Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were some reports government officials employed them.
Several committees in the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressed concern that coercive measures were used in mental health institutions, and that coerced treatment and the use of restraint in institutions remained legal. In February the Danish Institute against Torture (DIGNITY) published a briefing note finding the country’s 2014 action plan to reduce the use of coercion in psychiatric institutions by 50 percent by 2020, including a 50 percent reduction in the use of mechanical restraints with belts, did not meet its goals. According to a 2020 report released by the Health Authority, the use of belt restraints decreased, but the prevalence of patients subjected to one or several coercive methods increased in comparison to the pre-action plan statistics during a 12-month study period between July 2019 and June 2020.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluded in September 2020 that the government had violated the prohibition of inhuman treatment in a case where belt restraints had been used on a patient for nearly 23 hours. On February 3, the Supreme Court held that restraining with belts for 281 consecutive days was a violation of the prohibition of inhuman treatment. The case related to a patient who was detained at a psychiatric institution while awaiting a transfer to a more specialized psychiatric hospital in 2015. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the Audit Office, and the ombudsman criticized the use of belt restraints.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: Authorities continued to hold convicted prisoners together with pretrial detainees in remand institutions.
The CPT criticized the country’s use of solitary confinement, including for children, several times.
In September the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and DIGNITY released a report detailing a sharp increase in unconditional solitary confinements in prisons over recent years. In 2015 there were approximately 2,600 placements in solitary confinement, but in 2020 that number rose to more than 4,000 placements. The report found an even larger increase among cases where the inmate was in solitary confinement for more than two weeks, from seven in 2015 to 637 in 2020. There was a large increase in the number of long-term solitary confinements of 15 days or more, and the preliminary figures for 2021 indicated that these high numbers continued. The DIHR and DIGNITY recommended that, in accordance with the Nelson Mandela Rules, solitary confinement for minors and other vulnerable groups be abolished, that there should be a 15-day limit for individuals in solitary confinement, and that health personnel should be included in all solitary confinement placements. The DIHR also recommended that inmates in two-person cells have at least 22 square feet of room each.
Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.
Independent Monitoring: The parliamentary ombudsman also functioned as a prison ombudsman. The government permitted additional monitoring visits by independent human rights observers and media.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence; a prompt and detailed notification of the charges against them; and a fair, timely, and public trial. They have the right to be present at their trial; to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to have free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence; not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal their case.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals or organizations may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. The complainant may also pursue an administrative resolution. The law provides that persons with “reasonable grounds” may appeal court decisions to the ECHR if they involve alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, but only after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.
Property Seizure and Restitution
The government reported, and the Jewish Community confirmed, that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, were pending before authorities.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were isolated reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The law allows the government to collect the personal data of airline passengers. The DIHR criticized the government for postponing the revision of its logging rules despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice that the existing systematic collection of data is in violation of citizens’ fundamental rights.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits any public speech or the dissemination of statements or other pronouncements that threaten, deride, or degrade a group because of gender, race, skin color, national or ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation. Authorities may fine offenders or imprison them for up to two years.
In January police detained three individuals who allegedly made threatening remarks as an effigy of the prime minister was burned by antilockdown protesters. The protest was one of a series organized by Men in Black, a self-proclaimed “freedom” group that protested the government’s winter lockdown to hinder the spread of COVID-19. According to police, the group had strong ties to the hooligan soccer community. On March 12, the Copenhagen city court sentenced a woman associated with Men in Black to two years’ unconditional imprisonment for having called for violence during a demonstration on January 9. The court doubled her punishment due to a special section in the law allowing for the doubling of punishments for several crimes if the offense was connected to COVID-19 restrictions. Amnesty International Denmark expressed concern that the law was too vaguely worded regarding the connection between the crime and COVID-19. In June a higher-level court reduced the sentence to 60 days. Approximately 15 demonstrators from the same event also received the double sentence, and in two instances, after appeals, the High Court reversed the sentence.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored online communications without appropriate legal authority.
