Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Ministry of Justice investigates killings by the security forces.
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, and there were some reports government officials employed them. On January 7, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published the report of its visit to the country in April 2019. It reported a few isolated allegations of excessive use of force, such as the person having been violently pushed to the ground or tightly handcuffed, and of threatening behavior by police officers, for example, officers pointing a firearm at the head of the person at the time of apprehension. It also received “a few allegations of excessive use of force by prison staff and prison transport officers, and of verbal abuse by prison staff.” At the Ellebaek Prison and Probation Establishment for Asylum Seekers and Others Deprived of their Liberty, the delegation received one allegation of excessive use of force and several allegations of verbal abuse by staff, including racist remarks.
The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) reported an increased use of force in prisons. It also noted an exponential increase in the use of prolonged solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure against convicted prisoners over the previous five years–705 instances of more than 14 days in 2019, compared with seven instances in 2015.
In February the DIHR criticized the use of prolonged physical restraint in psychiatric facilities finding that the use of physical restraint for over one hour had no legal basis. The DIHR report highlighted 163 “long-term” detentions that lasted between one and four hours in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics were available. The Danish Psychiatric Association also found instances of detentions that extended over six hours.
In July a public nursing home in Aarhus municipality was criticized after hidden surveillance videos of residents receiving degrading treatment were published and circulated in the media. The surveillance showed the residents living in poor hygienic conditions and subject to verbal abuse from workers. Although government and police officials told news outlets this treatment was unacceptable, authorities took no official action regarding this case.
Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.
There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: The law prohibits authorities from holding minors in solitary confinement for more than seven days; restricts authorities’ ability to detain adults with youths between the ages of 15 and 17; and allows minors to receive education while detained. Authorities continued to hold convicted prisoners together with pretrial detainees in remand institutions.
In its January 7 report, the CPT stated that prisoners complained about access to the toilet (both during the day and at night) at the Copenhagen Police Headquarters Prison and at the Odense Remand Prison. In the Copenhagen City Police Station, the Nykobing Falster Police Station, and the Odense Police Headquarters, it observed a lack of access to natural light and insufficient artificial lighting in the cells. In addition, ventilation was poor in the cells of the Nykobing Falster Police Station.
The Ellebaek prison, operated by the Prison and Probation Service, held 117 rejected asylum seekers who were considered flight risks but had not committed other crimes. The CPT report deemed both the prison and the Nykobing Falster Holding Center as unsuitable for residents. The head of the CPT delegation stated that residents were kept in prison-like conditions with poor sanitary conditions. The report described harsh punishments, including 15 days of solitary confinement, for possessing a mobile telephone. The report also noted that detained migrants at risk of suicide sometimes were placed naked in an observation room to prevent their tearing their clothing to make a noose.
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 the media. The CPT, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other independent nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers regularly received access to police headquarters, prisons, establishments for the detention of minors, asylum centers, and other detention facilities. On January 7, the CPT published its report of its visit in April 2019.
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.
The law allows police both to begin investigations and to make arrests on their own initiative based upon observed evidence or to enforce a court order following an indictment filed with the courts by public prosecutors.
The law mandates that citizens and documented migrants taken into custody appear before a judge within 24 hours. The judge may extend police custody for a further 72 hours. In contrast to citizens and documented migrants, authorities may hold irregular migrants up to 72 hours before bringing them before a judge or releasing them. In all cases the law requires police to make every effort to limit detention time after arrest to fewer than 12 hours. A migrant generally is classified as irregular when the individual does not have the required authorization or documents for legal immigration. During the 72-hour holding period, the National Police, the Danish Center against Human Trafficking, and antitrafficking NGOs, if needed, can review an irregular migrant’s case to determine whether the migrant is a victim of human trafficking. In addition, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration can suspend the requirement for a 72-hour case review if the volume of asylum requests exceeds the ability of the government to complete reviews within 72 hours. Authorities can extend detention beyond 72 hours to conduct additional research in cases where the migrant’s country of origin or identity cannot be positively verified.
According to the CPT, police may administratively detain a person who endangers public order, the safety of individuals, or public security for a period not exceeding six hours or, in the context of public gatherings and crowds, 12 hours.
