Jun 29 2008

Left-Greens Demand Report on Police Conduct Against Protestors

The Left-Green Party demanded in parliament in April that the Minister of Justice, Bjorn Bjarnason, should write a detailed report of all actions of the Icelandic police against Saving Iceland activists during the years of 2005, 2006 and 2007. This report is due now. Saving Iceland will be reporting on further developments in this case. Below is the demand in English.
Armand: Brave Cops of Iceland

135th legislature 2007-2008.
Doc. 888 – case no. 574.

Request for a report from the Minister of Justice regarding the police’s handling of the protesters against the Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric plant and the building-up of large scale industry, in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Submitted by Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, Álfheiður Ingadóttir, Árni Þór Sigurðsson, Ingibjörg Inga Guðmundsdóttir, Paul Nikolov, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, Þuríður Backman, Ögmundur Jónasson and Alma Lísa Jóhannsdóttir.

With reference to article 46 of the law on the parliamentary procedure of Alþingi it is hereby requested that the Minister of Justice submit a report to Alþingi on the following information regarding the police’s actions against those protesting the building of the Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric project and the aluminium plant in Reyðarfjörður:
1. Information about police operations against protesters who dwelt in the hydroelectric project area at Kárahnjúkar and near the aluminium plant site in Reyðarfjörður in July-August 2005, July-August 2006, and April-September 2007. Also requested is information about police operations against protesters in Snorrrabraut on July 14th 2007 and at the Alcan plant in Straumsvík on July 24th 2007.
2. Information is requested on each instance the police interfered with the protesters, the number of policemen involved in each instance, the cause of the police action, how the action was carried out and what the outcome was. Each arrest should be listed and likewise short-term detainments, removal of passports, searches of protesters’ houses or other dwellings and attempts to stop food delivery to the tent camps. Likewise it is requested that information about the police’s gathering of personal information, photographing and other acts that may constitute restriction of personal freedom of movement and freedom of privacy, e.g. questions about an individual’s opinions.
3. Information is requested on the police’s permissions for actions where permission from the courts is required, for example house search warrants and tapping of telephones and electronic mail.
4. Information on police surveillance of the protesters who dwelt in the project area at Káranhjúkar and in the vicinity, other than direct actions. Also information on surveillance outside the hydroelectric project area at Kárahnjúkar and the aluminium plant grounds. It should be disclosed how widespread the surveillance was and how much time it took, including whether the protesters’ telephones and/or electronic mail were tapped.
5. This should include information about the surveillance and handling of suspected protesters from abroad on arrival in the country in the summers of 2006 and 2007.

Reasoned submission.
This document requests exhaustive information on all police actions against those protesting the building of the Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric project, the aluminium plant in Reyðarfjörður and other large scale industry projects during the periods of July-August 2005, July-August 2006, and April-September 2007. The aim is to investigate whether police actions against the protesters were in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and other laws on freedom of thought and opinion, freedom of expression, personal freedom and the right to privacy. It must be kept in mind that freedom of assembly is a recognised political right that allows people to gather together, including for the purpose of protest. It is therefore important in a democratic society that the citizens can enjoy these rights, in other words that their human rights should be acknowledged and protected.
During the periods mentioned in the request there were repeated allegations in the media of unnecessary use of force by the police, unprovoked attacks, pursuits and imprisonment. In their defence the police have, e.g., cited article 15 of the police law, no. 90/1996, where provision is made for the police to act against citizens in order to uphold peace and public order, but in the media there have been strong expressions of doubt as to whether the police’s assessment of the situation has in all cases been such that it called for the actions carried out.
When investigating these matters it is important to keep in mind the protection of human rights. Attention is drawn to a recent statement by Amnesty International on a proposal for changes to the penal law, where it is stated that it is important to ensure that persons can not be prosecuted for legitimate opposition to public authorities. It is also stated that it is important to ensure that the concept of “terrorism” will not be so widely defined by the law that it does not clearly make a distinction between unlawful acts and opposition to the public authorities which is legitimate and protected by internationally recognized human rights rules. It is recalled that the United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressed concern over the definition of “terrorism” in the Icelandic penal law, believing that article 100 of the law “sets out a vague and broad definition of terrorism… which might encompass and consequently jeopardize legitimate activity in a democratic society, in particular participation in public demonstrations “.
It is recalled that article 73 of the constitution of the Republic of Iceland states that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and belief.
Everyone shall be free to express his thoughts, but shall also be liable to answer for them in court. The law may never provide for censorship or other similar limitations to freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression may only be restricted by law in the interests of public order or the security of the State, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights or reputation of others, if such restrictions are deemed necessary and in agreement with democratic traditions”.
Finally, reference is made to a motion for parliamentary resolution that was submitted during the 133rd legislature (doc. 1108, case no. 695) for an investigation of police actions against protesters at Kárahnjúkar and the attached reasoned submission.