Løkke lied, stateless commission testimony reveals

Despite saying he only heard about it through the media, former PM’s permanent secretary said he told his boss about problems regarding stateless Palestinians’ citizenship

The former prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre), lied when he said at a press conference in March 2011 that he only became aware that the Integration Ministry was violating international law by denying citizenship to stateless Palestinians when the case “turned up in the media”, according to testimony given before the so-called Stateless Commission yesterday.

Rasmussen’s former permanent secretary, Karsten Dybvad, testified that he informed Rasmussen of problems at the ministry in the autumn of 2009 after a meeting with the then immigration minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech’s (Venstre) permanent secretary, Clæs Nilas.

Hornbech was fired in March 2011 after intense media scrutiny that exposed how stateless Palestinians continued to be denied citizenship for two years after the ministry realised in 2008 that the practice was illegal.

The Stateless Commission is attempting to discover who was responsible for letting the practice continue, when exactly the Immigration Ministry was made aware of the practice, and how ministry officials responded when they found out they were acting in violation of the law.

Dybvad said that Nilas told him during their meeting that officials at the ministry were aware that they were not complying with international conventions, but that Hornbech “did not think it was necessary” to inform parliament about the mismanagement of stateless rights.

Dybvad said he immediately passed that message on to Rasmussen.

“A prime minister should never be surprised,” Dybvad told the commission.

Dybvad said he also briefed his boss on “five or six” other cases being handled by the ministry. He also testified that he had told Nilas that he should continue to let him know about issues regarding Hornbech.

“I told [Nilas] that he should come back if the problems continued," Dybvad told the commission. “He did not, so I considered the problem solved.”

The cause of the two-year delay between Hornbech’s discovery of the error and its rectification is the subject of speculation, but is thought to be linked to an unwillingness by the former right-wing government, led by Venstre and Konservative and supported by Dansk Folkeparti, to grant citizenship to applicants who otherwise would not have satisfied ordinary citizenship rules.

Rasmussen said that he will have no comment about the case before he gives his own testimony on May 29.

The commission also called upon Rasmussen's predecessor as PM, the current NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen yesterday. During his testimony, Fogh Rasmussen flatly denied that he was aware of Hornbech's denial of citizenship to stateless Palestinians under his tenure. 

"I can say with complete certainty that I did not receive any orientation on the issue," Fogh Rasmussen said. "Something like that, you would clearly remember."

Fogh Rasmussen left the PM's office and was replaced by Løkke Rasmussen in the spring of 2009. 

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