Iceland's Fourteenth Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination According to Article 9 of the Convention
1. In the following a general description will be presented of the most important laws enacted and measures taken during the two years which have passed since Iceland's Thirteenth Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination was concluded in February 1994. The account will be confined to the legal reforms or other measures and decisions on policy-making carried out or planned since then, which are of important nature and have a bearing upon the implementation of the Convention in Iceland. A more detailed description of the substance of new legislative and other measures is then to be found in Part II, where matters relating to the individual provisions of the Convention are discussed. No discussion will be presented of matters concerning the individual provisions of the Convention where no legislative amendments have been effected or measures taken and the situation in other respects is unchanged as compared to the previous reports.
2. As regards general information on Iceland and its people, the administration, and court system, the power to resolve whether human rights have been violated, and the applicability of international human rights conventions under national law, a reference is made to a core document concerning Iceland forming part of the reports of state parties in HRI/CORE/1/Add.26 of 24 June 1993 as these aspects remain unchanged if no particular observations are made to the contrary herein. A reference shall also be made in this respect to the General Observations in Part I of the twelfth Report in the document CERD/C/226/Add.12.
1. Amendment to the Constitution
3. As regards the most important legislative measures which have been taken since the thirteenth report was finalised, an Amendment of the human rights chapter in the Icelandic Constitution should first be mentioned. In June 1994 the Althing resolved that the human rights provisions of the Icelandic Constitution should be revised. The Parliamentary Resolution stated that a revision of the Constitution's human rights provisions was now timely with a view to the international obligations undertaken by Iceland in becoming a party to international human rights agreements. Subsequently, a Bill amending the human rights provisions in the Constitution was introduced in the Althing. In February 1995 the Althing accepted the Bill and it was re-accepted by the Althing in June after regular elections had taken place, after which the Amendment came formally into force.
4. The Amendment provides for extensive changes and additions to the human rights provisions previously in effect, which had become somewhat outdated in various ways, as they had remained almost totally unchanged since 1874. They were subject to criticism both in domestic debate and on the international scene. The critics chiefly maintained that the human rights chapter of the Constitution lacked clear provisions on various fundamental human rights. Statute provisions guaranteeing these rights were thus considered inadequate, as was the view that such rights were guaranteed by unwritten fundamental principles of law. The Amendment to the Constitution, according to which various new rights are added to those already provided for and some of the old provisions are phrased in a much clearer way, is intended to redress this situation.
5. Apart from the previously protected rights which where phrased in a clearer way with a wording in line with international human rights provisions, the rights expressly added to the human rights chapter of the Constitution, according to the Amendment, are the following, by reference to Section numbers:
- A general principle of the equality of all men before the law, without regard
to sex, religion, opinion, national origin, race, colour, financial status,
parentage and other status.
(Section 65, subsection 1);
- Equal rights of men and women (Section 65, subsection 2);
- A principle on freedom of movement and the right to choose a place of
residence (Section 66);
- A prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
(Section 68, subsection 1);
- A prohibition of forced labour (Section 68, subsection 2);
- A prohibition of retroactive criminal punishment and a prohibition of
providing for the death penalty by law (Section 69);
- Minimum requirements for fair trial in court procedure in civil and criminal
litigation (Section 70);
- The right to support in the case of sickness, disability, old age, unemployment and other comparable situation shall be guaranteed by law
(Section 76, subsection 1);
- The right to general education and suitable training shall be guaranteed to all by law (Section 76, subsection 2);
- The duty of the State to provide children with special legal protection
(Section 76, subsection 3);
- A prohibition of retroactive tax impositions (Section 77).
6. It should be noted that most of these rights were already protected by statutes or were regarded as unwritten but constitutionally protected legal principles. However, in the light of the importance of these rights, it was deemed safer to include them in the written Constitution.
7. The constitutional amendments mentioned above reflect to a great extent the provisions of various international human rights instruments to which Iceland is a party, both those prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and those having their origins in European co-operation. It may be reiterated that one of the aims of the revision was that constitutionally protected human rights should reflect the international human right obligations, by which Iceland is bound. These conventions will also play a key role for the interpretation of the constitutional provisions.
2. The Incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights
8. Since the last Report was compiled the European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into Icelandic law, by Act No. 62/1994, first of international human rights instruments, and thus its provisions can be directly invoked in court as domestic legislation. At present time no decision has yet been taken to incorporate other human rights instruments into domestic law.
