August 25, 2004 10th Bhadon, 536 Nanakshahi
1216 København K
Re: Ripudaman Singh,
Dear Lene Espersen
UNITED SIKHS is very concerned about serious miscarriage of justice regarding Mr. Ripudaman Singh, a member of Sikh faith, who is facing criminal charges for carrying a Kirpan, an article of faith that members of the Sikh religion are required to wear on their person at all times.
Mr. Singh, who is a PhD. student at Department of Human Genetics, University of Aarhus, Denmark, was charged on 24th May 2004 for carrying a curve blade Kirpan by Copenhagen Police, who considered it a common knife.
Contrary to the characterization of the Kirpan as a mere weapon, the Kirpan is a mandatory article of faith for initiated adherents of the Sikh faith. The Kirpan is an article of faith that is carried by Sikh men and women on their person at all times. It is not a cultural artifact but a religious requirement.
In Denmark, the right to Freedom of Religion is protected by virtue of the constitution and international instruments. The general provision of the Danish Constitution of 1849 as amended in 1953 concerning the right to Freedom of Religion and Articles 67, 68, and 70. These provisions are supplementary to the protection implied in Article 77 concerning the right to freedom of expression, Article 78 concerning the right to freedom of association and Article 79 concerning the right to freedom of assembly. Below, you will find the relevant excerpts of Denmark’s Law relating to the Freedom of Religion and evaluations by the international community of Denmark’s implementation of their own laws.
(UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of Sikh organizations that help in the social development of minority communities and promote civil and human rights of all people. The civil and advocacy wing of UNITED SIKHS came into play in the wake of events since September 11, 2001.)
Denmark Law: Adopted 5 June 1953
Section 70 [Freedom of
No person shall for reasons of his creed or descent be deprived of access to complete enjoyment of his civic and political rights, nor shall he for such reasons evade compliance with any common civic duty.
Part VIII [Individual Rights]
Section 71 [Personal
(1) Personal liberty shall be inviolable. No Danish subject shall in any manner whatever be deprived of his liberty because of his political or religious convictions or because of his descent.
(2) A person shall be deprived of his liberty only where this is warranted by law.
In the past several jurisdictions in this country have upheld the Sikhs right to practice their religion by letting them wear the Kirpan.
Denmark's fourth periodic report (CCPR/C/DNK/99/4, February 1999) was considered by the Committee at its October/November 2000 session. The report prepared by the government contains information on, inter alia: the translation of the Covenant into Greenlandic; courses on the general human rights conventions within the sphere of the Ministry of Justice; increased punishment for the dissemination of Nazi and racist propaganda; human rights education and training of employees with the police and the Public Prosecutor; police outreach initiatives in relation to ethnic minorities; the Act on Integration of Aliens in Denmark (1998); measures to strengthen the Board for Ethnic Equality; the legal prohibition of discrimination in the labour market; the promotion of human rights within the educational system; efforts to promote equality between women and men; the lawful use of force by police; proposals to regulate inmates' rights and duties; young offenders; rules concerning the expulsion of aliens; the public administration of justice; a bill on the treatment of personal data; the right to freedom of religion; a new Act on Custody and Access of children; family reunification; and the establishment of a Children's council.
In its concluding observations and comments (CCPR/CO/70/DNK), the Committee welcomed: the government's high level of respect for human rights generally and for its obligations under the Covenant; government efforts to educate its population, and in particular to train the police, in human rights; the fact that, following its third periodic report, Denmark has changed the rules and practices on the use of police dogs in crowd control; new rules on examination of complaints concerning the police; the high level of respect for gender equality and the measures taken to achieve full equality; the provision of legal training in Greenland, the promotion of Greenland's financial independence and support for the Greenland Houses in Denmark; the translation of the Covenant into Greenlandic; the amendment of the Criminal Code to prohibit advocacy of national or racial hatred.
The principal areas of concern identified by the Committee included: the reservations entered by the government to the Covenant and their continuation; the delay in resolving the claim for compensation by the members of the Thule community in Greenland in respect of their displacement from their lands and the loss of traditional hunting rights as a result of the construction of the military base at Thule; reports that the alleged victims in the Thule case were induced to reduce the amount of their claim in order to meet the limitations set in legal-aid requirements; the lack of information on the implementation of the Covenant in the Faeroe Islands.