In January the DIHR published a report on technology companies’ impacts on human rights. The report concluded that human rights considerations be incorporated throughout “tech giants” boards, strategic and policy planning, risk management procedures, and beyond.
On November 18, the government hosted its Tech for Democracy conference to discuss how digital technology can strengthen democracy and support human rights.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The constitution provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
Exile: On October 6, the government repatriated three mothers and their 14 children from northeastern Syria. Authorities also said they would repatriate five other children without their mothers, who had been stripped of their Danish citizenship.
Citizenship: In December 2020 parliament removed the “sunset” clause from a 2019 law allowing the revocation of citizenship without a court hearing for those who “acted in a manner which is seriously detrimental to the vital interests of the country.” This 2019 law was set to expire in 2021. The law does apply to those who would be rendered stateless by the revocation. Under this provision the government revoked the citizenship of 11 Danes.
The government did not participate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its program to resettle refugees.
On June 3, parliament authorized the government to establish asylum centers in non-EU countries. The EU Commission called the law inconsistent with EU law. The government negotiated the establishment of asylum centers with potential partner countries, including Rwanda. The Danish Refugee Council criticized the amendments to the law on transferring asylum seekers to non-EU countries.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government limits the rights of persons with subsidiary or temporary protection to family reunification, restrictions not applied to persons recognized as refugees. For example, persons with subsidiary or temporary protection must wait at least three years before applying for family reunification for their spouse or cohabitating partner and minor children. In contrast, persons with refugee status can apply for family reunification at any time.
The government does not consider Damascus, Syria, and the Rif Dimashq Governate surrounding it to be dangerous. The government did not forcibly return rejected asylum seekers to Syria. Those whose claims were rejected, however, lost their work permit and were required to live in an asylum center.
On July 9, the ECHR found the country violated its international human rights obligations by imposing a law that lengthened the amount of time a newly arrived refugee must wait before applying for family reunification. In the same case, the ECHR also concluded that the local authorities’ decision to deny a Syrian refugee family reunification was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2015 the government granted a Syrian national temporary protection status for one year. When the Syrian applied for family reunification with his wife, the government denied it due to the three-year rule, which requires refugees to wait three years before applying for family reunification. Local courts upheld the denial.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country employs the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which permits authorities to turn back or deport individuals who entered or attempted to enter the country through a “safe country of transit” or were registered in another state-party to the Dublin regulation.
Refoulement: As of September 30, the government has revoked the residency permits of 87 Syrian refugees since 2019 after the Danish Refugee Appeals Board deemed Damascus and its surrounding governorate to be safe. Most of these individuals have since departed Denmark for Syria or other destinations. In September a report by Amnesty International Denmark on the repatriation of Syrian nationals to Syria found one-third of human rights abuses in Syria took place in Damascus or in the surrounding area. Amnesty also stated that Syrian nationals whose residency permits were revoked could face torture, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention upon their return to Syria.
Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government stated all asylum seekers were offered a medical screening upon arrival in the country, reception center staff were sensitive to signs of torture, and it was the opinion of the government that the procedures in place to identify and assist victims of torture were sufficient. The government stated that if an asylum seeker’s condition was such that detention was deemed impossible, the police imposed less restrictive measures, but the fact that an alien had been subjected to torture generally did not exclude the use of detention. The UN Committee Against Torture subsequently regretted that medical examinations were performed at the sole discretion of immigration authorities.
Freedom of Movement: The law limits the initial period of immigration detention to six months, which can be extended to 18 months if special circumstances exist.
Access to Basic Services: The law allows municipalities to accommodate refugees only in temporary housing.
Durable Solutions: The government’s policy encouraged repatriation of refugees rather than their integration into society. The state provided financial assistance to refugees or asylum seekers who choose to return home. It paid for their travel and provided a small sum of money to help them resettle in their homeland. The government provided similar financial incentives to nonrefugee or non-asylum-seeking residents who choose to return to their homelands. This policy decreased the likelihood of long-term residency permits for refugees and asylum seekers as it encouraged repatriation over integration.
