From Iceland — Hero of the Issue / Villain of the Issue

Hero of the Issue / Villain of the Issue

Published May 6, 2016

Hero of the Issue / Villain of the Issue
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The hero of this issue is lawyers. People like to speak ill of lawyers as blood-sucking parasites who prey upon the worst of humanity’s impulses. However, we say this because we’re not in a position where we need them. Consider, for example, Iceland’s asylum seekers. Quite possibly the most vulnerable members of Icelandic society, these are people who more often than not do not understand Icelandic, let alone Icelandic law, and need every resource at their disposal just to stay in this country. Fortunately for them, there are lawyers in this country who are willing to fight for them, in and out of court. Oftentimes, they can mean the difference between deportation and residency. For this reason, lawyers are this issue’s Hero of the Issue.

The villain of this issue is also lawyers. While it’s true that lawyers can only engage in legal action within the confines of the law, some of them take their interpretation of the law to new and questionable heights. For just one example, lawyer Vilhjálmur H. Vilhjálmsson has launched a libel campaign against some 22 people—many of them journalists, some of them just regular folks posting on social media—for their reporting of or commentary on a now infamous reported rape in Reykjavík. The libel suit raises serious questions about freedom of the press and freedom of expression, both of which are constitutionally guaranteed, and Vilhjálmur has gone on the record saying the press covers sexual assault cases too much. Win or lose, his suit may have a strong chilling effect on Icelandic journalism, which does the public no favours. For this reason, lawyers are this issue’s Villain of the Issue.

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