From Iceland — Protestor Denied Right To Appeal Based On Widely Criticised Law

Protestor Denied Right To Appeal Based On Widely Criticised Law

Published December 14, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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An Icelandic protestor was earlier this month denied an appeal of a judgement issued by the Reykjavík District Court, which had found him guilty of violating Article 19 of the Law on Police. This law has been repeatedly criticised as unconstitutional by lawyers the Grapevine has spoken with, and its application also in many cases breaks European human rights law.

The NGO Samstaða er ekki glæpur (Solidarity is not a crime) posted about the case of Kári Orrason last Saturday. Kári had been engaging in a peaceful protest at the Ministry of Justice when he was arrested by the police, and subsequently charged with breaking Article 19. This article is one sentence which states: “The public is obliged to obey orders which police give, such as in traffic control or in order to ensure law and order in a public space.”

Found guilty of breaking this article in Reykjavík District Court, he sought to appeal at the Court of Appeals, citing in part Article 73 of the Icelandic constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which legally protect freedom of expression and peaceable assembly.

As Samstaða er ekki glæpur furthermore points out, according to a Supreme Court ruling from 2018, restricting freedom of expression is only legal if it meets four conditions: the restriction must be based on law; the restriction must be aimed at a legitimate goal; the restriction must be necessary; the restriction must not go beyond what is necessary in a democratic society.

However, neither the District Court nor the Court of Appeals, in their rulings, comment on human rights concerns regarding Kári’s case—only whether a police order was given, and whether it was disobeyed. As such, the Appeals Court refused to hear Kári’s case. He is planning to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Samstaða er ekki glæpur is asking the general public for donations to a legal fund for cases such as his, the details of which can be found at the bottom of this post.

As Grapevine investigations uncovered, this is an all-too-common situation when it comes to people arrested for protesting in Iceland: higher laws, such as those expressly outlined in the Icelandic constitution or in European human rights law, are very often not even considered in cases when one is charged with breaking Article 19. The lawyers which the Grapevine spoke to are all of the opinion that this law needs to be reformed, and court rulings regarding it need to be more in keeping with both the constitution and human rights law.

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