Denmark: Delegation describes the Committee as the “Flagship of UN Treaty Bodies” but is questioned on sensitive issues

The Human Rights Committee reviewed the seventh periodic report of Denmark, which had accepted the LOIPR, on 21 and 22 June 2016. One could have expected it to be a soft review, but it was not: the Committee expressed its concerns regarding the effective implementation of the ICCPR, the allegations of participation in the C.I.A. extraordinary rendition program, and migrants’ rights in the context of the so-called “European Migration Crisis”.

"Any rendition flight without Danish consent would be a violation of Danish sovereignty "

- (Member of the Delegation, in response to question regarding CIA rendition flights)

Implementation of the ICCPR

Regarding the effective implementation of the ICCPR, the President of the Committee opened Denmark’s review stating that the large quantity of individual communications did not mean Denmark has a bad Human Rights record, but rather that the civil society know they can go before the Committee. However, the Committee highlighted that the ICCPR was not incorporated into national law, unlike the ECHR, which could be a reason why so many motions arrive before the Committee. Furthermore, the Committee requested information regarding the implementation of the Covenant in the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, the withdrawal of reservations and examples of domestic case-law citing the ICCPR. The Head of Delegation answered that two expert committees have studied the incorporation of UN treaties into domestic law, finding that it was not necessary since “treaties are sources of law and can be applied by courts”. Regarding the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, the Delegation explained that Denmark is bound by the international treaties it has ratified and that it was the government’s responsibility to therefore comply with them. However, the Delegation recognized that if they do not comply, Denmark remains the only responsible entity under international law

The Committee then referred the allegations contained in the Open Society Justice Initiative’s 2013 report, according to which Denmark has given large-scale support to the CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition Program, allowing the Agency to use its airspace and airports. Denmark’s Head of Delegation answered that two fact-finding commissions have been established: one set up by the Government, in which the Head of Delegation said he was deeply involved, and an independent one. None of these commissions could conclude  whether the CIA rendition flights have been carried out in Danish airspace due to lack of evidence. The Committee wonders about the commission’s conclusion, which said it was “unable to rule out if Danish territory has been used for this program”: “how can you not be able to determine if a plane has crossed your airspace? It is obvious, isn’t it?” asks one Committee member. The Head of Delegation said there was “no duplicity of the Danish Government in this matter” and that, following the “findings” of the two commissions, they “considered this case as closed”. He said Government Working Group’s conclusions were unambiguous: “any rendition flight without Danish consent would be a violation of Danish sovereignty” and that the problem has been taken “very seriously”.

Migration policy

Finally, the Committee addressed the issue of Denmark’s migration policy, which was said by the President of the Committee to be “the big issue” of Denmark’s review. Two Committee members visited Denmark to meet the president of the Refugee Appeal’s Board, because most of the communications the Committee receives from Denmark deals with asylum seekers. They said they were “impressed” by the transparency and the information they could get. Amongst the issue raised, there was the Danish law allowing for the seizure of asylum seeker’s assets. The Delegation explained that the law was adopted to cover the fees of their application and that sentimental objects were not seized, whereas the Committee suspects it was made to discourage migrants to seek asylum in Denmark. The Committee also pointed out that the possibilities for family reunification were rather strict and could be contrary to the best interest of the child.

Recommendations of the Committee

The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:

  • Domestic violence:  Denmark should, inter alia, continue its efforts to effectively combat domestic violence, in particular violence against women, by ensuring effective reporting on acts of domestic violence, investigations, prosecutions and sanctions of perpetrators.
  • Solitary confinement: Denmark should abolish solitary confinement for minors and reduce the total length of permissible solitary confinement. In general, the law and practice on solitary confinement should be in line with the Mandela Rules. 
  • The Rights of Aliens (including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers): The Committee recommends that Denmark ensures the full compliance of its immigration policies to asylum’s rights. Therefore, Denmark should, inter alia, ensure that: its policies comply with the principle of non-refoulement; the detention of migrants and asylum seekers is reasonable, necessary and proportionate in line with their right to liberty and security; and the amendment related to the confiscation of asylum seekers’ assets is repealed.

The next (seventh) periodic report of Denmark should be submitted by 15 July 2021.

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