FRI: 15º/3º SAT: 13º/11º
Climate conference mass arrests illegal, court upholds
Despite a decision today upholding a lower court ruling that the Copenhagen police acted improperly when it conducted mass arrests during the 2009 UN climate conference, the force’s commissioner maintains officers acted correctly.
“We did what was right in the situation by taking decisive action,” commissioner Johan Reimann said.
The police’s evaluation of their actions during the arrests, according to Reimann, differs from the two courts’ rulings, but added that the force would learn from the decision.
Today’s ruling upholds a 2011 Copenhagen City Court decision which found that the police had acted improperly when they detained 968 demonstrators on 13 Dec 2009 after a handful of participants began making trouble .
All the detainees were then forced to sit in human chains on the cold asphalt for several hours.
According to the decision, the arrests violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Some 250 people from Denmark, Sweden, France and Great Britain had complained about being detained at some point during the climate conference.
The previous ruling awarded the plaintiffs 9,000 kroner each, but today’s decision reduced the amount of compensation to between 2,200 and 3,300, depending on the length of time they were required to sit out in the cold.
It also said that of those appealing their arrests, only the 178 who had been forced to sit in the cold were entitled to compensation.
For the police, the arrests and the court challenges were important tests of its efforts to prevent demonstrations from getting out of hand by stepping in before violence breaks out.
The police’s preventative arrests were criticised for unnecessarily detaining large numbers of innocent people. But during the trial and the appeal, however, the police sought to make their case by painting the defendants and many of the others that were detained as potential troublemakers.
The courts, however, said the police were not permitted to use the demonstrators’ pasts to justify their preventative arrests.
Although Reimann stood by the police’s actions, he expressed his regret that innocent demonstrators had been detained – including a group of Hare Krishna followers and senior citizens.
He added that the police could also have done a better job of weeding out those who clearly had nothing to do with the trouble makers, and that it should have made a better record for the reasons for each of its arrests.
The police had been given the authority to conduct mass arrests thanks to a special law passed by parliament in anticipation that protests could get out of hand during the climate conference.
After today’s ruling, the current government, which was voted in to office in September 2011, said it will consider whether those expanded powers should be repealed.