In its report on Denmark, published in May, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed deep concern at worsening intolerance and xenophobia against refugees, asylum-seekers, minorities in general and Muslims in particular. ECRI noted with concern legislative provisions disproportionately restricting the ability of members of ethnic minorities to acquire Danish citizenship, to benefit from family reunification, and to access social protection. ECRI also highlighted an atmosphere of impunity, created by the low rate of prosecutions for incitement to racial hatred despite, among other things, inflammatory statements by some politicians and the media.
In October the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed a number of concerns after a periodic review of Denmark. These included the refusal of the Public Prosecutor to instigate proceedings in some cases, despite an increasing number of racially motivated offences and hate speech complaints, including in connection with the publication of cartoons that many Muslims found profoundly insulting. It also raised concern about the fact that asylum-seekers could not lodge appeals in the courts against decisions by the Refugee Board and that asylum-seekers and their children were sometimes housed for several years in asylum centres. It also highlighted asylum-seekers' limited involvement in social, professional, educational and cultural activities outside the centres and the reduction of social benefits for those newly arrived in Denmark, a policy which reportedly created marginalization and poverty.
Violence against women
In August, reviewing Denmark's sixth periodic report, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about the extent of violence against women and girls; trafficking of women and girls; and the length of the "reflection period" which meant that after 30 days trafficked women would ordinarily be deported to their country of origin. The Committee also highlighted the vulnerability of foreign married women who had been granted temporary residence permits on the grounds of marriage and who risked expulsion if they left the marital home because of violence by their husbands.
In December, the government announced an extension of the "reflection period" to 100 days.
In June new legislation with the stated aim of countering terrorism came into force. The scope and breadth of these provisions gave rise to concern that previously legitimate political activities may be deemed unlawful. Judicial oversight of police access to private and confidential information was weakened.
In December legislation further reducing the time limits for solitary confinement of prisoners was adopted. However, it failed to introduce, even for under-18s, a mandatory maximum duration in cases concerning homicide, drug-related crime or security offences. There were reductions in the use of solitary confinement against under-18s for other offences.
Freedom of expression
In December, three investigative journalists were acquitted of all charges in connection with the publication of classified information about Iraq and the extent of the government's knowledge, in the run-up to the Iraq war, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The prosecuting authorities stated that they did not intend to appeal against the acquittals.
There were reports that police used excessive force in dealing with three separate demonstrations against evictions in Copenhagen.
In September, the mother of 21-year-old Jens Arne Ørskov filed a civil action against the police and the Ministry of Justice in connection with her son's death in police custody in June 2002. The regional state prosecutor concluded he died from the combined effects of intense physical activity with an intake of alcohol and cannabis. However, Danish as well as international medical experts disputed the official cause of death, stating instead that he died from asphyxiation after being forced to lie on his stomach and having pressure applied to his back while handcuffed. Nonetheless, the prosecuting authorities decided not to press charges or take disciplinary action against the police officers involved. The case was scheduled to be heard in October 2007.
AI country reports/visits
• Denmark: Jens Arne Ørskov's death in custody - A mother's quest for justice (AI Index: EUR 18/001/2006)