Authorities generally respected the right of detainees to a prompt judicial determination and informed them promptly of charges against them. There is no bail system; judges decide either to release detainees on their own recognizance or to keep them in detention until trial. A judge may authorize detention prior to trial only when authorities charge the detainee with a violation that could result in a prison sentence of more than 18 months or when the judge determines the detainee would seek to impede the investigation of the case, be a flight risk, or be likely to commit a new offense. The standard period of pretrial custody is up to four weeks, but a court order may further extend custody in four-week increments.
Arrested persons have the right to unsupervised visits with an attorney from the time police bring them to a police station. The CPT alleged questioning of detainees often began immediately upon arrest and during transport to the police station. Police frequently delayed access to an attorney until the accused appeared in court for a remand hearing. Several detained persons complained to the CPT that the first time they had met a lawyer was in court, a few minutes before the application of remand custody was being decided. The CPT reported that a number of detained persons had not been informed of their right of access to a lawyer or that their requests to contact a lawyer and have him or her present during police questioning had been ignored. Moreover, detained persons’ requests to see a lawyer and the action taken by police in response to such requests were not recorded systematically.
The government provides counsel for those who cannot afford legal representation. Detainees have the right to inform their next of kin of their arrest, although authorities may deny this right if information about the detention could compromise the police investigation. Detainees have the right to medical treatment, and authorities generally respected this right. Police may deny other forms of visitation, subject to a court appeal but generally did not do so. Fewer detainees were sent to isolation than in previous years, but the practice was still used as a method of punishment.
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; a fair, timely, and public trial; 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.
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
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 European Court of Human Rights if they involve alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, but only after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.
The government reports, and the Jewish Community confirms, that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities. The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
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 gather airplane passengers’ personal data. The DIHR alleged that the Ministry of Justice failed to demonstrate the law complies with the European Court of Justice’s conditions for collecting passenger name record information. For example, access to oversight mechanisms on the use of personal data is limited to Danish citizens.
During the summer, more than 100 residents in Vollsmose, a suburb of Odense, the country’s third-largest city, filed discrimination complaints with the Equal Treatment Board after receiving eviction notices. The complaints alleged that the law’s ethnic criteria for neighborhoods classified as “ghettos” was directly discriminatory as it set limits on the number of residents from “non-Western backgrounds” who may live in an area in order for that area to avoid classification as a “ghetto.” Areas classified as “ghettos” are subject to increased police surveillance and higher punishments for crimes such as loitering.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, 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 the press.
Freedom of Speech: 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. On June 2, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance reported that the police case file-processing system registers reported offenses of hate speech as well as their judicial outcomes. It is still not possible, however, to collect data of a more detailed character, such as category of offense, type of hate motivation, or target group, from the system.
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.
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government did not participate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its program to resettle refugees.
Abuse of Migrants and Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The CPT reported a number of persons who were detained for the up to 72-hour period allowed by law complained that they were unable to consult a lawyer.
In September 2019 the government stated it would close the Sjaelsmark Departure Center, a facility run by the Danish Prison and Probation Service for rejected asylum seekers who cannot be returned to their country of origin. In November 2019 the government committed to remove all the children in the center and their parents from Sjaelsmark before April. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration delayed this move until August 25, when 48 families with all 89 children in the center were moved to the Avnstrup Departure Center.
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.
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 are registered in another Dublin regulation state.
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 encourages repatriation of refugees rather than integration into society. The state provides financial assistance to refugees or asylum seekers who choose to return home. The state pays for their travel and provides a small sum of money to help them resettle in their homeland. The government provides similar financial incentives to nonrefugee or non-asylum-seeking residents who choose to return to their homelands. This policy decreases the likelihood of long-term residency permits for refugees and asylum seekers as it encourages repatriation over integration.
Temporary Protection: Through the end of September, the government provided temporary protection to 77 persons who did not qualify as refugees.
According to UNHCR, 8,672 stateless persons lived in the country at the end of 2019. Stateless persons can apply for citizenship if they have lived in the country for at least eight years.