A UN correspondent stated on Tuesday that Denmark failed to effectively combat racist hate speech when it dropped an investigation into an art exhibition that featured “racist hate images” nearly a decade ago.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) found that Denmark did not effectively combat racist hate speech by suspending its investigation into an art exhibition that featured racist hate images. After reviewing a petition submitted by Momodou Jallow, the former national coordinator for the European Network Against Racism in Sweden and spokesperson for the National Association of Afro-Swedes, the Committee made its decision.
After filing the complaint against Denmark’s lack of action regarding a 2014 art exhibit in which he and other people of color were depicted in a humiliating manner that could incite racial hatred, The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ruled in favor of the Swedish man.
Mehrdad Payandeh, a member of the committee, stated in the statement, “It does not suffice merely to declare acts of racial discrimination punishable on paper.”
“Racial discrimination, including racist hate speech, must also be effectively implemented by criminal laws and other legal provisions.”
Momodou Jallow, the former national coordinator for the European Network Against Racism in Sweden and spokesman for the National Association of Afro-Swedes, brought the case in 2017.
He complained that Danish authorities had stopped looking into an exhibit by Swedish street artist Dan Parks at a private gallery in Copenhagen three years earlier. Parks had been found guilty of defamation and inciting hatred in Sweden.
An image of Jallow and two other black people hanging from a bridge with the caption “hang on, afrofobians” and another of Jallow as a runaway slave with the caption “our negro slave has run away” were part of the exhibit, which was sponsored by the far-right Danish People’s Party.
Jallow claimed racial discrimination in his complaint against the organizers and the artist.
The Danish state prosecutor began an investigation but ended it citing European and national freedom of expression laws.
Jallow took his case to CERD, arguing that the Danish decision violated the convention after his appeal in Denmark was rejected.
The committee decided that the images were racist and hateful expressions of speech.
It acknowledged the need to strike a balance between the obligation to combat racist hate speech and the right to freedom of expression.
But it said that the words and images were especially troubling in this instance because they could incite violence and expressed the idea of racial superiority.
Payandeh stated, “Some of the pictures displayed particular anti-discrimination activists, with messages to humiliate them and tarnish their dignity, and that can incite racial hatred and violence.”
The committee ruled that the Danish authorities had failed to provide an appropriate and proportionate response in the case, despite the committee’s non-binding opinions and recommendations having reputational weight.
It stated that Denmark should offer Jallow “a full reparation” and apologize to him.