The Committee also noted with concern: the extended use of solitary confinement for persons incarcerated following conviction, and especially for those detained prior to trial and conviction; continuing discrimination against women, notably in respect of employment in the public and private sectors and in applications for asylum; reports of discrimination against ethnic minorities; the provision in the Aliens Act, Article 40c, under which the Immigration Authorities may require DNA examination from the applicant and from persons with whom the applicant claims the family ties on which a residence permit is to be based; the fact that asylum-seekers are often restricted or discouraged from choosing residence in specific municipalities or from moving from one municipality to another.
The Committee recommended that the government, inter alia:
· take the steps necessary to ensure that all rights under the Covenant are fully protected in domestic law;
· continue to consider withdrawal of some or all of the reservations entered to the Covenant;
· provide information in response to reports that victims in the Thule case were induced to reduce the amount of their claim in order to meet the limitations set in legal-aid requirements;
· include in the next report information on the implementation of the Covenant in the Faeroe Islands, including with regard to the implementation of the right of self-determination;
· reconsider the practice of solitary confinement so as to ensure that it is imposed only in cases of urgent need;
· ensure that the Covenant may be invoked before the authorities and the courts;
· provide in the next report information on measures taken to address discrimination against women, notably in respect of employment in the public and private sectors, and in applications for asylum;
· ensure equality of treatment for ethnic minorities; take measures to prevent the occurrence of racial discrimination in, for example, restaurants and night-clubs; provide information on this matter in the next report;
· provide additional information with respect to equality between National Church members and members of other religions, and between members of religions and non-believers, in respect of financial subventions, educational costs and special taxes;
· ensure that DNA testing is only used when necessary and appropriate to the determination of the family tie on which a residence permit is based;
· ensure that any measures to restrict or discourage asylum-seekers from choosing residence in specific municipalities or from moving from one municipality to another are in strict compliance with article 12 of the Covenant;
· provide information in the next report on the stages of the application procedures for asylum at which legal assistance may be had and whether the assistance is free at all stages for those who cannot afford it.
There is plenty of freedom of religion, but no equality between religious communities in Denmark
In Denmark, the right to freedom of religion is safeguarded by sections 67, 70 and 71 of the Constitution, though article 9 of the ECHR provides a more extensive protection of the freedom of religion than the Constitution. This is due to the fact that in Denmark freedom of religion is not interpreted as an obligation to treat all religious communities and their members in an equal manner, i.e. despite the fact that article 14 of the ECHR relating to nondiscrimination also encompasses religion.
Pursuant to the Constitution, the Danish National Evangelican Lutheran Church (hereinafter referred to as the Church) is a privileged religious community, and there is a close connection between the State and the Church. For instance, the Constitution stipulates that the Church shall be supported by the State. This means, inter alia, that the State supports the Church financially. Meaning that all tax payers, irrespective of their religious conviction, contribute to the Church through ordinary direct taxes, even though section 68 of the Constitution stipulates that “no one shall be liable to make personal contributions to any denomination other than the one to which he adheres”.
However, the ordinary income taxation is not interpreted as personal contributions, and in this way it is justified that all tax payers, including e.g. Jews, Muslims and Christians, who do not belong to the Church, contribute to maintaining the Church. For instance, direct taxes make up for approximately 40 % of the salaries and pensions to the priests, whereas salaries to bishops and salaries, etc. in connection with the running of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs are financed via ordinary taxes. Apart from these appropriations, public authorities undertake administrative tasks on behalf of the Church, which other religious communities have to handle themselves, e.g. calculation and collection of contributions to the church (taxes). Finally, the theological education of the priests of the Church is undertaken by two of the universities in the country.
Today, a four-tiered system is used to divide religious communities in Denmark: i) The Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church, ii) the socalled recognized religious communities, iii) religious communities with an authorisation to issue marriage certificates, also referred to as the approved religious communities, and iv) Religious communities or groups which have not been recognized by the State. The immigration taking place over the last four decades has together with, inter alia, the withdrawal of a certain amount of people from the Church, meant that approximately 13 % of the population in modern Denmark does not belong to the Church.
When the Constitution saw the light, the Christian marriage ritual was the only way whereby a legally binding marriage could be entered into. Therefore, an act governing freedom of religion relating to the right of recognized religious communities to marry their members, were adopted in 1851. This way the status of religious communities as being recognized by the State was linked to their right to marry members of their communities.
