Opinion: Police records about the Roma community in Sweden is institutionalised racism
Opinion piece, published on Dagens Arena, monday 21 October, translated from Swedish
Police records regarding the Roma community in Sweden have deeply upset both the Roma and many in mainstream society. It revealed a sinister practice intent on flagrantly violating the values that are fundamental to a democracy. Respect for human integrity , dignity and rights of the citizen have obviously got lost some where in the police force’ skewed philosophy in combatting crime.
Police have stated that this type of data collection and intelligence is a normal and a necessary part of their work going on to say that this practice has been sanctioned by the Supreme Police Command.The figures are deeply disturbing and gives weight to the argument that those responsible in participating in this breach of public trust have lost both their legal and moral compass. Such an approach affects the trust element in the whole of society. However in a setting where deep-rooted prejudice and racism exist, it is primarily minorities who become the victims.
The Data Inspection Board and, the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity has acted swiftly on its own initiative to investigate the circumstances surrounding these registers and the role of the police. The authorities’ supervision is, however, limited to investigating the legality of the registers under the regulations governing authorities and police handling of personal data. It is encouraging that also the Equality Ombudsman (DO) has initiated an investigation. The focus of DO is central to understanding the underlying problems relating to these registers.
The problem not only concerns that sensitive personal information is recorded incorrectly or that the register contains data on persons who are not suspected of a crime. In essence the problem relates to the racism and anti-gypsyism which are obviously lurking within the public sphere which often leads to racial profiling and discrimination,as a severe consequence .
In the end it’s all about the rulers inability and unwillingness to deal seriously with these flawed institutional structures. The Government’s strategy for Roma inclusion , adopted in 2012 lacks effective measures to combat discrimination and discriminatory structures within the public sector. Measures to rectify these problems have focused like so many times before on the Roma community instead of the responsible authorities and society at large.
The lacklustre policies underscores the need for a complete overhaul of the system that is based on the European convention and the protection of individual rights and freedoms and it is crucial that the DO is able to take on the task. The situation also requires that the outward criticism as expressed by the government is not merely lip service and must actually lead to the government taking strong measures that address structural racism. Government policy must shift focus and ensure that state institutions act in a manner that guarantees equal rights and opportunities for all including the Roma .
The Government’s White Paper on central government abuses against Roma people should contribute to such efforts . The White Paper , however, has fundamental flaws in that it is the government itself that will define the state’s abuse while at the same time excluding the possibility of financial compensation. In other words, the perpetrator writes their history while the victims stand on the sidelines in eternal debt and gratitude.
The government knows today what the Roma have long known , that the state’s violations are not only part of the history . Such a situation requires that civil rights violations be linked to compensation. Compensation at a collective level and other compensatory measures in favor of the Roma community is required. In other words, there is every reason for the government to re-think their position and to do right by these wronged people
Robert Hårdh, Executive Director Civil Rights Defenders
John Stauffer, Legal Director, Civil Rights Defenders
Tags: Dagens Arena, John Stauffer, Robert Hårdh, and Romaregister.