Denmark failed to protect rights of victims of 2004 racist attack, UN panel finds

16 April 2012

A United Nations human rights body has ruled that Denmark failed to investigate the racist nature of a 2004 attack on an Iraqi family, and called on the Government review its policy and procedures on the prosecution of alleged racial discrimination or racially-motivated violence.

The incident involves a violent assault by 35 Danish youngsters against an Iraqi family in their house in the town of Soro on 21 June 2004, according to a news release issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

A group of 15 to 20 young people attacked the house of Mahali Dawas, who lived in Soro with his wife and eight children, all of whom are recognized refugees. More individuals joined the attack and at one point the group exceeded 35 people. The house was damaged and two family members, including Mr. Dawas, were beaten, states the news release.

The family had to flee the house after the attack and seek alternative accommodation from the municipality. Before the attack, a sign saying “no blacks allowed” was placed near the house, and Danish pejorative term for “foreigners” was used by one of the perpetrators.

According to the news release, a police investigation was carried out and four men were convicted on counts of violence, vandalism and illegal possession of weapons. However, only light sentences were ordered, with no compensation to the victims and without addressing the possible racist element of the attack.

In addition, a subsequent civil lawsuit by the victims was rejected by the District Court of Naestved and the High Court of Eastern Denmark.

“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 Committee stated in its decision.

“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,” added the group of experts, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties.

The Committee also determined that the investigation into the events was incomplete, depriving the complainants of their right to effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination.

It recommended that Denmark grant the petitioners adequate compensation for the material and moral injury caused by the violations of the Convention, in addition to reviewing its policy and procedures concerning the prosecution of alleged racial discrimination or racially-motivated violence.

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