From Iceland — Icelandic Politicians Respond To ECHR Grand Chamber Ruling

Icelandic Politicians Respond To ECHR Grand Chamber Ruling

Published December 1, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Arno Mikkor, Aron Urb/Wikimedia Commons

Response for Icelandic politicians—both in the government and the opposition—to today’s European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber ruling that former Minister of Justice Sigríður Á Andersen (above) broke European human rights law in her appointment of judges to the Appeals Court has been very divided.

Unsurprisingly, Sigríður herself, while saying that the verdict did not surprise her—ultimately, the Grand Chamber upheld the ruling of the lower chamber of March 2019, only this time with a unanimous verdict—she criticised the verdict as being “political” and having “more to do with Strasbourgh than the study of law. And certainly not in harmony with Icelandic law,” ignoring the fact that European human rights law trumps Icelandic law.

For her part, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said that Sigríður has already shouldered responsibility in the matter when she resigned from her post in 2017. However, as the ECHR was also critical of how Parliament handled the matter, she added that three of the four judges appointed by Sigríður despite not being on the initial recommended list of appointees have already gone through a new vetting process. She added that the process ahead is to learn from this verdict.

Current Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, who hails from the same party as Sigríður, the Independence Party, said that while the Grand Chamber’s ruling is a clearer verdict than the one previously handed down, she denied that the ruling casts any doubts upon the work of the Appeal Court. Instead, similar to Katrín, she believes the verdict is a call for the government to review judicial appointments better going forward.

Not everyone is so willing to forgive and forget, however. Social Democrat MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir characterised the ruling as “a dark day in the history of Icelandic government appointments but definitely an important day in the history of human rights,” as she said on Facebook.

“That the government has expressed unanimous support for Sigríður in the wake of rulings from Icelandic courts and the ECHR, and has put considerable effort into casting aspersions on both the rulings in this country and abroad, has caused even more damage,” she wrote in part. “I do not trust the government of Iceland to prioritise the interests of the general public and the system of checks and balances. They have expressed that they value those who occupy the government more than the foundation principles of a just society.”

More on what led the ECHR Grand Chamber to its decision can be read here.

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