In the previous issue of the Grapevine, we discussed the concept of uppreist æru, or “restored honour.” This is a legal procedure whereby someone who has been convicted of a serious crime can have their civil standing restored, allowing them to serve important positions that require a spotless criminal record. The procedure has always been controversial, having allowed men convicted of manslaughter and felony theft to work as lawyers and members of Parliament again. But it was not until Robert Downey, an Icelander convicted of sexually assaulting at least four teenage girls, was granted restored honour that the public began to more vocally push back.
First, there was the fact that another woman has, since our last article on this subject, come forward to say she was also sexually abused by Robert, and she is pressing charges. As previously reported, Robert’s lawyer Jón Steinar Gunnlaugsson had exhorted Robert’s victims to forgive him; this sparked a series of open letters to Jón Steinar, published across the Icelandic media, where he was methodically taken to task for these remarks. Jón Steinar, in turn, wrote several open letters back to them, and the original open letter writers penned responses to him.
It all lands on the ministry
In the midst of all this is Minister of the Interior Sigríður Andersen. It is her ministry which receives applications for restored honour, as well as the witness testimony of those vouching for the applicant. However, it was in fact current Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson who was the Interior Minister when Robert’s application landed on the ministry, and Bjarni has contended that Robert’s application was given “the regular treatment.” However Sigríður, like Bjarni a member of the Independence Party, said that if Robert’s application had landed on her desk, she would have given it more careful examination.
In fact, Sigríður took matters further by suggesting that the law on restored honour itself needs to be reviewed. Specifically, she told reporters that she believes the current conditions set for eligibility are far too narrow.
Restored honour might get de-restored
Amazingly, it seemed there was multipartisan support for this idea, as a special session of the Parliamentary General Committee has been called, even though it’s currently summer vacation for Iceland’s lawmakers. The Pirate Party have taken things a step further by announcing they welcome questions from the general public for the committee.