In November, a general election was held, leading to the formation of a new government led by existing Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
In September, Denmark signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In April, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) urged Denmark to make torture a specific offence which could be investigated, prosecuted and punished without time limitations.
By the end of the year there had been no independent investigation of allegations that
31 men captured by Danish Special Forces in Afghanistan in March 2002 and handed over to the US authorities had subsequently been ill-treated while in US custody.
Following the publication of an Amnesty International report on transfers of prisoners to the Afghan authorities from forces, including Danish forces, making up the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the Minister of Defence announced that Danish troops would in future monitor the treatment of all prisoners transferred from their custody to Afghan custody.
‘War on terror’
In a letter to the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee investigating the alleged use of European territory and airspace in renditions and secret detention carried out by the US Central Intelligence Agency, the Danish government reported more than 100 flights through Danish airspace, and 45 stopovers in Danish airports, by aeroplanes which have been credibly alleged to have been involved in rendition flights. The Danish authorities failed to initiate an independent investigation into allegations of Danish involvement in renditions.
- In March, the Copenhagen Police closed down the “Ungdomshuset”, a centre for alternative culture. In the course of subsequent demonstrations more than 800 people were arrested, amid reports that police officers used excessive force in policing them. Approximately 200 of those arrested were remanded in custody pending trial. Relatives and lawyers reported that some minors were forced to share cells with adult inmates.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The CAT raised concerns about the long periods that asylum-seekers spent living in asylum centres. According to figures cited by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, an estimated 40 per cent of all asylum-seekers remained in such centres for more than three years.
The Danish government granted visas to around 370 Iraqis, and their immediate families, who had been working for Danish troops in Iraq, allowing them to enter Denmark to seek asylum.
People who had not been permanently resident in Denmark for at least seven of the last eight years were not entitled to claim regular social welfare benefits, but were restricted to the so-called “starting allowance”. For people over the age of 25 this amounted to between 45 and 65 per cent of regular social benefits. Newly arrived residents, in particular members of ethnic minorities who experienced more difficulty in finding employment than people born in Denmark, were over-represented among recipients of the “starting allowance”.
Requirements for family reunification
For family reunification to take place in Denmark applicants were required to demonstrate ties to Denmark stronger than ties to any other country. In practice it was very difficult for a Danish citizen of foreign origin and his or her spouse to satisfy this requirement, in particular where both the Danish citizen and his or her spouse originated from the same country.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights noted that this provision in effect discriminated between citizens who were born as Danish nationals and those who had acquired Danish nationality. He recommended that the government should reduce the length of time (currently 28 years) for which a person has to be resident as a Danish citizen before they can be exempt from these requirements when making an application for a foreign family member to be granted a residence permit.
Amnesty International reports
- Denmark: A briefing for the Committee against Torture (EUR 18/001/2007)
- Denmark: Authorities must come clean about renditions (EUR 18/003/2007)