Today, there are 10 recognized communities in Denmark. In 1970, a new Marriage Act came into force. Now, it was no longer possible to be afforded the status of a recognized religious community. Instead, a religious community can be approved by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. This is normally done by the Ministry issuing a marriage authorisation to the priests of one of more religious communities after they have submitted an application in relation hereto. Upon granting such an authorisation, the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs shall evaluate whether the community in question can be regarded as a genuine religious community. In 1998, a new committee was set up under the auspices of the Ministry, composed of experts who are to provide the basis for such an evaluation. Today, there are approximately 60 religious communities which have been granted a marriage authorisation.
The priests outside the Church, who have been granted a marriage authorisation in accordance with the new act of 1970, i.e. in approved religious communities, are not entitled to register marriages so that they become legally binding. Nor can they carry out a legally binding naming ceremony in connection with a baptism. The Church in the parish, where the person who is to be named was born, shall always register the name given to this person. Only recognized communities can keep a register of religious ceremonies, e.g. marriages and baptisms. Registration of births and deaths is undertaken by the Church, which is also responsible for the making of personal files on the entire population, notwithstanding their religious affiliations.
There is, however, one area where religious communities outside the Church have more favourable terms than the Church. According to the current rules and regulations, the members of such communities are entitled to tax deductibility when granting contributions to their respective communities. An advantage which does not apply to members of the Church when they pay similar church taxes. The recognized and approved religious communities are moreover exempt from tax assessment of real property and property taxation when such property is used for religious purposes.
One of the most important points to be made in relation to the discussion on equality between religious communities in Denmark, must be that minority religions in a few areas are exposed to unfounded discrimination contrary to article 14 of the ECHR.
With the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on 1 May 1999, the EU has now got the authority to fight discrimination on grounds such as affiliation with a particular religion or church, cf. article 13. Due to Denmark’s scepticism towards this particular provision, the Treaty at the same time obligates the Union to respect the status, which has been afforded to religious communities in the respective Member States.
Eva Maria Lassen: “Religion og menneskeret. Om jّdedom, kristendom og islam” (Religion and human rights. About judaism, cristianity and islam), Lindhardt & Ringhoff, 2000.
Over recent years, Denmark has taken steps which are relevant to combating racism and discrimination, including measures to provide new arrivals with language, educational and professional skills, steps to combat discrimination and increase ethnic diversity in the labour market and the setting up of a specialised body in the field.
Problems of xenophobia and discrimination persist, however, and concern particularly non-EU citizens - notably immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees - but also Danish nationals of foreign background. People perceived to be Muslims, and especially Somalis, appear to be particularly vulnerable to these phenomena. Most of the existing legal provisions aimed at combating racism and discrimination do not appear to provide effective protection against these phenomena. Of deep concern is the prevailing climate of opinion concerning individuals of foreign background and the impact and use of xenophobic propaganda in politics. Discrimination, particularly in the labour market, but also in other areas, such as the housing market and in access to public places, are also of particular concern.
In the following report, ECRI recommends to the Danish authorities that further action be taken to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance in a number of areas. These recommendations cover, inter alia, the need to ensure that the legal framework aimed at combating these phenomena is adequate and effective; the need to ensure that policies within the area of integration favour full participation on an equal footing; the need to take measures to address problems of discrimination in various spheres, especially employment, housing and access to public services; the urgent need to fight against the influence of racism and xenophobia in the political sphere and to improve the general climate of opinion towards individuals of a foreign background.
G. Reception and status of non-citizens
- Act on Integration
20. ECRI welcomes the efforts of the Danish authorities to create a comprehensive integration plan for new arrivals and offer them tools they will need for success in Danish society. ECRI is also pleased to learn about the possibility of establishing local integration councils, and hopes these Councils will provide immigrants and refugees with an opportunity for effective representation in expressing their experience of integration efforts. ECRI is concerned, however, that the manner in which new arrivals are to be dispersed throughout the country may involve restrictions on the right to freedom of movement. In particular, the system of quotas, the lack of an adequate possibility to appeal the allocation decision to another body and the need for approval to change municipalities without risking a reduction or termination in social assistance, might, in individual cases, involve an element of compulsion. ECRI notes that the personal situation of the individual, (including particular wishes, linguistic and cultural background, educational and vocational qualifications and needs, family and other forms of attachment to people already residing in Denmark), is an element of the decision of allocation to a given municipality and encourages the Danish authorities to ensure these personal needs and wishes are sufficiently taken into account.
