From Iceland — Rift Forming In Iceland's Parliament Over Future Of Justice Minister

Rift Forming In Iceland’s Parliament Over Future Of Justice Minister

Published March 12, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Aron Urb/Wikimedia Commons

Calls for the resignation of—or the adamant defence of—Minister of Justice Sigríður Á Andersen are dividing along party lines in Parliament.

As reported, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Sigríður had violated Article 6 § 1 (right to a tribunal established by law) of the European Convention on Human Rights in her judicial appointments to the Court of Appeals. This court has suspended activity for the rest of this week.

In the wake of this, there have been calls for the Minister to resign, while other parliamentarians have taken to defending her. Sigríður told RÚV that she has no intention of resigning.

Social Democrat chair Logi Már Einarsson is already calling for the Minister to resign, and Helga Vala Helgadóttir, also of the Social Democrats and the chair of the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee, emphasised to Kjarninn that “she must resign today”.

The Pirate Party, in a statement to the press, have also called for her resignation, saying in part that “there is no doubt that, by virtue of its unlawful appointment, the Minister of Justice has contributed to human rights violations against all those who have been subject to judgements and decisions by the unlawfully appointed judges”. As such, “the Pirate Party Parliamentary Group demands the immediate resignation of the Minister of Justice. Furthermore, Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir has called for the Minister of Justice to attend an open meeting of the Judicial Affairs Standing Committee and that special discussions on the effect of the judgement on the rule of law with the Prime Minister be held in the Alþingi.”

The Social Democrats and the Pirates are both opposition parties. As could probably be expected, members of Sigríður’s party, the Independence Party, have been on the defensive. Birgir Ármannsson, the parliamentary chair for the party, told Vísir that he disagrees with the ruling of the ECHR. He also pointed out that two of the seven ECHR judges on the case dissented with the majority opinion, and confirmed that no one within his party has called for Sigríður’s resignation.

How the Left-Green Party, which leads Iceland’s ruling coalition, will respond is still unknown. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has declined to comment until her return to Iceland tomorrow from a conference in New York. As Vísir points out, however, the party was very critical of Sigríður’s judicial appointments in June 2017, saying that they constituted “a grave situation in a democratic society”. This statement was made during the previous government, and just a few months before emergency elections were held, in October of that year, resulting in the Left-Greens leading the new government.

A protest demonstration calling for Sigríður’s resignation will be held in front of Parliament at 16:30 today.

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