3. The Children's Ombudsman
9. By Act No. 83/1994 the office of the Ombudsman for Children was established and came into operation on 1 January 1995. Its aim is to provide for societal conditions more favourable for children; the Ombudsman is to guard the interests and rights of children, and ensure that administrative authorities, individuals, societies and associations respect in full their rights, needs and interests. The Children's Ombudsman enjoys independence in his work and his most important role is to promote the protection of children's rights and welfare in all fields of the society. He inspects inter alia whether public authorities respect the provisions of international treaties that concern the rights and welfare of children. That applies particularly to the United Nations' Convention on the Right of the Child from 1989 to which Iceland is a Party. Since Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is intended to guarantee all children the rights set forth in the Convention without any discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or ethnic origin and other comparable considerations, the Children's Ombudsman will specifically examine whether any such breaches take place.
10. The Children's Ombudsman can both receive complaints and initiate investigation on alleged breaches on the rights set forth in the Convention. If he considers that public authorities, individuals or groups of individuals have acted contrary to the rights and interests of children he will submit a report setting out his recommendations to the party concerned. He will also supervise that legislation is in conformity with the rights and interest of children, and propose changes or amendments on legislation concerning children where he considers necessary.
11. The Ombudsman's office has now been operating for slightly more than a year and has dealt with a great variety of tasks. At the same time the Ombudsman has organised the function of the office and published and distributed widely information about the office to make its existence widely known. In 1995 the Ombudsman received between 400 and 500 requests for information concerning children's rights, either by telephone or in writing, of which a great deal comes from children. There is no formal complaint procedure, since it is not the role of the Ombudsman to deal with individual cases. However, the Ombudsman has been able to advice children in some instances and such requests have in addition brought to the Ombudsman's attention whether there is a need for the improvement of children's rights in certain fields and initiated special recommendations to the authorities.
12. Concurrently, the Children's Ombudsman has initiated public discussion on various children's affairs and made recommendations on necessary reforms of legal provisions and instructions given by administrative officers, which specifically concern children. The opinions and recommendations of the Ombudsman have lead to a growing public debate on children's issues. It should be emphasised that in this debate, the Ombudsman frequently refers to the provisions of the Convention on the rights of the Child and whether Icelandic legislation and practice is in conformity with the Convention.
4. A Bill on a New Personal Names Act
13. At the time of writing of the present Report a new Personal Names Bill has been submitted to the Althing. The Personal Names Act now in effect has been subject to criticism, in particular the arrangement of imposing upon a naturalized foreigner the obligation of assuming an Icelandic name to be used jointly with his original foreign name. Thus, the children of a naturalized foreigner who have attained the age of 15 years, and any later children, shall use an Icelandic personal name. If the new Personal Names Bill is enacted the duty of a foreigner to assume an Icelandic name on becoming an Icelandic citizen is abolished; both the naturalized person and his children can then retain their unchanged family names. It is expected that the Bill will be adopted in the spring of 1996.
5. The Preparation of a Bill Concerning the Right of Access to Public
14. At present time, a Bill is in the making adding a new provision to the Penal Code. According to the Bill it will be become a punishable offence to deny an individual service or access to any place intended for use by the general public, such as restaurants, hotels, transport, theatres and other public places on the grounds of colour, race, national origin and comparable considerations. The Bill is expected to be introduced in the Althing in the autumn of 1996.
6. The Establishment of a Refugee Council
15. In February 1995 the Government appointed the Refugee Council, with the participation of representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Social Affairs, Education and Health Affairs and a representative from the Red Cross. The Council is a permanent body and has regular meetings. The main objective of the Council is to organise the acceptance and arrival of refugees to the country and to deal with matters related to refugees who apply for asylum while their request is pending before the authorities. It is also intended to submit proposals to the Government concerning refugee policy and necessary measures that should be taken in that respect. The Refugee Council has inter alia submitted proposals to the Government concerning annual quotas of refugees to Iceland. In October 1995 the Government decided to receive a group of 25 refugees from Bosnia to Iceland. Their arrival to Iceland is now being prepared in cooperation with local authorities in the country, regarding matters such as providing housing and employment, arranging health care and other service they will need at their arrival. This is the first time since 1991 that Iceland receives such a group of refugees. The Icelandic Red Cross in coordination with the UNCHR is now deciding on the composition of the group.
