Communication No. 34/2004
UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
The petitioner argued that the Minister of Justice made racist statements against Somalis. The Committee found that Denmark did not conduct an adequate investigation into these statements therefore violating, amongst others, Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Theme(s): Ethnic Hatred
Date: 6 March 2006
Description of applicant(s): Citizen
Brief description of facts: On 2 January 2003, the daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad published a letter to the editor by Ms. Pia Kjærsgaard, a member of the Danish Parliament and leader of the Danish People’s Party. The letter was entitled “A crime against humanity” and stated, amongst others:
“How many small girls will be mutilated before Lene Espersen, Minister of Justice (Conservative People’s Party), prohibits the crime? […]
“ To me, this corresponds to asking the association of paedophiles whether they have any objections to a prohibition against child sex or asking rapists whether they have any objections to an increase in the sentence for rape. For every day that passes until the period of consultation expires and the bill can be adopted, more and more small girls will be mutilated for the rest of their lives. In all decency, this crime should be stopped now. […]”
The petitioner considered that this comparison equated persons of Somali origin with pedophiles and rapists, thereby directly offending him. On 28 January 2003, the DRC, on the petitioner’s behalf, reported the incident to the Copenhagen police, alleging a violation of section 266 (b)1 of the Criminal Code.
The Regional Public Prosecutor did not proceed with a prosecution. The Committee found that this constituted a violation of, inter alia, Article 4 of the ICERD.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Somalis
The Committee’s assessment of the impugned speech:
The Committee found that Denmark failed to carry out an effective investigation to determine whether or not an act of racial discrimination had taken place and concluded that, amongst others, Article 4 ICERD was violated.
Important paragraph(s) from the decision:
7.4 The Committee notes that the Regional Public Prosecutor dismissed the petitioner’s complaint on the ground that Ms. Kjærsgaard’s letter to the editor did not refer to all Somalis as criminals or otherwise as equal to paedophiles or rapists, but only argued against the fact that a Somali association is to be consulted about a bill criminalizing offences committed particularly in the country of origin of Somalis. While this is a possible interpretation of Ms. Kjærsgaard’s statements, they could however also be understood as degrading or insulting to an entire group of people, i.e. persons of Somali descent, on account of their national or ethnic origin and not because of their views, opinions or actions regarding the offending practice of female genital mutilation.
While strongly condemning the practice of female genital mutilation, the Committee recalls that Ms. Kjærsgaard’s choice of “paedophiles” and “rapists” as examples for her comparison were perceived as offensive not only by the petitioner, but also were acknowledged to be offensive in character in the letter of 26 September 2003 from the Copenhagen police. The Committee notes that although these offensive references to “paedophiles” and “rapists” deepen the hurt experienced by the petitioner, it remains the fact that Ms. Kjærsgaard’s remarks can be understood to generalize negatively about an entire group of people based solely on their ethnic or national origin and without regard to their particular views, opinions or actions regarding the subject of female genital mutilation. It further recalls that the Regional Public Prosecutor and the police from the outset excluded the applicability of section 266 (b) to Ms. Kjærsgaard’s case, without basing this assumption on any measures of investigation.
7.5 Similarly, the Committee considers that the fact that Ms. Kjærsgaard’s statements were made in the context of a political debate does not absolve the State party from its obligation to investigate whether or not her statements amounted to racial discrimination. It reiterates that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries special duties and responsibilities, in particular the obligation not to disseminate racist ideas,16 and recalls that General Recommendation 30 recommends that States parties take “resolute action to counter any tendency to target, stigmatize, stereotype or profile, on the basis of race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin, members of ‘non-citizen’ population groups, especially by politicians […].”
ICERD Article: 4