Friday, June 6, 2008

Human Rights in Denmark

Embassy News Service | Danish Press Today NEWS ex-press Volume 17 No. 106 June 5th 2008

Constitution needs to be amended says EU watchdog

As Denmark celebrates Constitution Day today, the EU’s newly appointed human rights watchdog, Morten Kjærum, claims that the Danish constitution should be amended to give Danes better protection of their human rights. From Vienna, where he was installed on Monday as the head of the EU’s new agency for fundamental rights, Mr Kjærum said that in contrast to the majority of other countries, the Danish constitution only provides limited protection of an individual’s human rights. ‘Without international conventions Danes would have very little protection,’ he said. ‘Any lawyer who knows his job and was defending a case of human rights would utilise the European Human Rights Convention, because on this particular issue the Danish constitution is virtually useless.’

I usually just quickly blitz through the embassy news in the morning but the above news story made me pause for a few seconds. Even with just a quick glance, I thought it was interesting for a number of reasons. First and foremost, though I am admittedly not a huge follower of international politics, I like ethics and human rights discussions and feel that it is rather infrequent to hear about a first world constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democratic rule in need of better protection of human rights. I'm intrigued by the complaint that Danes would have very little human rights protection without the EHRC. It's also interesting that this is a current issue. I thought concerns of not being protected by national constitutions and conventions was alleviated back in 1950 when the Convention was adopted... Why do people need to be, for lack of a better term, double protected? Are citizens double protected in other EU Member States? Moreover, as far as I know, there have been no reports that national police in Denmark (who have sole responsibility for matters of internal security) have committed any direct human rights abuses. (Though I wonder if issues and circumstances that may concern activists, such as human trafficking and direct or indirect discrimination towards immigrants and women may be considered indirect violations?) I'm wondering if this concern has been prompted by recent, festering, and perhaps growing anti-immigrant sentiments, particularly towards Muslims. Perhaps the rekindled concern is a direct result of the recent car bombing of the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. Hmm...

Last but not least, I'm a bit concerned that Morten Kjærum seems so concerned with human rights in Denmark. One would think that in his new post as the EU's human rights watchdog he would understand that, regardless of his former posting in Denmark, his home country should no longer be his primary concern. The EU is a big place. He should start looking at the big picture.

1 comment:

jeff said...

the thing that stands out for me is that there is a foreign body trying to influence a domestic body. my first response when the eu was proposed years ago was, what happens to national sovereignty? does this sort of pressure to change constitutions happen often?