16. A general revision on the Icelandic legislation concerning refugees is planned but has not yet commenced.
7. The Appointment of a Committee to Formulate a General Policy on
Immigrants in Iceland
17. In the Autumn of 1995 the Minister of Education appointed a Committee to formulate an overall policy on immigrants in Iceland, with the participation of representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Social Affairs and Education. The Committee's task is initially to collect information from various ministries, Government institutions and other public and private bodies which deal with matters concerning immigrants and to analyse whether there are particular problems in this field that must to be tackled through legislative, administrative or other measures.
18. On the basis of the collected information, the Committee will submit proposals to the Government to formulate a general policy on immigrants. This will inter alia include proposals as how to organise special service to immigrants in the field of education and social support, service of interpreters and other proposals aiming at improving the situation of immigrants in the country.
8. The Establishment of the Information and Cultural Center for
19. In 1994 the City authorities of Reykjavik established the Information and Cultural Center for Foreigners. Its task is to serve foreigners who come to Iceland, particularly to provide information concerning resident permits, work permits, health care, social service, kindergarten and other necessary information for immigrants and other foreigners staying in the country.
9. Publication and Distribution of the Convention
20. Since the thirteenth Report was concluded, various measures have been taken by the Government concerning the publication and distribution of international human rights conventions to which Iceland is a party. As a part of this project, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination has been published in a special leaflet and distributed widely. The Convention has inter alia been distributed to all lawyers working at the courts, both judges and deputies, and to all lawyers working at the district magistrates offices, the Chief of Police offices in the districts of the country and the office of the Public Prosecutor. In the Icelandic School for Policemen a general course on human rights is compulsory, where all the major international conventions on human rights, are introduced to the students.
21. Even though the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination does not enjoy direct force of domestic law, it was included in a new printed edition of the Law Collection which was published in January this year. Such a Law Collection is published approximately every fifth year and it contains all Icelandic laws in force at the time of its publication. Now for the first time, some of the major international human rights conventions to which Iceland is a party, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, was included in the Law Collection, in its first part, which contains the Constitution and other fundamental Icelandic statutes.
22. The Convention is distributed to all student in the first year of their law studies in the Faculty of Law at the University, as a part of their constitutional studies. In the final part of the law studies, a human rights course is offered to students, where the CERD is a subject among other international human rights instruments.
23. It should finally be noted that the conclusions of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, dated 17 August 1994, concerning Iceland's tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth Report under the Convention, provided an occasion for some public debate in Iceland. The Committee's conclusions were distributed to all public media and all the most influential Icelandic media described the conclusions.
24. It is evident that public interest and discussion on human rights has increased significantly in Iceland in the past few years. The Amendment of the human rights provisions of the Constitution may be regarded as a manifestation of this increased interest. The Bill amending the human rights provisions in the Constitution was subject to a great public debate when it was introduced at the Althing, which lead to some changes in its provisions before it was accepted. The growing public interest in matters concerning human rights can without doubt partly be traced to international involvement with matters relating to human rights in Iceland, and indications of where there may be scope for improvement.
10. Organisations Operating in the Field of Human Rights
25. Two organisations have been established in the recent two years specifically dealing with human rights. Firstly, the Human Rights Office was established in Reykjavik in the spring of 1994, similar to those which have existed in the Scandinavian countries for some time. The parties standing behind the Human Rights Office are the Icelandic section of Amnesty International, the International Save the Children Alliance, the Office of the Bishop of Iceland, the Icelandic Church Aid, the Icelandic Red Cross, the Women's Rights Association of Iceland, the Equal Status Council and UNIFEM Iceland.
26. The objectives of the Icelandic Human Rights Office are to collect information concerning human rights, to introduce such information to the public and to promote education and research in the field of human rights. The Office takes part in the exchange of information taking place between similar offices in the Nordic countries. The Office also promotes lectures and discussion on human rights, publication and dissemination of printed matter concerning human rights, and research in individual fields of human rights. The Human Rights Office has, among other things, concerned itself with the success, or lack thereof, in implementing international human rights instruments in Iceland. Some educational and informational work in the field of human rights has been undertaken by the Office, for the benefit of both lawyers and the public. The Office receives financial support from the State, which is 4 millions ISK for the year of 1996.
27. The second organisation operating in the field of human rights is the University Institution of Human Rights which was established in the spring of 1995. The institution was founded by the University of Iceland, The Icelandic Bar Association and the Icelandic Association of Judges. The main purpose of the institution is to promote research on the legal aspects of human rights, distribute the conclusion of such legal researches, promote education and lectures, and support students, teachers, barristers, judges and others to study in the fields of human rights.
