Communication No. 43/2008
UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
The petitioner argued that statements made by members of the Danish People’s Party against Somalis were offensive and negative and that an adequate investigation into them did not take place on a national level. The Committee agreed, finding a violation of Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Theme(s): Ethnic Hatred
Date: 13 August 2010
Description of applicant(s): Citizen
Brief description of facts: The petitioner submitted that on 23 August 2006, a radio broadcasted the discussion of the statement made by Ms. Pia Kjaersgaard, Member of the Parliament and leader of the Danish People’s Party, which stated the following: “…why should the Danish-Somali Association have any influence on legislation concerning a crime mainly committed by Somalis? And is it the intention that the Somalis are to assess whether the prohibition against female mutilation violates their rights or infringes their culture? To me, this corresponds to asking the association of pedophiles 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… ” Another member of the same party agreed with the leader’s statements. The petitioner claims that the accusations made by such statements are false as there is no proof that the Somali parents in Denmark practice female genital mutilation against their daughters. She claims that the comparison of Somalis with pedophiles by Ms. Pia Kjaersgaard (endorsed by Mr. Espersen – another member of the party) was offensive. She claims that the State party did not fulfil its obligation to take effective action against yet another incident of hate speech by the same political party, which amounted to aggravating circumstances under the Danish Criminal Code section 266 (b) and confirms systematic racist propaganda by that political party against the Somalis living in Denmark.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Somalis
The Committee’s assessment of the impugned speech:
The Committee found that the statements made by the leader of the Danish People’s Party could naturally be perceived as offensive as they were negative generalizations regarding an entire group of people based solely on their ethnic or national origin. It found that Denmark failed to carry out an effective investigation into the statements and, thus, violated Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Important paragraph(s) from the decision:
7.5 While strongly condemning the practice of female genital mutilation as a serious violation of fundamental human rights, the Committee considers that Mr. Espersen’s public support of the earlier statement by Ms. Kjærsgaard’s and his statement that most Somalis carry out genital female mutilation as something quite natural were perceived as offensive. The Committee notes that these offensive statements 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 Mr. Espersen’s case, without basing this assumption on thorough measures of investigation.
7.6 Similarly, the Committee recalls its previous jurisprudence and considers that the fact that statements were made in the context of a political debate does not absolve the State party from its obligation to investigate whether or not such 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.
7.7 In the light of the State party’s failure to carry out an effective investigation to determine whether or not an act of racial discrimination had taken place, the Committee concludes that articles 2, paragraph 1(d), and 4 of the Convention have been violated. The lack of an effective investigation into the petitioner’s complaint under section 266 (b) of the Criminal Code also violated his right, under article 6 of the Convention, to effective protection and remedies against the reported act of racial discrimination.
ICERD Article: 4