UN experts urge Sweden to step up efforts against systemic racism

Minority groups spoke of fear of oppressive police presence, racial profiling, arbitrary stops and searches, say UN experts.

UN experts urge Sweden to step up efforts against systemic racism

Sweden must step up efforts to fight systemic racism and focus on strategies to restore trust between police and minority groups, the UN said on Friday.

Members of a UN Human Rights Council-appointed group of independent experts on advancing racial justice and equality said they were “deeply concerned” by Sweden’s reluctance to collect data disaggregated by race.

The International Expert Mechanism was in Sweden on a five-day visit for meetings and interviews to gather information on existing legislative and regulatory measures for tackling racial discrimination, according to a UN statement.

“The collection, publication and analysis of data disaggregated by race or ethnic origin in all aspects of life, especially regarding interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system, is an essential element for designing and assessing responses to systemic racism,” said Yvonne Mokgoro, who led the group.

“Sweden needs to collect and use this data to fight systemic racism,” she stressed.

Another expert, Tracie Keesee, said most of the testimonies they heard from members of “racialized communities” spoke of “fear of an oppressive police presence, racial profiling and arbitrary stops and searches.”

“Sweden should broaden the definition of safety that does not rely exclusively on police response,” she said.

“The police should focus on strategies to restore their trust among the communities they serve, including through diversifying its staff to reflect Sweden’s true multicultural society.”

Juan Mendez, a member of the experts’ group, said visits to police detention and pre-trial detention centers in Stockholm and Malmo left them “concerned over an excessive recourse to solitary confinement.”

“More generally, we are also concerned that Sweden may be addressing legitimate security challenges, including growing gang criminality, through a response which focuses on over policing, surveillance, and undue deprivation of liberty,” he said.

“We call upon Sweden to fully comply with the Nelson Mandela Rules - formerly the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners - and to privilege alternatives to detention,” he added.

The experts will submit their final report to the UN Human Rights Council in the coming months, according to the statement.