UN report criticises Danish authorities over racial attack

Committee urges policy change as Iraqi family continues to suffer from the effects of a racially-charged attack

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has found that the police failed to investigate the racist element of the 2004 assault on an Iraqi family living in Sorø. The committee called on the Danish government to review its policy on racially-induced violence.

The incident, which occurred on 21 June 2004, involved a large group of about 35 youths that attacked Iraqi refugee Mahali Dawas and his family in their home, leaving the house damaged and two family members injured. The assault led to the family fleeing their house and seeking alternative accommodation from the council.

Four men were convicted of counts of violence, vandalism and illegal possession of weapons, but received only light sentences. The victims received no compensation. In addition, a possible racist angle was not investigated, despite a sign reading “No blacks allowed” being placed near the house and perpetrators using the word “perkere”, a Danish expletive for foreigners.

The UN report argued that the racist elements and violent nature of the case warranted a hate-crime investigation and said that the Danish state failed in their responsibility to protect the victims.  

“In circumstances as serious as those in this case, where the petitioners were subjected, in their own house, to a violent assault by 35 offenders, some of them armed, enough elements warranted a thorough investigation by public authorities into the possible racist nature of the attack against the family,” the report recommended. “The onus was on the State party to initiate an effective criminal investigation, instead of giving the petitioners the burden of proof in civil proceedings.”

Dawas and his family continue to struggle with the mental trauma suffered from the attack. His spouse experienced a nervous breakdown and Dawas's condition, already weakened by past political persecution in his native country of Iraq, has further declined as well.

Yet the civil lawsuit brought forth by the victims was rejected by the not only the District Court of Næstved but also the High Court of Eastern Denmark.

The report also recommended that the authorities grant the victims adequate compensation for their suffrage and implored them to reconsider the current policy in cases motivated by racism.

“The Committee further recommends that the State party review its policy and procedures concerning the prosecution in cases of alleged racial discrimination or racially motivated violence, in the light of its obligations under Article Four of the Convention," the report said.

The UN Committee has thus concluded that the investigation of the attack was incomplete and has given the Danish state 90 days to respond to the report.