Sweden’s Foreign Minister makes Worldwide Human Rights Reports Public

Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Mrs Anna Lindh, held a press conference on January 13 2003, regarding the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s decision to allow their human right reports to be available on the Internet. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has created a report for each country in the world. Together with the Foreign Minister were four of Sweden’s Ambassadors, from Colombia, Turkey, Zimbabwe and China.

Anna Lindh

“Though many countries have made progress in the area of improving human rights, there are still huge problems, for instance in the Middle East. In today’s unstable world, human rights are at risk of being degraded, both in the debating chamber and in the respective countries. Therefore we want to increase the debate with this open information, available for anyone to read,” says Mrs Lindh.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry has gathered specific information on different countries for many years, as a tool and source material to be used by the Foreign Ministry and other departments within the Swedish Government. The reports have been strictly confidential, but have now been reworked to suit public viewing.

The purpose of this manoeuvre is to speed up the process of improving human rights in the world by clearly exposing each country’s violations. This would also benefit NGOs. The reports show not only violations of human rights, but also improvements that have been made throughout the world.

“By publishing the country specific reports, we take an important step towards an increased information exchange regarding the human rights situation in the world. My expectation is that this will increase the knowledge, stimulate public debate, and show ways of improving human rights.”

Countries in which Sweden does not have an embassy have also been analysed, though not in as much depth as those with Ambassadorial representation. “We didn’t want to draw a line between the countries, so we have established a report for all countries in the world, since Sweden has representation in all of them,” Mrs Lindh continued.

These reports are written in Swedish only, and are mainly working manuals and have therefore not been written primarily for general scrutiny. They are written skilfully, yet there may be some errors. The only censoring that has been done is for the protection of information sources; apart from this these are the same reports used by Sweden’s Foreign Ministry. “By making them public we will also need to increase their quality over time”.

Each of the four Ambassadors then gave a short briefing on the human rights situation in their respective country.

The China report holds a massive 34 pages. Here are some short excerpts:

Freedom of Speech, Organising, and Religion is still controlled by the government, which strikes against practitioners of Falun Gong, underground churches, democracy and work activists, etc.

No other country in the world executes as many people as China does.

There are still big problems with the judicial system, including political involvement in trials.

Dissidents are classified as “threatening the safety of the State”.

Torture is employed to extract confessions

People are abducted and sentenced without trial.

People are imprisoned in forced labour camps and psychiatric hospitals.

Some subjects are not allowed to be spoken of in public:

  • Questioning the Communist Party’s monopoly.

  • Criticism of Chinese involvement in Tibet and Xinjiang.

  • Questioning the reunion with Taiwan.

  • Criticising the persecution of Falun Gong.

Regarding Falun Gong:

  • Practitioners have died after torture in custody, through poor medical treatment or during an attempt to escape.

  • Practitioners state that they have been persecuted, arrested, raped and tortured.

  • Practitioners claim that tens of thousands of practitioners have been persecuted, arrested, tortured or killed.

  • Though these witness reports are in general hard to verify, these are regarded as trustworthy by human rights organisations.

  • Human Rights Watch and Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry claim that Falun Gong practitioners are imprisoned in mental hospitals against their own will.

  • A legal precedent beginning from June 2001 allowed practitioners to be sentenced to three to seven years in prison if they produce, or distribute, 300 pictures or flyers containing information. If they produce, or distribute, more than 1500 pictures or flyers - they can be sentenced to more than seven years in prison. To gather more than 20 practitioners for a Falun Gong activity may lead to three to seven years in prison.

China is encouraged to cooperate with the United Nations mechanisms for Human Rights, and therefore invite UN Torture Inspectors. The requirements from the European Union state that they must remove the death penalty and reform the system of administrative abductions. The EU dialogue also presents a list of imprisoned persons, including critics of the regime and Falun Gong practitioners. The EU requests information about the people on the list, and states that the EU wants these people to be released. A requirement from the EU before the dialogue will continue is that China shows concrete results in these areas.

Chinese version available at http://www.yuanmingeurope.net/articles/200301/16534.html

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