28. Finally, the organisation Barnaheill (Icelandic Save the Children) should be mentioned. Barnaheill aims at improving the human rights of children in general. Thus, the association represents children in society by making the state, the local authorities and associations work for greater well-being of children, by influencing legislation and by making the public and politicians better aware of children and the environment in which they live. The association has taken initiative in various areas regarding publicising the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The association's revenues are derived from members' subscriptions; current membership is about 10.000, and it does not receive financial support from the State.
29. There is no formal cooperation between the above mentioned human rights organisations and the Government, but nevertheless there is some cooperation, particularly in gaining and distributing information concerning human rights.
11. Demographic composition of the population in Iceland on 1 December 1995.
30. The next two pages show tables, describing some relevant aspects of the demographic composition of the population in Iceland on 1 December 1995. They reveal on one hand the number of foreign nationals in Iceland and on the other hand the number of Icelandic citizens born abroad.
31. From the time Iceland's twelfth Report was prepared, the number of foreign nationals in Iceland has decreased slightly. On 1 December 1991 foreign nationals in Iceland numbered 5.395, but on 1 December 1995 they numbered 4.807. Of these approximately one third came from the other Nordic countries, and approximately one third from other European countries.
32. At the same points in time i.e. 1 December 1991, 10.565 Icelandic nationals had been born abroad, but 1 December 1995, 10.901 Icelandic nationals were born abroad. It should be noted that these figures include both those who were born abroad and acquired Icelandic citizenship on birth, and foreigners born abroad whom had subsequently acquired Icelandic citizenship.
33. For the purpose of comparison to figures from the previous years, a reference is made to tables on the same subjects included in Part I of the twelfth Report.
34. Population 1 December 1995 by Country of Birth and Country of
Population Total 267.809
Country of birth Country of Citizenship
Iceland 256.908 263.002
Other countries 10.901 4.807
The Nordic Countries 4.739 1.571
Denmark 2.164 990
Finland 113 78
Faeroe Islands 360 -
Greenland 29 -
Norway 738 305
Sweden 1,335 198
Other European Countries 3.116 1.715
Albania 1 1
Austria 58 27
Belarus - 1
Belgium 45 29
Bosnia-Herzegovina - 5
Bulgaria 38 27
Croatia - 19
The Czech Republic;
Czechoslovakia 46 24
Estonia 11 14
France 177 86
Germany 869 286
Great Britain 615 315
Greece 7 3
Holland 119 98
Hungary 49 32
Ireland 52 48
Italy 65 30
Latvia 1 1
Lithuania 14 12
Luxembourg 70 -
Malta 1 1
Portugal 44 39
Poland 365 326
Rumania 7 4
Russia; the Soviet Union 113 74
Slovakia - 5
Slovenia - 11
Spain 115 68
Switzerland 62 21
Ukraine - 13
Yugoslavia 172 95
America 1.560 707
Brazil 15 16
Canada 169 56
Chile 22 9
Colombia 34 11
Guatemala 26 3
Mexico 23 11
Peru 14 8
United States 1.209 567
Other American countries 48 26
Africa 215 97
Algeria 15 7
Ethiopia 15 1
Cabo Verde 21 13
Kenya 17 3
Morocco 41 24
South Africa 44 28
Other African countries 62 21
Asia 1.171 646
China 96 65
India 88 19
Indonesia 70 5
Iraq 7 3
Iran 14 8
Israel 20 4
Japan 35 19
Jordan 10 9
South Korea 28 3
Lebanon 18 4
The Philippines 281 167
Sri Lanka 88 6
Syria 10 8
Thailand 225 208
Turkey 21 4
Viet Nam 130 102
Other Asian countries 30 12
Oceania 107 78
Australia 53 33
New Zealand 47 36
PART IIParagraph 1
INFORMATION RELATING TO THE IMPLEMENTATION
OF ARTICLES 2 TO 7 OF THE CONVENTION
INFORMATION RELATING TO THE IMPLEMENTATION
OF ARTICLES 2 TO 7 OF THE CONVENTION
35. It is not possible to speak of a specific comprehensive policy developed by the Icelandic authorities to battle racial discrimination in Iceland. As discussed in para. 38 of the twelfth Report, issues relating to racial discrimination have in the previous years not gained much attention or been subject to a great public debate in Iceland. This in without doubt due to the fact that hitherto, the population in Iceland has been relatively homogenous and without any major segregated minorities based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin. As the table in para. 34 above reveals, there are approx. 4.800 foreign nationals in the country of which less than 1/3 are of different race or colour than the majority of the population in Iceland. It should however be taken into account that this number does not include initially foreign nationals of different races or colour who have acquired Icelandic nationality. It may be pointed out that a number of immigrants from Asia, particularly from the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam have acquired Icelandic nationality through naturalization and their children consequently acquire the Icelandic nationality at birth. In addition it should be noted that a number of children from India and Sri Lanka (approx. 100 in all) have been adopted by Icelandic parents in the recent 10-15 years.
