Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
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.
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.
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.
c. Freedom of Religion
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.