Constitution Day is a celebration of political and human rights for all. Is Denmark neglecting them?

Christiansborg Slotsplads. Photo from Jyllands Posten

Following the death of Christian VIII on January 20th 1848, his son, Frederik VII became Denmark’s new king. Frederik VII adopted the idea of making Denmark a constitutional monarchy and became known for his motto “the people’s love, my strength”.

On June 5th 1849, the King signed Denmark’s Constitution (Grundlov) to replace the King’s Law (Kongeloven) and, in doing so, became the last King of Denmark to rule as an absolute monarch.

Since then, June 5th has been celebrated as Constitution Day in the Scandinavian country. The occasion is commonly commemorated by political rallies, seminars and outdoor parties which this year are mostly postponed after the corona crisis.

The original Constitution on display at the Danish parliament. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

In his book “Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today”, author Scott Gordon states the fundamental aim of a constitution is to divide power into various organisations or institutional entities in a way that ensures the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizens, including those that may be part of a minority.

Denmark’s constitution provides for just the same: the interests of each citizen are sheltered by dividing power in a balanced way and providing freedom of speech, expression, association and religion. 

But in recent years the political developments, including the banning the Islamic burqa in public, ghetto plans, strict immigration and family reunification rules, neglecting the immigrants in the corona package etc have been criticised by various national and international organisation like The United Nations, Amnesty International for not being in accord with Human rights conventions.

Amnesty International Europe Director Gauri Van Gulik said regarding the banning of burqa that if the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing.

One of the most controversial bill recently passed is the Ghetto plan. Three out of five mentioned criteria is enough to declare an area as Ghetto. These criteria includes the discriminatory clause that an area with over 50% Non-western immigrant or descendent of non-western immigrant population must be listed as Ghetto. Once an area is declared as Ghetto, than the residents must fulfil number of conditions to continue their residency in the area otherwise must leave the area. According to Mandag Morgen some 11,000 people will have to leave their homes over the coming years as a result of the so-called ghetto package. The UN, human rights organisations and various NGOs has called the package a discriminatory and must end. In a report, the UN calls the Danish ghetto list discriminatory and calls directly to drop the ghetto definition because it discriminates against non-Western citizens.

Read more: FN dumper ghettopakken, fordi den diskriminerer ikke-vestlige borgere

Similarly, the Danish government has been criticised for not insuring the protection of one’s family life, with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights cited. Strict Danish rules on family reunification risk violating the rights of immigrants. While the than immigration minister Inger Støjberg celebrating the strict rules with a cake said, going to the “limits of conventions” was “a risk I’m willing to take”. While many believe that she has crossed those limits.

Inger Støjberg celebrating strict immigration rules with a cake. Photo facebook

Denmark is a signatory to various European, United Nations and other international treaties including the European Convention on Human Rights treaty of 1953, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN’s 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

This not only means that Danish laws must guarantee human and political rights domestically but that Denmark must also work along other nations to ensure these rights around the world.

In June 1945, the Charter of the United Nations (UN) was signed in San Francisco by 51 founding countries, including Denmark. Photo: UN Photo/Rosenberg

Whether it is the recent murder of the African American George Floyd, the continuous discrimination and brutalities against Black people in The US, the genocide of Rohingya people by the Myanmar government, The Chinese oppression in Hong Kong, atrocities against the Pashtuns by Pakistan, the Kashmiris human right violations by both Pakistan and India or the Israeli aggression and occupation in Palestine, Denmark must not only condemn but make sure that the human and political rights of these oppressed communities are not violated.

Denmark, a founding and essential member of the UN, is bound to seek that the right of life, freedom and fair trial is provided to people around the world. Meanwhile, the Danish laws must not discriminate against people of a specific ethnicity, culture, language, religion and identity here at home.

We may celebrate Constitution Day with rallies, seminars and outdoor parties, but celebration will truly be due when every single law is in accord with constitution and human rights conventions.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

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