Opposition leaders call for break with UN convention

Venstre would deny citizenship to stateless youth, based on confidential information

 

Overt political calls to defy international agreements on human rights used to be the domain of the right-wingDansk Folkeparti. But yesterday, the countryÂ’s largest party, the centre-right opposition leaders Venstre, came forward with just such a proposal.

Venstre (V) sent the justice minister, Morten Bødskov, a formal letter requesting that the government deny citizenship to an individual who is otherwise guaranteed citizenship under two UN conventions regarding the rights of stateless youth. Denmark has signed both conventions. Under the conventions, stateless youth are entitled to citizenship in the country in which they were born as long as they have not been convicted of a serious crime.

The individual in question was born in Denmark to refugee parents and has not been convicted of a serious crime. Nevertheless, Venstre says he should not be granted citizenship, because the domestic security agency PET claims he is a threat to national security.

PET has not shared how or why the young man is a national threat – that information so far remains classified. Nor has the man been charged with a crime. Not even the Venstre politicians who say he should be denied citizenship know the reasons for PET’s warning.

Twice every year a list of foreigners who are eligible for citizenship is presented to parliamentÂ’s citizenship council for approval. On that list this autumn is the person PET has identified as a threat to national security.

“We say ‘no’ to the government’s motion to give citizenship to a person whom PET considers dangerous to national security,” Venstre legal spokesperson Karsten Lauritzen told Berlingske newspaper.

“Under normal circumstances, the citizenship committee would be in full agreement about rejecting this person, but the government is putting the UN convention over the safety of Danish citizens. We in Venstre don’t want to do that. On this question, we’re ready to break with UN convention,” Lauritzen added.

Lauritzen admitted that he had no idea what PET was accusing the man of.

From a human rights perspective, the proposal is questionable, said Eva Ersbøll, a senior researcher at the human rights organisation Institut for Menneskerettigheder (IMF).

“We don’t even know whether the person has actually done anything, or whether he is being investigated because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ersbøll told Berlingske.

She added that what Venstre was asking the government to do was to break with the UN convention on stateless peopleÂ’s rights.

Back in March, when Venstre still led the government instead of the opposition, a scandal involving precisely the same UN convention took down the then-immigration minister, Birthe Rønne Hornbech (V).

Hornbech was fired after it was learned that she had instructed Immigration Ministry staff to ignore the UN convention and reject the citizenship applications of stateless youth born in Denmark. Hornbech did not inform parliament of her actions, nor of the more than 400 citizenship rejections her ministry handed out to stateless youth covered by the convention over a two-year period.

When Venstre leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen – who was prime minister at the time – fired Hornbech over the scandal, he called it a “serious case” of breach of human rights.

Dansk Folkeparti (DF), which voted with the previous government, complained when the Immigration Ministry began automatically awarding citizenships to the over 400 stateless youth that had inappropriately been rejected earlier. In the spring, DF therefore proposed a bill to withdraw DenmarkÂ’s signature from the UN conventions. Venstre voted against that bill then.

Rasmussen declined to comment this week on why his party was now calling on the new government to defy the UN convention.

When the SocialdemokraterneRadikaleSocialistisk Folkeparti coalition government assumed power last month,they dissolved the Immigration Ministry, transferring its areas of jurisdiction to the Justice Ministry and the Social Affairs Ministry.

Zenia Stampe, the Radikale citizenship spokesperson and the co-chair of parliament’s citizenship council, called Venstre’s move this week to defy the international convention “outrageous”.

“Otherwise, what do the conventions mean at the end of the day? It’s our position that they lie above Danish law. If we aren’t going to bother with them, then we might as well pull out of them,” Stampe told Berlingske.

Bødskov said that the government “naturally intends to live up to the international conventions that Denmark has endorsed” – despite PET’s warning.

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SEE RELATED STORIES

Government in fix over dangerous stateless residents

Ombusdsman censures immigration ministry twice in one week

Battleaxed – Hornbech out

Human rights record under the UNÂ’s microscope

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Note to readers: The Copenhagen Post will now refer to national political parties by their Danish names and abbreviations. DOWNLOAD The Copenhagen Post’s overview of Danish political parties.





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