Temporary Protection: As of August, 111 refugees received temporary protection status in the country.
According to UNHCR, as of February, 11,655 stateless persons lived in the country. Stateless persons can apply for citizenship if they have lived in the country for at least eight years.
During the country’s UPR, UNHCR reported that stateless children born in the country are not entitled to Danish nationality by birth but could acquire nationality through naturalization, with requirements more stringent than those in the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women and men (the statute is gender neutral), including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is not defined by a lack of consent, but rather by whether physical violence, threat, or coercion is involved or if the victim is found to have been unable to resist. Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years for aggravated circumstances and up to six years for domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape.
Gender-based violence rates have increased due to COVID-19. The number of women enrolled in domestic violence shelters throughout the country in 2020 increased 3 percent compared with 2019. In January a new consent law went into effect. The law, which strengthened the country’s rape laws, criminalized sex without the explicit consent of all parties.
The police received 1,825 reports of rape or attempted rape in 2020.
Faroese law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law considers nonconsensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” to be sexual abuse rather than rape. In certain instances it also reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.
Greenlandic law criminalizes rape. The law does not provide a minimum sentencing for persons convicted of rape but does cap sentencing at 10 years. The law is applied equally regardless of the marital relationship of the offender and the victim. The law provides that sentencing be based on the severity of the case as well as an individual evaluation of the offender. Sentencing was typically between 12 and 18 months.
In the country’s UPR, two treaty bodies of the UNHRC expressed concern that numerous women had experienced violence or had been exposed to threats thereof, and that the rates of prosecution and conviction remained low. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was concerned regarding the high incidence of sexual violence, including rape; the lack of reliable associated statistical data; the inadequacy of legal provisions relating to rape; and the very low rate of prosecution of sexual violence.
The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female survivors of violence throughout the country, including in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Under the law a man who is the survivor of domestic violence is not afforded the same opportunities for help as a woman. While the law provides women the right to be admitted to a women’s crisis center, men can only be admitted to shelters or male centers as “functional homeless.” These centers did not necessarily have expertise in caring for survivors of violence because they house a wider target group, such as the homeless and those suffering from drug or alcohol addictions. In Greenland there were 748 sexual crimes reported in 2020, a 33.8 percent increase from the 559 reported in 2019.
The law provides for 10 hours of taxpayer-funded psychological help for women, but not for men, in shelters. The government may extend this treatment to men in men’s shelters on trial basis in 2022-23.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides that authorities may order a perpetrator or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment to pay monetary compensation to victims. The law considers sexual harassment an unsafe working condition and gives labor unions or the Equal Treatment Board the responsibility to resolve it. The government enforced the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, religious, personal status and nationality, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning and managing businesses and property laws. Little discrimination was reported in employment, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
COVID-19 vaccination rates among residents in the country’s so-called parallel societies (previously called “ghettos”) were considerably lower than other areas of the country. As of August, 40 percent of those older than age 12 who were invited to get vaccinated in the largest areas, including Vollsmose, Gellerup, and Tingbjerg, did not book a time to get vaccinated. This compared with 15 percent of the rest of the general population. Health experts attributed the low rates of vaccine uptake among certain minority and immigrant groups to insufficiently robust outreach and engagement efforts.
In a report from a study conducted between 2015 and 2018 and released in September 2020, the DIHR found that patients with non-Western backgrounds had a 40 percent higher risk of being subjected to coercion in psychiatric institutions.
The Finance Act of 2021 included a four-year grant to fund the country’s first crisis center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons with ethnic minority backgrounds. The crisis center will emphasize specialized counseling and guidance efforts and aims to promote security, well-being, and equal opportunities for LGBTQI+ persons with a minority background.