21. ECRI is also worried that the implementation of the Act may, contrary to the Act's stated intention, create conditions whereby individuals will have difficulties participating "in the life of society in terms of politics, economy, employment, social activities, religion and culture on an equal footing with other citizens". In this regard, ECRI emphasises the importance for new arrivals in a country to be able to find strength and orientation in their own cultural, religious and linguistic identity while learning and developing a new parallel and evolving identity within a new society. The possibility of finding family or community networks may also provide invaluable emotional and psychological support, which could prove particularly beneficial for those individuals who have suffered trauma and other difficulties. Such networks also provide the conditions in which these individuals are able to exercise their cultural, religious and linguistic rights. It does not seem that the Act on Integration and discussion surrounding this Act has taken sufficient account of these important elements of integration.
22. ECRI also believes that a climate where new arrivals do not feel respected or welcome may result in difficulties in integration. The current climate in Denmark will be discussed in section II of this report. ECRI would here like to register its concern that the manner the Integration Act is portrayed and discussed in the public sphere may contribute to a climate of hostility towards new arrivals. The notion presented by certain public opinion leaders and the media that new arrivals should be distributed as they are a burden to society fosters a negative climate of opinion. ECRI therefore urges the Danish authorities to make special efforts to counter such perceptions about immigrants and refugees and emphasize the positive role and contribution of immigrants and refugees to Danish society.
I. Vulnerable groups
This section covers certain minority groups which may be particularly vulnerable to problems of racism, discrimination and intolerance in the country in question. It is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of the situation of all minority groups in the country, nor to imply that groups not mentioned face no problems of racism and discrimination
28. Muslims are particularly vulnerable to racism and discrimination in Denmark. Negative stereotypes and prejudices about Muslims as well as over-generalisations and misperceptions about Islam are promoted by public opinion leaders, including political elites from across the political spectrum, intellectuals and journalists. This anti-Muslim climate leads to intolerance and discrimination directed towards members of this group in various spheres of life, especially as regards access to the labour market, housing and public places. Muslim women wearing veils reportedly experience hostility on streets and buses and particular discrimination in the labour market, such as being refused jobs in the service sector in roles involving interaction with customers.
29. ECRI is deeply concerned about this situation and urges the Danish authorities to address these problems, drawing inspiration from ECRI's policy recommendation No 5 on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. In particular, ECRI recommends that the Danish authorities undertake awareness-raising measures in the public sphere as well as in the education system in order to promote a more objective and informed perception of Muslims, emphasising the diversity within the community and religion and their positive contribution to Danish society. ECRI also encourages public opinion leaders to promote a more informed and diverse image of Muslims and Islam, avoiding negative stereotypes, generalisations and other expressions that promote intolerance and hostility. The Danish authorities should engage in discussions with representatives of the Muslim community and consistently involve them in measures directed at improving the situation of Muslims.
30. Muslims also experience difficulties practicing their religion. In some regions they have been unable to build mosques or exercise funeral rites due to administrative obstacles. ECRI calls attention in this respect to its policy recommendation No 5 where it recommends that countries "take the necessary measures to ensure that the freedom of religious practice is fully guaranteed; in this context particular attention should be directed towards removing unnecessary legal or administrative obstacles to both the construction of sufficient numbers of appropriate places of worship for the practice of Islam and to its funeral rites."
J. Monitoring the situation in the country
33. In its first report, ECRI suggested that steps be taken to record statistics relating to complaints concerning racial discrimination. ECRI reiterates the importance of recording detailed information about the number of complaints relating to racism and discrimination in various spheres of life, the subsequent investigation by police and prosecutors where relevant, the judicial assessment of such complaints and the redress or compensation awarded to victims. This information could prove extremely helpful in improving the effectiveness of existing legislation and establishing additional legal and non-legal measures to combat these phenomena. In gathering such information due respect should be paid to the right to privacy and to standards of data protection and free and informed consent of the persons in question.
Attached to this letter is diverse a Circular by Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government Of India, that allow Sikhs to wear Kirpan in Country. There is a letter attached from Chairman of National Minority Commission, Govt Of India, Tarlochan Singh to Ambassador of Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi.
Sikhs across the country are watching the resolution of this matter with great concern. It is requested that this unfortunate matter end here with the dismissal of criminal charges against Mr. Singh. UNITED SIKHS also requests that a directive or a memorandum be issued to all Denmark officers and prosecutors on their religions significance of the Kirpan with instructions to not criminally charge Sikhs for carrying one. We are ready to volunteer our services to help assist in establishing a training program for the police officers on the religious articles of faith in Sikhism and their importance to the Sikhs.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Thank for your consideration.
Director, UNITED SIKHS
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To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity. UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities. UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavor than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good. Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfill its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all. We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.