36. No particular problems have evolved in relation to racial discrimination in the previous years that have required special measures from the authorities to tackle such discrimination. Even though no major problems or incidents have taken place concerning racial discrimination, there is a growing concern that clear rules should be adopted and other measures taken to prevent that people have to suffer discrimination on the grounds of their colour, race, or their national or ethnic origin. This concern can be considered to derive partly from the increasing interest of people in human rights in general. Accordingly, unwritten principles of the equality of all people were no longer considered sufficient for this purpose and provisions aimed at guaranteeing the principle of equality have been added into various laws. In the recent years, the Icelandic Government has thus gradually laid greater emphasis on the matter to meet a growing demand by taking legislative and other measures to prevent racial discrimination from taking root in Icelandic society.
37. As discussed in the general description on the Amendment of the Constitution a special provision of the Constitution, Section 65, subsection 1, now stipulates expressly the basic principle that everybody shall be equal before the law and enjoy human rights without regard to sex, religion, opinion, national origin, race, colour, financial status, parentage and other status. The second subsection of the provision stipulates specifically the equal rights of men and women.
38. No legal provisions or regulations can be found in Icelandic laws which condone racial discrimination. Such a legal provision would clearly violate the above described constitutionally protected principal of equality. Therefore, the courts would, through their judicial review, disregard or not apply such a provisions, even though they could not formally invalidate it.
39. With reference to paragraph (a) and (b) of Article 2 Icelandic authorities have neither undertaken to engage in any act or practice of racial discrimination nor supported any such activities.
40. There have not been incidents or circumstances which have evolved in the recent years indicating that some specific racial groups or individuals belonging to them need special protection as described in the paragraph, more than other racial groups. As discussed in para. 41 of the twelfth Report and para. 35 above, the largest group of foreign origin and race in the country comes from Asia. These are people from Thailand and the Philippines, particularly women who have married Icelanders and subsequently their relatives who have immigrated to Iceland. A number of refugees from Viet Nam and subsequently their relatives have settled in the country. The Ministry of Social Affairs has published booklets in some of the languages of the people from these countries, in order to facilitate their adaptation to Icelandic society and to inform them about their rights and legal status which is no different from that of Icelanders except as far as citizenship is concerned.
41. The language barrier is a common problem to most of the immigrants in the country without regard to their race, colour or ethnic origin. Therefore, measures taken by the authorities in this and other respects have aimed at solving the problems of immigrants in general. The appointment of a Committee to formulate a general policy on immigrants in Iceland, described in paras. 17 and 18 above, is a step in this direction. The Committee is at present time collecting information from various ministries, Government institutions and other public and private bodies which deal with matters concerning immigrants to analyse whether there are particular problems in this field which must to be tackled through legislative, administrative or other measures. This information will hopefully reveal, at least to some extent, whether immigrants of different races, colour or origin feel that they are being discriminated in Iceland and initiate measures to tackle such discrimination.
42. As discussed in para. 19 above, a special Information and Cultural Center for Foreigners was established in Reykjavik in 1994 with the task to serve people who come from other countries to live in Iceland. The center is open Mondays to Fridays between 10.00 and 16.30 and provides foreigners with necessary and practical information, such as concerning resident permits, health care, social service, insurance, the school system etc. At the center there is a list of interpreters fluent in many languages, to assist foreigners. The Center has published a leaflet introducing its functions in seven languages (Vietnamese, Polish, Tagalog, Thai language, Russian, Spanish and English).
43. Section 29, subsection 4 of the Act on Primary Schools No. 66/1995 stipulates that the objectives of education and tuition and the operating procedures of primary schools shall be such as to prevent discrimination on the basis of origin, sex, residence, social class, religion or physical disability.
44. There are 314 immigrant children, with a total of 40 different mother tongues, enrolled in Icelandic primary schools during the 1995-96 school year. The medium of instruction in the schools is Icelandic. Since the autumn of 1993 the Government has upgraded the level of services to immigrant children in the school system. Priority is attached to the teaching of Icelandic and to the process of adaptation, but at the same time care is taken to respect the rights of immigrants to maintain their culture, religion and mother tongue.