The Ministry of the Interior and Housing continued to implement the government’s action plan for the elimination of parallel societies by 2030. The government defines a parallel society as a neighborhood with more than 1,000 residents where more than half of the residents are of “non-Western” origin and meet certain socioeconomic criteria. Media widely interpreted “non-Western” to mean Muslim-majority communities. The law requires parents from parallel societies to send toddlers older than the age of one to government-funded daycare to be taught “Danish values,” including Christmas and Easter traditions. Authorities withheld quarterly benefits of up to DKK 4,560 ($711) from noncompliant parents. The law also requires neighborhoods that have been classified as “parallel societies” for four consecutive years to reduce the amount of public housing in the area by 40 percent through demolition, sale, or privatization of public housing. The government is responsible for re-housing evicted individuals.
The law protects the rights of the indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Greenland, who are Danish citizens and whose legal system seeks to accommodate their traditions. Through their elected internally autonomous government, they participated in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of energy, minerals, and other natural resources. Greenlanders also vote in national elections.
In the UPR, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that Greenland’s Thule tribe was not a distinct group of the area’s Inuit population breached the right to self-identification.
Birth Registration: Most children acquire citizenship from their parents. Stateless persons and certain persons born in the country to noncitizens may acquire citizenship by naturalization, provided, in most cases, that they apply for citizenship before their 21st birthday. The law requires medical practitioners to register promptly the births of children they deliver, and they generally did so.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, including corporal punishment, is illegal and punishable by up to two years in prison. The National Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office actively investigated child abuse cases. According to police statistics, approximately 17 percent of total sexual offenses in Greenland were crimes of “sexual relations with individuals below the age of 15.”
During the UPR the Committee on the Rights of the Child raised concerns that many children, especially children with disabilities, who could not stay with their families continued to be placed in alternative care institutions.
The 2020-23 joint Denmark-Greenland project to strengthen the work for vulnerable children and young persons in Greenland established 16 targeted initiatives to ensure early support for vulnerable children and young persons, who were survivors of abuse or sexual assault. The national government allocated DKK 80 million ($12 million) to help implement the recommendations and initiatives. Previously, the Greenlandic government reported that every third child in Greenland experienced neglect, that one in five children born after 1995 experienced sexual abuse, and that the suicide rate among youth was high.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.
A report released in October by Ethnic Consultant Team, a department of the municipality of Copenhagen, showed an increase in the number of persons who have contacted Copenhagen and Aarhus municipalities because of threats of so-called honor killings. An estimated 100 persons, mostly women, contacted the municipalities over the past three years. The municipality of Copenhagen received 90 inquires related to “honor killings” between 2018 and 2020, of which 80 were directly related to threats of “honor killings,” and the remaining 10 to anxiety related to “honor killings.” Spokesperson for the Council for Ethnic Minorities, Halima El Abassi, called the numbers “extreme,” adding that the country has issues surrounding honor, and the big cultural differences in some environments.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Penalties for the distribution of child pornography include up to a six-year prison sentence. The government generally enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sexual activity is 15. Prostitution is not criminalized, but the purchase of sexual services from a person younger than 18 is illegal. Penalties for inciting child prostitution include up to a four-year prison sentence.
The law in Greenland prohibits sexual relations with children younger than age 15; the Greenlandic Police determine the penalties for perpetrators.
Displaced Children: The government considered unaccompanied minor refugees and migrants to be vulnerable, and the law includes special rules regarding them. If a child younger than 18 enters the country without parents or any other family and applies for asylum, the child is termed an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker. As such, the child has special rights including to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance and be accorded the same protection as any other child permanently or temporarily deprived of his or her family environment for any reason, as well as other rights described in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A personal representative is appointed for all unaccompanied children who sought asylum or who stayed in the country without permission.
