted that there were four ‘Greenlandic houses’ in Denmark which served as social and cultural centres for Greenlanders living there.
The Criminal Code of Greenland did not determine specific sentences and the term ‘punishment’ did not exist in Greenlandic law. Rather the courts had the freedom to select the best measures in response to an offence, taking into account the gravity of the crime, the personal situation of the perpetrator, and what would be deemed necessary to prevent the perpetrator from committing the crime again.
A representative of the Faroe Islands responded to questions raised by the Experts. She confirmed that the mandate of the National Human Rights Institution of Denmark did not extend to the Faroe Islands because the political aim of the Faroese Government was to take full responsibility for domestic matters which affected to lives of Faroese citizens on a daily basis. The Faroese Government was considering the need to and possibilities of establishing a national human rights institution of its own. Gaining status as a national minority in Denmark would provide more financial provisions for maintaining Faroese language and culture but thus far there had been no formal demand for it. Faroese citizens were also Danish citizens with equal access to health, employment and education. More than 11,000 Faroese lived in Denmark and many never returned to the Faroe Islands. She also noted that Faroese civil society organizations offered Faroese language instruction to children and the teachers’ salaries were covered by the Copenhagen and Faroese authorities.
A delegate from the Ministry of Education referred to an ambitious experimental programme designed to examine the effects of different teaching modules that aimed to develop or build on the mother tongue of minority students. A research programme had examined the effect of three types of interventions: mother-tongue teaching in a number of languages; a module on general linguistics to build the pupil’s language and linguistic understanding in order to acquire language; and extra lessons in Danish as the language of instruction in order to compare results with mother-tongue teaching to ensure that any positive effect was not just due to extra hours of instruction. The initial results showed that the interventions had had a positive effect on the academic results of pupils that was equivalent to an additional half a year of schooling. However there was a clear difference in the benefits for different groups of pupils: the effect for pupils from minority groups was only one third of that for members of a majority ethnic group and was not statistically significant. The programme had a larger impact on girls than on boys, and the research found that boys only enjoyed one fifth of the positive results of girls. The final results of the experimental programme were expected in summer 2015 and autumn 2016, following which the Government would make an assessment on how to use that knowledge to activate the mother-tongue proficiency of minority students as an asset in schools.
Denmark did not plan to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families because it supported the position of the European Union that the Convention made insufficient distinction between the social rights of regular and irregular migrants and was not in-line with European Union policies, especially with regard to preventing irregular migration. Similarly, Denmark did not plan to ratify the International Labour Organization Domestic Workers Convention, although it ratified other International Labour Organization conventions relating to the rights of workers.
Follow-Up Questions from Experts
The representative of the National Human Rights Institution was thanked for his important contribution to the debate, albeit an unusual one in the way he urged the Committee to do ‘this or that’, said an Expert. He also warned of the dangers of complacency, saying that trusting too much in a domestic legal system may give a false sense of security when they were living under very insecure conditions, especially in the case of Europe where there was a growth of racism. To say “this is our system and we don’t need anything else” simply did not work. It was one thing to put money into projects and initiatives, but the fire had to be extinguished at the source, which required political will.
An Expert commented that there was an impression that Denmark, as well as other countries, perhaps took the European Union conventions more seriously than United Nations conventions. Was Denmark doing anything to mark the Decade of People of African Descent, which was a result of a General Assembly resolution and which started in 2015? Another Expert asked about family reunification rules and possible discrepancy between the rights of migrant workers to that provision. An Expert noted the emphasis placed by the Director of the National Human Rights Institution on the ‘structural’ nature of racial discrimination in Denmark and asked about indicators which reflected that.
Response by the Delegation
Denmark had a fairly legalistic society based on a high degree of consensus-building on legislation. The approach to issues of racial discrimination respected to that. Concerning freedom of expression, he said the Penal Code included paragraphs which limited freedom of expression – which concerned hate speech, blasphemy and racial discrimination and national symbols – much like many other countries.
The Government took its international obligations very seriously, emphasized a delegate. As a follow-up to the recommendations of the Committee the Government had decided that the best way, in accordance with the Danish legal tradition, was not to take further steps to incorporate further human rights instruments because it placed such high importance on its compliance with the instruments it had already ratified. That was a very carefully considered decision.
The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into Danish legislation in 1992. Since then, the Government had examined the question of incorporating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination several times. The last time was in 2014, where a political decision was taken, following a recommendation by an expert committee, not to incorporate any more international instruments into domestic law. However, that did not mean that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination had no relevance in domestic law – it was a very relevant source of Danish law that could be and was invoked by Danish courts. The delegate gave an example of a case which had referenced compliance with the Convention.
Regarding the Decade of People of African Descent, a delegate noted the General Assembly resolution which established it was non-binding and that there were no plans to mark it so far, but they would be interested in hearing from civil society organizations who had a general interest to pursue those kind of United Nations ‘decades’ for advocacy, educational and cultural purposes which could fit into broader integration policy goals.
There were substantially different rules applied to requests for family reunification depending upon whether a person had a residence permit on the basis of employment or not, explained a delegate. If it was on the basis of employment, it could mean a person was spending a shorter time in the country. On a philosophical note, employment usually meant a person was more likely to integrate into the country. Denmark had tried to become a very open society for the exchange of labour, particularly highly-skilled and qualified professional labour, and the authorities tried to allow those people to benefit from favourable tax rules.
MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for their very thorough replies which had helped the Committee have a firm grasp of the issues at stake. In its recommendations the Committee would look for inspiration in the report of the Danish Human Rights Institution, and address issues including the incorporation of the Convention into domestic legislation, discrimination against Roma, engagement with Greenland and Faroe Islands, development of a national action plan to combat hate crime and racially-motivated hate speech, interpretation of the most important refugee and immigrant languages, efforts to recruit and maintain ethnic minority candidates into the police, and for Greenland and Faroe Islands, the introduction of non-discriminatory laws that were applicable on the grounds of race and ethnic origin, as well as a complaint mechanism.
CARSTEN STAUR, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee for raising issues which were both pertinent and relevant and said the delegation had done its best to answer all the questions. No country was immune to racial stereotypes and discrimination attitudes and Denmark was no exception; it had to be acknowledged that change took time and that attitudes and stereotypes were the most difficult to change. The challenge was to find the right social mechanisms to counter the problems. The Government’s firm ambition to improve the integration of foreigners into Denmark was an attitude that had a long history in Danish society, as a means of maintaining and advancing the very best features of the ‘Scandinavian model’ on social welfare.
Mr. Staur said one Expert had referred to a rise in racist discourse in Danish politics and media, and while Denmark recognized its problems it did not share the Committee’s assessment that the problem was on the rise. It was important not to allow anecdotes to drive the data, he added. It was not viable for Denmark to incorporate the Convention into domestic law, he repeated. However the delegation looked forward to receiving the concluding observations which would be published in the Government’s annual report on human rights which would be circulated to all parliamentarians and published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In conclusion he thanked civil society organizations and the National Human Rights Institution for their valuable contributions and cooperation in the implementation of the Convention.
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