45. The Primary Schools Act does not contain any provision stating that pupils whose mother tongue is other than Icelandic should receive instruction in their mother tongue. Nor are there special provisions stating that the mother tongue of these pupils should be taught in the schools. On the other hand, efforts are made to encourage these pupils to maintain their mother tongue and culture.
46. The Ministry of Education has financed an experiment in mother-tongue instruction in which a group of pupils from Vietnam receives teaching and training in their mother tongue concurrently with teaching in Icelandic. This experiment is intended to provide information on whether mother-tongue instruction has a direct influence on how quickly and how well pupils gain a fluency in Icelandic. A study report is expected in the next few months.
47. Funding for the special teaching of Icelandic for primary school children of foreign origin has been as follows:
1992 ISK 6 million
1993 ISK 9 million
1994 ISK 10 million
1995 ISK 19 million
1996 ISK 19.2 million.
48. In addition, funds have been granted for special teaching of immigrants in the secondary schools and for adult education, with particular emphasis on the families of children of primary school age.
49. A special programme of education for immigrants has been under way under the auspices of the Ministry of Education since the autumn of 1993. Two specialists in the education of immigrants have been in charge of the programme, which includes children in nursery schools, primary schools and secondary schools and also adult education. They advise teachers on topics such as the teaching of Icelandic, course structure, educational materials and social adjustment, and have, i.a., initiated the establishment of special reception class groups for immigrant children.
50. The ministries of Education, Social Affairs and Justice have jointly provided the funds necessary to publish an information booklet in English about Icelandic society and the rights and duties of immigrants.
51. A budget has been drawn up under which the Ministry of Education is to organize and finance the publication of practical information on schooling in the languages of the most numerous immigrant groups in Iceland.
52. A special syllabus for the teaching of Icelandic to children who do not have Icelandic as their mother tongue is under preparation in the Ministry of Education; no such syllabus has existed until now.
Article 353. There are no particular legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which have been adopted in relation to this Article of the Convention from the time Iceland's thirteenth Report was finalised.
Article 454. Penalty clauses pertaining to this article have remained unchanged in Icelandic legislation since the thirteenth Report was submitted. Reference is made to former reports, particularly the third Report and paras. 14 and 15 of the twelfth Report. As discussed there, the main relevant penalty clauses in this respect are section 233 a and section 125 of the Penal Code. Section 233 a stipulates that any person who, by mockery, slander, insult, threat or other means, publicly attacks a group of persons on the grounds of their nationality, colour, race or religion shall be liable to a fine, simple detention or imprisonment for any term not exceeding two years. Article 125 of the Penal Code stipulates that any person who publicly ridicules or dishonours the religion or worship of a lawful religious community in Iceland shall be liable to a fine or simple detention.
55. No person has been prosecuted in the recent years on the grounds for having violated these two penal clauses.
56. As discussed in paras. 3-7 above an amendment on the human rights chapter of the Icelandic Constitution came into force in the summer of 1995. However, the constitutional provision concerning the freedom of association and necessary limitations on the right to form association remained unchanged in substance as regards the aspects relevant to Article 4 (b). The present constitutional provision concerning the freedom of association is section 72, of which subsection 1 reads as follows:
57. "People shall have the right to form associations for any lawful purpose, including political groups and trade unions, without having to seek prior authorization. No association may be dissolved by executive order. The functions of an association may, however, be suspended pro tempore, in which case an action must be brought, without undue delay, for its disbandment."
58. This provision, as the previous section 73 of the Constitution, requires that an association must have a lawful purpose to enjoy the protection provided, without defining or enumerating what is an unlawful purpose. An association with the aim to attack a group of persons on the grounds of their nationality, colour, race or religion by mockery, slander, insult, threat or other means would have an unlawful purpose, as these acts are punishable offences according to section 233 a of the Penal Code.
59. No association has been dissolved by executive order in the previous decades and no case has been brought before the courts for the disbandment of an association with the purpose to attack a group of persons on the grounds of their nationality, colour, race or religion. However, it should be noted that last year there was some public discussion about an association "The Nordic Mankind", founded and represented only by one individual who claims the idea that Iceland is for Icelanders only and the superiority of the Nordic race. No other individual has appeared in public to support these ideas or has been proven to be linked to this association. The authorities have not taken any particular measures against this person. This has however initiated some public debate, such as to what extent Icelandic newspapers should control the publication of articles from individuals claiming such ideas.
