Civil Rights Defenders initiates a lawsuit against the Swedish state

The following text is a reply from Civil Rights Defenders to the Equality Ombudsman Agneta Broberg and was published on 18 July in the Swedish Newspaper DN:

Civil Rights Defenders agrees with the Equality Ombudsman that there has been a great failure on the part of the Swedish state in relation to its inability to condemn the ethnic and discriminatory nature of the Roma Registry. Civil Rights Defenders along with three people who were affected by the registry are currently in the process of initiating a lawsuit against the state in order to get the issue of ethnic discrimination tried in Court

The police registration of Roma has received considerable and well-deserved media attention. The evidence suggests that the registry established on ethnic grounds is not only contrary to Swedish law, but also contravenes key human rights principles. The register includes the deceased, a large number of children and numerous other people living in different parts of Sweden from where the register was originally created. Many of those registered have never been suspected of a crime and the only thing that seems to unite them is their Romani ethnicity.

In the Swedish magazine Dagens Nyheter dated June 17, the Equality Ombudsman Agneta Broberg pointed out that it was a great failure that the Swedish state has not been able to condemn the ethnic and discriminatory manner of the registry.

She also points out the need for legal proceedings and that it is obvious limitations in the law that makes it impossible for the Equality Ombudsman to overtly criticise police records. We agree with the Equality Ombudsman in her analysis, and have therefore started the process of getting the issue of ethnic discrimination tried in Court.

Since the register became known – Civil Rights Defenders has maintained a close dialogue with those affected. We have analysed the issue from a human rights perspective and recently submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council where we criticised the Swedish State for the registry and the fact that those affected did not receive adequate redress for the discrimination they were subjected to. We also criticise the government for their lack of ambition when it comes to improving Roma rights. The goal that someone born as a Roma today will have the same rights as other citizens twenty years from now – is a slap in the face to a community that for centuries have been deprived of their basic human rights.

When both the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection and the Attorney Generals statements avoid the issue of ethnic discrimination and clearly lack a human rights perspective it is now important to assess the case based on the European Convention on Human Rights in Swedish courts. For those affected and for Roma in general, it is important to clarify that the police records not only were illegal but also that the registered were subjected to systematic discrimination.

The extent of the violations and the importance of getting the discriminatory aspect of the situation highlighted, can only be understood in terms of the historical abuses that Sweden’s Roma have been subjects to.

To achieve a change it is urgently required that community stakeholders take responsibility. By getting the issue of the police records and the issue of discrimination tried in Court we take our responsibility to try and contribute to a positive development by changing an inadequate law system. But it is the Swedish government who has the resources; the power and the responsibility to actually change the structures that violates the rights of the Roma people.

Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders
John Stauffer, Legal Director, Civil Rights Defenders
Fred Taikon
Rosario Ali Taikon
Maria Taikon