UN Criticizes Sweden – On Land Rights, Resources, Reindeer

August 19, 2008 • Philip BurgessBlog

(Press release from the Saami Council) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticizes Sweden for numerous forms of discrimination of the Saami people in unusually concrete and strong language, in particular with regard to the Saami people’s right to land.

The United Nations has for several years condemned Sweden for not recognizing the Saami people’s right to land and resources. Sweden has ignored this criticism so far taking no single action to end the discrimination of the Saami people identified by the UN. The UN now sharpens its criticism further. The UN Committee on Racial Discrimination released on Monday 18.8 its Concluding Observations on Sweden in which it calls on Sweden to take several concrete actions to end the human rights violations Sweden subjects the Saami people to.

The Swedish government was disapproved with the regard to the burden of proof in cases pertaining to Saami land and resource rights, legal aid and legal protection of reindeer herding rights. The Committee has recommended Swedish Government in particular to:

– Provide Saami villages (samebyar) with legal aid in court proceedings concerning right to land and natural resources.

– In cases concerning Saami land and resource rights amend the rules of evidence, so that the burden of proof no longer vests solely with the Saami parties, but rather is shared between the Saami and the other party.

– Finalize the work of the Boundary Commission (Gränsdragningskommissionen) by providing additional resources so that correct boundaries for Saami reindeer grazing areas can be established. In this work is to be taken into account the oral tradition of the Saami Culture, as well as limitations in written documentary evidence of Saami title. The Committee particularly underlines that the complimentary work must also include land areas to which the Saami have already lost grazing rights in past court proceedings.

The Swedish Government was previously observed by the Committee 2004.

– We are very pleased with the UN’s sharp criticism of Sweden, demonstrating insight in the problems facing the Saami people, says Mattias Åhrén, Head of the Saami Council’s Human Rights Unit. – In particular, we appreciate the Committee’s call for concrete action. Sweden can now no longer ignore the UN. The Saami Council expects that Sweden immediately takes measures to implement the concrete recommendations of the UN, finishes Åhrén.

Pauliina Feodoroff Mattias Åhrén

President, Saami Council Head of Human Rights Unit, Saami Council +4747379161

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