Statement in Support of Climate Defenders

As practising lawyers committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, we are deeply disturbed at reports of excessive use of force and arbitrary mass arrests of climate activists by police during the course of the peaceful climate demonstration in Copenhagen on Saturday 12 December.

Both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the rights to receive and impart information. We urge the Danish Government to uphold those rights and to support the just demands of civil society for climate justice.

We refer to the article by Dirk Voorhoof below.

"Copenhagen police actions in total disrespect of fundamental human rights"
15-12-2009 15:51:08
I'm a law professor from Belgium, teaching at Copenhagen University, Law Faculty. This semester I've introduced the European standards and values on freedom of expression, democracy and human rights to visiting students. In class we have highlighted the standards in Scandinavian countries on these matters. Denmark is a good example on how freedom of expression is guaranteed according to human rights' principles. The last days in Copenhagen I have, beside my work at university, participated in some events related to the Climate Conference. I'm impressed by the commitment of the whole Danish Society in the actual climate policy debate.

The events of Saturday 12 December 2009, and more precisely the absolute unacceptable way the Danish police treated and arrested nearly 1000 demonstrators during the Climate demonstration, have shocked me. I have seen a lot of people being inhumanly treated by the police, being kept for hours pushed on the ground in the middle of the streets on a cold winter evening. It was obvious that hundreds of them had done nothing wrong, except from just being there, participating in the demonstration.

It is necessary and appreciated that the police isolates and arrests violent activists, but the intervention by the police forces at Amagerbrogade and the arrest of hundreds of innocent demonstrators was out of proportion. The police action was in total disrespect of the principles in the European Convention of Human Rights.

How can Denmark be an example to the rest of the world when so many people participating in a peaceful demonstration coming up for a sustainable development of the planet are inhumanly treated and arrested as criminals by the police forces?

Tomorrow I will leave Denmark for a while, hoping that when I come back around Christmas the Danish political authorities explicitly have condemned the police actions during the Climate demonstration of Saturday 12 December, unworthy for a democracy.

If the Danish authorities take no clear action against the police interventions of last Saturday, Denmark will undoubtedly loose credibility in the international human rights' community. A society that leaves a too big gap between the theory and practice of human rights cannot uphold the perception of being truly committed to these values and principles.

Author: Dirk VOORHOOF