Sweden: Non-discrimination and the situation of refugees and asylum seekers among the main concerns of the Committee

Review of Sweden - March 2016

On 9th and 10th March 2016 the Human Rights Committee reviewed the seventh periodic report of Sweden on its implementation of the ICCPR.  The State delegation was headed by Per Olsson Fridh, State Secretary, Ministry of Culture, who started the dialogue by affirming that the Swedish government was a feminist government. The Committee experts’ major concerns were regarding: non-discrimination, use of force by the police, and the situation of refugees and asylum seekers.

"The State party should ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child is given primary consideration in all decisions concerning unaccompanied minors."

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Sweden should expend the mandate of the Equality Ombudsman to all forms of discrimination

On non-discrimination, the State delegation highlighted the amendments to the Swedish Constitution inter alia incorporating the protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and the amendments to the Discrimination Act to include protection against discrimination of people with disabilities. In its recommendations, the Committee welcomed the positive amendments, but expressed concern that the Equality Ombudsman cannot exercise jurisdiction over cases of discrimination by some government agencies such as the police, prison service, prosecutors and courts when they exercise public authority, as such discrimination is not regulated by the Discrimination Act.

Deaths of Daniel Franklert Murne and Sinthu Selvarajah questionned by the Committee

On the use of force by the law enforcement agents, the Committee raised concerns over the use of expandable bullets by police, which resulted in the deaths of Daniel Franklert Murne and Sinthu Selvarajah. On those two specific cases, Sweden regretted their deaths and was reconsidering the use of the said arms. The investigations into both cases are still ongoing.

Limited use of alternatives to the detention of migrants and asylum seekers

On asylum seekers and refugees, the Committee acknowledged the great efforts made by the State party to deal with the large number of migrants arriving in Sweden, including the adoption of the new Act on Reception of Migrants that entered into force on 1 March 2016 and measures designed to facilitate their integration in the labour market. However, it is concerned about the limited use of alternatives to the detention of migrants and asylum seekers. 

The experts expressed concerns about the cases of discrimination and hate speech against migrants and asylum seekers, including online hate speech. The State delegation assured they are taking measures to combat, prevent and sanction hate speech.

Next Report due by March 2023

Despite several recommendations highlighting that the previous 2009 recommendations were not implemented, the Committee requested to Sweden to submit its next report in seven years, which is the maximum timeframe. This is a good indication that the Committee is globally satisfied with the implementation of the ICCPR in Sweden. 

As for other States under review, the Committee selected two key Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year:

  • combat hate speech, including on the Internet, racist and xenophobic violence against, and negative stereotyping and portrayal of ethnic or religious minorities
  • review policies and practices related to the detention, return and expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers

The next (8th) periodic report of Sweden should be submitted by 31 March 2023.

 

Photo: Stig-Ake Jonsson/EPA

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