Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Swedish Basis for Finland’s Hate Speech Laws

The recent controversy over Mikko Ellilä, the Finnish blogger who was subjected to a police interview due to the content of his blog, prompted our Swedish correspondent LN to write to us.

Several people have noticed that the term — hets mot folkgrupp — for the offense in question, as listed in the Finnish penal code, is a Swedish phrase and not Finnish.

LN has researched and translated the relevant portion of the Swedish penal statute for the same offense. He deserves our thanks — all that legal language must be tough reading, even if you’re a native Swede.

Here’s LN’s translation, with his brief introduction:

In reference to the current case of Mikko Ellilä in Finland, since the Finnish legislation involved is built on Swedish legislation (from 1948, I think), it could be useful to know what the Swedish law says.

I have therfore made this very limping translation, true in meaning — except for how to translate hets mot folkgrupp where hets might mean either or all of the following: “disrespect”, “contempt”, and/or “weak threat”. Also, the Swedish word mål means a lot of things; here 1 mål = “target” and 2 mål = “legal case”.

I believe the actual law was written with respect to the Jews in postwar Sweden.

Probably all of us anti-Islamists are bigger or smaller lawbreakers with respect to the Penal Code Chapter 16, Section 8, — what do you think??

‘Hets mot folkgrupp’ är ett brott som innebär att offentligt sprida uttalanden som uttrycker missaktning för en eller flera utpekade folkgrupper. Enligt svensk rätt, är hets mot folkgrupp att uppsåtligen, och utan att det finns någon objektiv ansvarsfrihetsgrund i det enskilda fallet i uttalande eller i annat meddelande som sprids, uttrycka missaktning för folkgrupp eller annan sådan grupp av personer med anspelning på nationellt ursprung, etniskt ursprung eller trosbekännelse.

“‘Agitation against an ethnic group’ is a crime implying the public dissemination of statements or pronouncements expressing disrespect (contempt?) for one or several designated ethnic groups. Within Swedish jurisdiction, agitation against an ethnic group means any willful expressions or other forms of information that are officially spread, and, without there being in an individual case any objective exemption from criminal liability in a statement or other message that is disseminated, express disrespect (contempt?) for a group of people or any other similar group of people with allusion to origin of nationality, ethnic origin, or confession of faith.”
- - - - - - - - - -
Om straffmätningen stadgas: För brottet ‘hets mot folkgrupp’ döms i svensk domstol till fängelse i högst två år, eller om brottet är ringa, till böter. Om brottet anses som grovt döms till fängelse i lägst sex månader och högst fyra år. Vid bedömande av om brottet är grovt ska domstolen särskilt beakta om meddelandet haft ett särskilt hotfullt eller kränkande innehåll och spritts till ett stort antal personer på ett sätt som varit ägnat att väcka betydande uppmärksamhet.

“Concerning penalties to be meted out, it is decreed: For the crime ‘agitation against an ethnic group’, in a Swedish court one is to be sentenced at the most to two years in prison, or if the crime is minor, to a fine. If the crime is considered coarse [grovt — same meaning in Danish. Perhaps meaning ‘debased’ in this context…? — BB] one is to be sentenced to prison for no less than six months and no more than four years. In assessing whether the crime is coarse, the court will especially take into consideration whether the message contained any overt threat or offensive content and had been disseminated to a large number of persons in a way that has been intended to attract significant attention.”

Med begreppet folkgrupp avses enligt Justitiekanslern varje existerande etnicitet utom den svenska. Att svenskar undantas förklarar JK med att syftet vid tillkomsten av straffstadgandet om hets mot folkgrupp var att tillförsäkra minoritetsgrupper av skilda sammansättningar och bekännare av olika trosuppfattningar ett rättsskydd. Det fallet att någon uttrycker kritik mot svenskar torde inte ha varit avsett att träffas av straffstadgandet. Det bör dock påpekas att JK inte är en praxisskapande eller tolkningsvägledande instans och att uttalandet därför inte påverkar tolkningen av lagens lydelse.

“The concept ‘folk group’ or ‘ethnic group’ implies, according to the Chancellor of Justice, each existing ethnicity except the Swedish ethnicity. The Chancellor of Justice explains the exclusion of the Swedish people by stating that the aim of the penal statute about ‘agitation against an ethnic group’ was to ensure legal protection to minority groups of different compositions and confessing different faiths. A case in which someone expresses criticism against Swedes was probably not intended to meet the statute of penalty. It should however be pointed out that the Chancellor of Justice neither stands as a generator of precedent nor serves as an instance of guidance for interpretation of authority, and that the statement therefore does not influence the interpretation of the law’s wording.”

Mr. Ellilä was summoned by the police for his hearing yesterday. As soon I have a report of the outcome, I will post it.


History Snark said...

"expressing disrespect (contempt?) for one or several designated ethnic groups".

Hmmm. Only "designated" groups are protected?

“The concept ‘folk group’ or ‘ethnic group’ implies, according to the Chancellor of Justice, each existing ethnicity except the Swedish ethnicity"

Good to know that in Sweden, as in the US, only minorities are protected from hate speech/crimes. Lord knows, minorities would never commit either offense.

Unknown said...

Mål can also mean accent!

X said...

Interesting. If the dates are correct, my assumption that it was probably inspired by EU directives would seem to be false.

Looks like it was law designed to protect the jews without specifically favouring them. I expect it was passed in the heat of a fierce bout of chest-beating and national angst about the war and its results, which just goes to show: laws based on emotion are never good laws. Of course if it had been applied equally there wouldn't be a problem, as we are all 'ethnic groups' to one degree or another and consequently should all be equally protected by such laws. In theory.

Another bad law made by people who think they know better. Worse, by people who have taken it upon themselves to try and correct wrongs that only they can see. God save us from the saviours of mankind.

songdongnigh said...

“‘Agitation against an ethnic group’ is a crime implying the public dissemination of statements or pronouncements expressing disrespect (contempt?) for one or several designated ethnic groups.”

Not a good law, but wouldn’t anyone publicly advocating Sharia or posting the Koran on the internet be guilty under this statute? After all, Sharia and the Koran call for a lot more severe treatment of non Muslims than mere “disrespect or contempt”.

Captain USpace said...

Yes, yes! Preaching for Jihad & Sharia must be held up as the worst kind of racist and religious hate speech! It's one big threat against non-Muslims, especially Jews, continually repeated...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe thinks
free speech is just a slogan

if man denies history
don't ridicule him jail him