In the UPR, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that: asylum-seeking families with children might be detained awaiting deportation; efforts to identify children in vulnerable situations or girls at risk of female genital mutilation were insufficient; and the best interests of the child were not adequately considered in immigration cases. The committee and UNHCR were also concerned that children aged 15 or older did not have an automatic right to family reunification.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child was concerned that unaccompanied children might be placed in detention when awaiting deportation and, as of age 17, were placed in centers for adults and could be separated from unaccompanied siblings. The committee was also concerned that unaccompanied children missing from asylum centers could have become sex trafficking victims and that unaccompanied children not found mature enough to undergo the asylum procedure did not have their applications processed until they were considered sufficiently mature.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at .
The organization the Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jodiske Samfund i Danmark) estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 Jews lived in the country, mostly in the Copenhagen area.
In April the Jewish cemetery in Aalborg was vandalized. Two dolls were placed near a grave, and paint was poured over the dolls and the wall surrounding the cemetery. In addition, anti-Semitic flyers referring to a website for the right-wing radical movement Nordic Resistance Movement were found near the dolls. A 29-year-old man was charged with vandalism and hate speech. In June the man was sentenced to one year in prison. He appealed the verdict and was released from prison on November 1, because the court deemed that there was a risk that the expected sentence from the High Court of Western Denmark would not exceed the time the man had already served.
On April 6, a 28-year-old man was sentenced to nine months in prison for racism, violation of the peace of a graveyard, and gross vandalism against a grave in a Jewish cemetery in Randers in 2019.
Representatives of the Jewish community remained concerned regarding proposals to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than age 18 could reemerge in parliamentary debates.
The law prohibits discrimination against and harassment of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. It also mandates access by persons with disabilities to government buildings, education, employment, information, and communications. The government enforced these provisions.
The law provides for the right of free education for all children. The law provides that most children with disabilities be able to attend mainstream classes with nondisabled peers through secondary school. On April 20, parliament voted unanimously for a bill to include on the list of hate crime offenses criminal acts motivated by prejudice against a victim’s disability. Previously, only crimes motivated by prejudice against a victims’ ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or similar, counted as hate crimes. The new law took effect on May 1.
On January 1, the law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability was amended to provide reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities in day care, primary school, independent schools, and private primary schools (free primary schools). At the same time, the right to appeal was introduced to the Equal Treatment Board, which makes it possible to be awarded compensation. The purpose of the amended law is to avoid discrimination of children and young persons with disabilities in day care and at school and achieve the same opportunities for participation as other children and teenagers.
The right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs was generally not restricted, but some persons with disabilities reported problems in connection with elections, including ballots that were not accessible to blind persons or persons with mental disabilities. The country maintained a system of guardianship for persons considered incapable of managing their own affairs due to psychosocial or mental disabilities. Persons under guardianship who do not possess legal capacity have the right to vote in local and regional elections as well as in elections to the European Parliament, but not in national elections.
Greenland employed a spokesperson to promote the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. According to media reports, persons with disabilities in Greenland continued to lack adequate access to physical aids, counselling, educated professionals, and appropriate housing. Many Greenlanders with disabilities had to be relocated to Denmark because of lack of support resources in Greenland.
Police and other government agents did not incite, perpetrate, condone, or tolerate violence against LGBTQI+ individuals, or those reporting on such abuse.
Danish law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons, and the government enforced such laws.
The law affords individuals legal gender recognition, but government guidelines require that individuals undergoing transition receive hormone treatment at one of two designated government-run clinics; private physicians are not permitted to establish this course of treatment.
In May the protest movement Live and Let Live (Lev og Lad Leve) published a book detailing 1,000 examples of hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQI+ community in the country since 2020. The release of the book was accompanied by a demonstration at parliament where 1,000 chairs were placed in front of the castle, one to represent each story in the book. The organizers and authors of the book delivered copies of the book to politicians in parliament, among them Minister for Equal Opportunities Peter Hummelgaard. Several smaller demonstrations were held throughout the country where books were given to local politicians. Intersex Denmark and other LGBTQI+ organizations called on the country to end surgery on intersex children.
Representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities remained concerned regarding proposals to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than age 18 and its regular reemergence in parliamentary debates.