Last Updated: Tuesday, 01 December 2015, 13:36 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2003 - Denmark

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2003
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2003 - Denmark , 28 May 2003, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Queen Margrethe II
Head of government: Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

The prolonged use of solitary confinement continued to cause concern. Legislation was introduced limiting the right to seek asylum and the rights of foreign nationals resident in Denmark. The scope of "anti-terrorist" legislation was broadened in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA. The government failed to ensure that the human rights of a Danish national held in US custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were respected. No police officer was charged in connection with a fatal police shooting in 2001 in which two people died.

International scrutiny

In March the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about a reported increase in hate speech and in the harassment of members of the Arab and Muslim communities; the tightening of asylum and refugee regulations; and reports of the failure of the authorities to recognize the Inughuit community as a separate ethnic or tribal entity.

In May the UN Committee against Torture reiterated its concern that torture was not defined as an offence in Danish law and that convicted prisoners were denied effective mechanisms to challenge the use of solitary confinement.

In September the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published its report on its visit to Denmark in early 2002. The CPT expressed concern about remand detainees being locked in their cells for up to 21 hours a day without access to purposeful activities, and about the use of solitary confinement (see below).

Solitary confinement

Safeguards were introduced to limit the use of court-ordered solitary confinement during pre-trial detention, although a maximum duration was not set. However, similar safeguards were not available to convicted prisoners who were also denied access to a judicial review of decisions by the prison authorities to hold them indefinitely in solitary confinement. Detainees in court-ordered solitary confinement continued to be locked in their cells for 23 hours a day.

  • In February Hans Nati, who had been detained in solitary confinement since March 1998, was transferred to the maximum security unit of Nyborg prison. In June prison authorities informed AI that, since the end of April, he was being allowed to associate with two other prisoners for four hours a day. In December 2001 the Parliamentary Ombudsman had criticized Nyborg prison authorities for disregarding the rules on carrying out a substantive weekly review of his solitary confinement and recording the results of the review.
"Anti-terrorist" legislation

The definition of "terrorism" and the scope of the offence of "aiding and abetting in terrorist activities" were broadened. There was concern that this might affect people involved in non-violent activities, including of a humanitarian nature, in connection with organizations suspected of "terrorism". Amendments to the extradition law could result in the return of "terrorist" suspects to countries where they may be at risk of serious human rights abuses.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

There were concerns about new legislation restricting refugee protection. Among those potentially affected were conscientious objectors and those fleeing armed conflict or widespread violence. Under the new legislation people can no longer apply for asylum from Danish embassies. There were also concerns that the authorities could make increased use of an accelerated procedure which could deny those seeking asylum a fair examination of their case.

Akhmed Zakayev

In October, Akhmed Zakayev, an envoy of the Chechen President, was detained while in Copenhagen to attend the World Chechen Congress, following an extradition request from the Russian government for crimes allegedly committed between 1996 and 1999. There were concerns that, if he was handed over to the Russian authorities, he could be at risk of torture or ill-treatment. In December the Danish authorities released Akhmed Zakayev, stating that there was insufficient evidence to justify his extradition.

Danish national held in US custody in Cuba

The Danish government failed to make adequate representations to the US authorities urging respect for the human rights of a Danish national held in US custody in Cuba. In November the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were questioned by the parliamentary legal affairs committee about the issue. It emerged that the Danish national had been denied access to legal counsel during questioning by US and Danish intelligence officers, in violation of the detainee's rights under Danish law.

Police shooting

Claus Nielsen and Lars Jørgensen were shot dead by police in Tilst, a town near Århus, in December 2001. They were suspected of being involved in a robbery. The circumstances of the shooting were disputed and a criminal investigation was initiated. The Regional Public Prosecutor (RPP) decided not to prosecute either of the officers involved, despite the finding by the Police Complaints Board (PCB) that charges should be brought against one of the officers for the shots fired at Claus Nielsen. The families of the deceased appealed against the RPP's decision; their counsel highlighted several contradictions in the investigation report by the RPP. The PCB did not exercise its powers of appeal and in June the Director of Public Prosecutions upheld the decision not to prosecute the police officers.
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