Sweden regularly receives international criticism for its handling of Sami questions.
The foremost international tool to counteract ethnic discrimination is composed of UN’s Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The convention aims to guarantee all people, independent of origin, absolute and complete right to all imaginable human rights.
The European Convention has a discrimination ban in Article 14, and a supplementary Protocol 12 containing a general discrimination ban, has been passed. Even in Community Law, for example Article 13 of the EC Treaty and Article 21 of the EU Charter, there are provisions where discrimination is forbidden.
The observance of the UN’s convention on racial discrimination is monitored by a special appointed committee, CERD (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination). The committee has the right to receive complaints from a one state against another, as well as receive individual complaints against states that have admitted their competency in this area, something that Sweden has done. At regular intervals, the government is obliged to report to the committee on the realization of the provisions of the convention.
Sweden’s latest report
In December 2006, Sweden submitted their latest report to CERD. Sweden was questioned by the committee in Genève the following summer. In July 2008, the Swedish UN Association submitted a parallel report. The Sami Parliament has submitted their observations in their own report. CERD has submitted a number of questions that Sweden has answered. In August 2008, CERD came with their concluding report to the Swedish government.
Download the complete “Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee” here.
Sharp criticism from CERD
The racial discrimination committee CERD is unusually concrete in their recommendations.
The committee believes that:
- The burden-of-proof regulations must be changed in trials on land rights so that the burden of proof does not lie solely on the samebys (a reindeer pasture/economic district)
- That the samebys must be given financial support to be able to defend their land rights in courts, and
- That the border-drawing commission’s work shall be prepared and that the Sami people’s oral traditions and lack of written Sami documentation shall be taken into consideration in this work.
Learn more about Sweden and work with UN Human Rights here.
Report from DO
The summer of 2008, the Swedish Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO, now the Equality Ombudsman) presented their report “Discrimination of Sami – the Sami peoples’ rights from a discrimination perspective”. EU places demands on that equal-treatment authorities shall carry out independent investigations and publish independent reports on discrimination. The aim of the report is to make visible the experiences of the Sami and suggest measures to prevent and counteract discrimination. DO Katri Linna means that there must be an increase in the Sami participation and influence.
Download DO’s report here.
Native language teaching in corridors after school is finished. Treatment from the side of authorities that is still characterized by thoughts of assimilation and negative conceptions about the Sami. The Sami culture is used in the marketing of municipalities all the while their rights are disregarded. Sami are not treated as individuals but rather categorized based on conceptions about Sami as a group. These are just a few examples of the Sami peoples’ experiences of discrimination and harassment that emerge in DO’s report.
Some important suggestions
- Because of the historical assimilation and education policy, the Sami language is threatened. Strong measures are needed to strengthen the language’s standing.
- There is a mutual mistrust between the Sami and authorities on local and national levels that stem from historical injustices. Municipalities within the administrative area should therefore, together with the Sami, work out measures that secure the legal rights of the Sami.
- Minority legislation must be complemented with effective sanctions and an independent supervising body must be established and granted the possibility to monitor and secure that the Sami receive their part in their rights as an indigenous people and national minority.