Sweden is Reviewed by the UN – What Does this Entail?

27 January 2020, UPR of Sweden. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders.

Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council conducts a review of the human rights situation in Sweden. Find out why Sweden is reviewed and what Civil Rights Defenders has done to influence the UN human rights agenda.

Why is Sweden subject to review?

As a member of the United Nations, Sweden is subject to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, conducted by the Human Rights Council on a quadrennial or quintennial basis. The Human Rights Council is responsible for monitoring the human rights record of all UN member states, including Sweden. Sweden was first reviewed 2010, and most recently in 2015.

How is the review conducted?

The procedure consists of a hearing at the UN Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva, where Swedish government delegates are invited to explain how the country complies with its human rights commitments. The hearing is followed by a dialogue between the UN Human Rights Council and Sweden, where the Council provides critique and issues recommendations on areas for improvement.

Sweden can either adopt these recommendations, thereby making them legally binding, or merely take notice of them, which has no legal implication.

Prior to the hearing, the Swedish government has submitted a report to the UN about the human rights situation in Sweden. Various civil society organisations – including Civil Rights Defenders – have also submitted shadow reports. These reports are taken into account by the UN Human Rights Council as it conducts its review.

What role does Civil Rights Defenders have in the process?

  • Civil Rights Defenders has written a shadow report and submitted it to the UN Human Rights Council. The report provides critique and identifies several areas for improvement: discrimination, racism and hate crimes, the rights of indigenous peoples, and the right to asylum. The report is supported by 10 additional organisations and contains concrete recommendations for Sweden.
  • Civil Rights Defenders has provided information for a joint shadow report together with the United Nations Association (UNA) Sweden and 15 additional organisations.
  • We have participated in the ”pre-sessions” held in Geneva, in December 2019. These sessions provide a forum for civil society organisations to present their reports to the Human Rights Council and offers opportunities to persuade the members of the Council to include their viewpoints in the later stages of the UPR procedure.
  • We have written an op-ed piece on the importance of establishing an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in Sweden.

What is Civil Rights Defenders’ position on the human rights record of Sweden?

We identify several shortcomings that need to be addressed for the respect for human rights to improve in Sweden. The four critical areas we emphasise are: discrimination, racism and hate crimes, indigenous rights, and the right to asylum. Some of the issues we raise are: ethnic/racial profiling by law enforcement officers, hate crimes targeting vulnerable EU citizens, the need for measures designed to combat racist activities to be more efficiently enforced, the need to improve respect for indigenous Sami rights, the problems associated with medical age-assessments for asylum-seekers.

What is the Council’s assessment of the human rights situation in Sweden?

Sweden received hundreds of recommendations during the last cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, urging the government to ratify the ILO’s Convention on Indigenous Peoples, improve its work against racism and hate crimes, combat racial discrimination, and create a national human rights institution.

What lies ahead?

In 2022, the Swedish government will submit a mid-term report to the UN documenting what Sweden has done to enact the recommendations received in 2020.

Timeline – important events

  • 18 July 2019: Civil Rights Defenders’ shadow report was submitted to the UN.
  • 18 July 2019: Joint shadow report with UNA Sweden was submitted to the UN.
  • 14 October 2019: The government submitted its report to the UN.
  • 9–12 December 2019: Civil Rights Defenders participated in the ”pre-sessions” in Geneva.
  • 27 January 2020: UPR of Sweden. Swedish government delegates participate in the UPR hearing in Geneva.
  • 2022: The Swedish government submits its mid-term report to the UN.
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