From Iceland — Dissatisfaction And Confusion Regarding New Justice Minister And Assistant

Dissatisfaction And Confusion Regarding New Justice Minister And Assistant

Published December 6, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Following the formation of Iceland’s new government, two appointments in particular are proving to be a bit contentious: Jón Gunnarsson of the Independence Party as Minister of Justice, and of the same party, Brynjar Níelsson as one of his assistants.

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Shortly after the new ministers were announced, Jón himself expressed surprise at being granted the position. He was apparently not alone, as one of the first voices to raise objections to the appointment was Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson. In particular, Andrés pointed out that Jón had voted against an abortion bill that extended the term limit for the procedure, and his support for a controversial law that would prevent one parent from being able to block another parent from visitation rights to a child they share.

Halldóra Mogensen, another Pirate Party MP, also expressed puzzlement at Jón’s appointment.

“I find it very strange,” she said. “I can’t imagine that the Left-Greens [who lead the Prime Ministership] are very interested in this appointment, either.”

Chair of the Reform Party Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir was of much the same mind, saying, “I like these guys, but on the other hand I admit that it’s not possible to see past their politics when it comes to women’s rights, for example. The abortion bill that [former Minister of Health] Svandís [Svavarsdóttir] submitted. Who didn’t support it? The leadership in the Independence Party, Jón Gunnarsson, Brynjar Níelsson. They voted against it.”

Brynjar is himself a controversial figure in Icelandic politics; not so much for his work in Parliament–which, as Halldóra pointed out, has been comprised solely of a single piece of legislation during his tenure, i.e., the aforementioned bill on parental visitation–but mostly for his various opinion columns and his social media activity. This includes, but is not limited to, his belief that men accused of sexual assaults are being tried in the court of public opinion, and that so-called “cancel culture” is, in his estimation, “the greatest problem in Icelandic society”.

All this being the case, a petition is currently being circulated calling for Jón to be removed from the Justice Minister position.

“Violence against women and sexual violence is endemic in our socieity and an attack on the safety and health of women,” the petition text reads in part. “Survivors are told to file charges [against their attackers] but the vast majority of these cases are dropped before they can even reach the courts. Survivors risk having their documentation made public. We demand progress that cannot be achieved through the appointment of conservatives with a misogynistic message as the highest authority of matters of justice!”

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