Article 560. The enjoyment of the rights enumerated in this article is according to Icelandic law secured to everyone without regard to race, colour or national or ethnic origin. The most important legal provision in this respect is section 65 of the Constitution stating the principle of equality of all persons before the law and in the enjoyment of human rights. Apart from this constitutional provision, the legislation does not provide for any discrimination on the above mentioned grounds, and in various laws, such as in section 11 of the Act on Administrative Procedure and section 29 of the Primary School Act, this principle is expressly stated. It should nevertheless be pointed out that it is considered justifiable that certain rights under Icelandic law are limited to persons with Icelandic citizenship, such as the political right to vote and to stand for election, the conduct of public affairs and that certain general restrictions are imposed by law on the rights of foreigners to own real estate or share in industrial firms in the country.
61. It should be noted that one particular legal provision has been subject to criticism for discriminating between legitimate and illegitimate children born in Iceland, who have foreign mother. Thus, according to the Icelandic Nationality Act a child does not acquire Icelandic citizenship at birth if its mother is a foreign national and is not married to the child's Icelandic father, but it would do so if its parents were married. However, in this case the child will acquire Icelandic nationality with the marriage of its parents if it is under the age of 18. This rule is the same as that of some other Nordic countries concerning nationality, but in the recent decades there has been great cooperation on the subject between the Nordic countries, with the objective to unify legislation in this field. It is based on the presumption that a child acquires the nationality of its mother, which seems to be the general rule in the legislation on nationality in the majority of states.
62. Icelandic nationality is not only acquired according to conditions set forth in the Icelandic Nationality Act. As a matter of fact, the greatest number of foreigners who acquire Icelandic nationality, approximately 150-170 annually, do so through a special naturalisation act passed twice annually by the Althing. When granting Icelandic nationality, the Althing is not bound by strict legal requirements that the applicants must fulfil. A special parliamental Committee which deals with these matters has nevertheless set general guidelines it usually follows when granting nationality. According to these guidelines Icelandic nationality may be granted to a foreigner after two years domicile in Iceland if one parent is an Icelandic national, instead of the general rule that Icelandic nationality is first granted to foreigners after seven years domicile in the country. The Ministry of Justice has recently drawn the Committee's attention to the possible situation that a child can be born stateless in Iceland if its mother is an unmarried foreigner, who either is stateless herself or the law in the country of which she is a national does not provide that the child acquires her nationality automatically. The Committee is now considering to add a new rule expressly providing for the possibility to grant Icelandic nationality to a child born stateless in Iceland.
63. There have not been cases or instances, known by the authorities, where people complain that private parties have denied them access to public places on the grounds enumerated in Article 5(f). According to the present legislation there are no clear remedies available to individuals who suffer discrimination from other individuals in such instances, since Icelandic legal provisions concerning discrimination mainly aim at protecting individuals from discrimination vis-à-vis the state and public administration. As discussed in para. 14 above a Bill is now being prepared to add a new provision to the Penal Code, declaring it a punishable offence to deny an individual service or access to any place intended for use by the general public, such as restaurants, hotels, transport, theatres and other public places on the grounds of colour, race, national origin and comparable considerations. The Bill is expected to be introduced in the Althing next autumn.
Article 664. As to the remedies through national tribunals and other State institutions against acts of discrimination, a reference is made to paras. 22-37 and 54-60 of the twelfth Report and para 4. of the thirteenth Report. The legislation concerning the Icelandic court system and the administrative system remains unchanged since the thirteenth Report was finalised.
65. However, it should be noted that with the amendment to the Constitution a new provision has been added to the human rights chapter, expressly securing certain procedural rights. Accordingly, section 70 of the constitution reads as follows:
66. "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal. The trial shall be held in public unless otherwise decided by the judge according to law, in the interests of morals, public order, national security or the parties concerned.
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty."
67. Even though these procedural rights were already expressly provided for in the general procedural legislation or regarded as unwritten principles it was deemed safer to include them in the written Constitution.
68. As discussed in the twelfth report, the remedial authority according to article 6 available in Iceland, in cases of discrimination, is mainly threefold, i.e. the courts, the administrative system and the Ombudsman of the Althing. It may be noted that last year, the office of the Children's Ombudsman came into operation. However, the Children's Ombudsman is not a remedial authority as there is no formal complaint procedure and it is not the role of the Ombudsman to deal with individual cases. Nevertheless the Ombudsman receives a number of inquires and is able to advice children or their parents. Such requests have in addition brought to the Ombudsman's attention whether there is a need for the improvement of children's rights in certain fields and initiated special recommendations to the authorities.
