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HomeNewsSweden should step up efforts to fight systemic racism

Sweden should step up efforts to fight systemic racism


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Sweden should step up efforts to fight systemic racism and focus on strategies to restore trust between police and minority groups, the United Nations International Independent Expert Mechanism to advance racial justice in the context of law enforcement said Friday after a five-day visit to the country.

 The Experts – including Chairperson Yvonne Mokgoro, Tracie Keesee and Juan Méndez – held meetings and conducted interviews in Stockholm, Malmö, and Lund from 31 October to 4 November. 

 The Experts gathered information on the existing legislative and regulatory scheme governing racial discrimination, as well as official measures and initiatives adopted to prevent and address racial discrimination. The visit sought to focus on both good practices and challenges faced by Sweden in upholding its human rights obligations on non-discrimination in the context of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. 

Concerns over lack of data

 While the Mechanism understands the historical sensitivity around racial classifications in the country, the Experts were deeply concerned by the reluctance to collect data disaggregated by race in Sweden.

 “The collection, publication and analysis of data disaggregated by race or ethnic origin in all aspects of life, especially regarding interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system, is an essential element for designing and assessing responses to systemic racism,” said Yvonne Mokgoro, chair of the Mechanism. “Sweden needs to collect and use this data to fight systemic racism.”

During the visit, the Experts met representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Employment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, of the Equality Ombudsman, members of the Swedish Police Authority, Prison and Probate Services (Kriminalvarden). The Mechanism also met members of the Swedish National Human Rights Institution, civil society representatives, researchers, academics and affected communities, as well as members of the Swedish Police Authority.

Fear of oppressive police presence

“We heard that most of the population in Sweden generally has confidence in the police, yet most of the testimonies we received from members of racialised communities spoke of fear of an oppressive police presence, racial profiling and arbitrary stops and searches,” said Keesee. “Sweden should broaden the definition of safety that does not rely exclusively on police response. The police should focus on strategies to restore their trust among the communities they serve, including through diversifying its staff to reflect Sweden’s true multicultural society.”

The Mechanism also visited police detention and pre-trial detention centres in Stockholm and Malmö, respectively.

 Solitary confinement

“We were concerned over an excessive recourse to solitary confinement. More generally, we are also concerned that Sweden may be addressing legitimate security challenges, including growing gang criminality, through a response which focuses on over policing, surveillance, and undue deprivation of liberty,” said Mendez. “We call upon Sweden to fully comply with the Nelson Mandela Rules – formerly the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – and to privilege alternatives to detention.”

 The Mechanism has shared its preliminary findings with the Government and will draft a report to be published in the coming months and presented to the Human Rights Council.

“We are very grateful for Sweden’s cooperation for this first visit of our Mandate. We will be taking with us good practices that we will highlight in our final report including on the police training, and resources allocated to the investigation of hate crimes,” Mokgoro said


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