69. No cases, neither civil nor criminal cases, have been brought before the courts in the recent years concerning racial discrimination. According to information from the Ombudsman of the Althing the office has not received any complaint in the recent years from individuals claiming that they have been discriminated against by the authorities on the grounds of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. The Children's Ombudsman has not initiated any special recommendations to the authorities on the basis of problems concerning racial discrimination or prejudices against children.
Article 770. As described in paras. 20-24 above, various measures have been taken in the recent years in relation to create and promote public awareness about human rights and international human rights instruments. These measures have been taken both by the authorities and several human rights organisations, particularly the Human Rights Office and Icelandic Save the Children. A special emphasis has been laid on introducing the provisions and principles of the Convention on the rights of Child which includes the vital provision in Article 2, that the extensive rights enumerated in the Convention shall be secured to each child without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
71. In 1993 the Minister of Justice appointed a working group with representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Social Affairs, Health Affairs and Education in order to study and make proposals on the form which the publicity of the Convention on the rights of the Child should take. The working group emphasised on the publicity of the Convention aimed at children of different ages and with this objective the Convention was published and distributed in three versions of brochures for different age groups of the primary school.
72. The brochures on the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be distributed regularly on a permanent basis to pupils in all primary schools in the future. It is now under preparation to include the Convention as a permanent part of the Curriculum Guidelines for Primary Schools.
73. It should also be noted that the Icelandic "Save the Children" has recently undertaken a comprehensive programme to introduce the provisions of the Convention to the public.
74. Even though the above mentioned measures have chiefly aimed at introducing and publicising the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it must be considered as an important step in promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship as a part of the education of children in Iceland. In this publication campaign, special emphasis has been laid on the principle of equality of all children without regard to race, colour and national or ethnic origin.
75. It should be iterated as discussed in paras. 20-24 that as a part of the project to publicise and distribute various human rights conventions, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination has been published in a special leaflet and distributed widely.
76. Icelandic authorities have participated in some international cooperation which has taken place in the recent two years concerning the promotion of understanding and tolerance towards foreigners and between different racial and ethnical groups.
77. The most important task in this respect was the project "The North against Xenophobia" (Norden mod fremmedhad). The idea initially derived from the Vienna Declaration of 1993, where the Head of States of the Member States of Council of Europe declared an action programme in Europe against racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance. In accordance with this and a resolution adopted on the 43rd Assembly of the Nordic Council in November 1993 a special Inter-Nordic Steering Committee was appointed with the participation of Iceland, and a national committee in each of the Nordic countries, including Iceland. This project was also related to and in cooperation with the Council of Europe's project "European Youth Campaign against Racism."
78. The work of "The North against Xenophobia", was divided mainly into the five following projects.
- "The Train of Cultural Freedom" - This was made in cooperation with the Council of Europe's project "The European Youth Train". The aim of this project was to collect young people from all over Europe to travel by train around Europe in the summer of 1995, and introduce the Campaign against Racism, Antisemitism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in the various cities of Europe. The project was introduced widely in Iceland and discussed in the mass media. Between 100 and 200 applications for participation were submitted from Icelanders at the age of 18-22 and 29 of those were accepted to take part in the train travel. There were 241 participants from the Nordic countries.
- A Inter-Nordic documentary film about "The Train of Cultural Freedom" has been produced and will soon be broadcasted in the Icelandic National Television.
- A video project about xenophobia in the Nordic countries: An Inter-Nordic video film about immigrants, with the participation of an Icelandic representative, is now in the making.
- An essay contest for young persons was held in the spring of 1995. The essay's subject should deal with racial prejudices, xenophobia or conflicts between different religions. The essay which won the first price, "Racism and racial prejudices", was published in the largest newspaper in Iceland.
- A seminar for youth advisers and professionals in Iceland working with young people took place in October 1995. An emphasis was laid on the improvement of communication between young people of different origin, problems that may evolve and are related to prejudices against different races or minorities.
- Finally, a Nordic mass media conference was held in Finland in October 1995 with the participation of Iceland. The conference's main subject was how the mass media deals with immigrants, its influence and consequences in this respect.
79. It should finally be noted that the Human Rights Office has offered special lectures concerning human rights and tolerance, for people working with and teaching immigrants in the country. In cooperation with the Icelandic Save the Children, the Office has organised seminars for retraining programmes at the Teachers' Training College, where the main objective has been to propagate the purposes and principles of the Universal Declarations on Human Rights and subsequent international human rights conventions.