Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a strongly
established tradition of democratic parliamentary rule. The
reigning monarch is Queen Margrethe II. A cabinet headed by
the Prime Minister and accountable to the unicameral Folketing
(parliament) has responsibility for government decisions.
Since late 1982, Denmark has been governed by a four-party
minority coalition led by Prime Minister Schlueter's
Conservative Party. The coalition is dependent on support
from other parties to maintain a parliamentary majority.
The Danes have a free market economy with an extensive system
of welfare protection for all citizens.
Human rights are highly respected and well protected in
Denmark, both in principle and in practice. The Constitution
established the Folketing 's Ombudsman, to whom any citizen may
protest if he or she feels wrongly or unreasonably treated by
any Danish national or municipal authority. Denmark also has
a high degree of concern for the rights of minorities,
particularly the indigenous populations of territories such as
Greenland and Faroe Islands, which now enjoy broad powers of
home rule. At the global level, Denmark participates actively
in several international commissions concerned with the
protection and preservation of human rights.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political Killing
There were no politically motivated killings.
Abductions, secret arrests, and clandestine detentions did not
c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Protection against torture and inhuman treatment is assured by
law and respected in practice. A rehabilitation and research
center for torture victims established in 1983 in Copenhagen
treats patients in the refugee community. An estimated 150
foreign torture victims obtain asylum yearly.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Labor
No person in Denmark can be deprived of personal liberty
without due process of law. Arrested persons must be brought
before a judge within 24 hours of detention. The judge has
the authority to determine whether the person should be held
in custody or released pending trial. The Constitution makes
provision for bail. Arrested persons have access to legal
counsel of their choice or court-appointed attorneys.
Non-Danish speakers are provided with interpreters at
government expense. The occasional use of solitary
confinement during the pretrial custody period has been
criticized in the media, but police authorities maintain that
the isolation system continues to be used only in cases
involving the most serious crimes, such as narcotics
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Trials are generally public; judges are allowed to make
exceptions to this rule only in certain circumstances, such as
paternity and divorce trials. In criminal cases, trials are
only closed when it is necessary to protect the privacy of the
victim, such as in rape or child molestation cases, or when it
is deemed necessary to protect the identity of a witness. To
ensure a fair trial, Danish courts make extensive efforts to
obtain the facts of a case, and the rights of the accused are
carefully protected. All indigent defendants have the right
to a court-appointed attorney at government expense. The
defendant is free to change the court-appointed attorney.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence
Under the Constitution, searches of the home, seizure and
examination of papers, and breaches of the secrecy of
communications are prohibited in the absence of a judicial
order, unless a particular exception is provided for by
statute. These provisions are respected in practice.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Presso
Denmark has a free and open society. A person may express an
opinion in written or oral form on any matter, subject to the
condition that he or she may be held responsible in a court of
law if there are charges of libel or malicious slander. Media
representatives and private persons make full use of the
freedom of expression. Criticism of the Government or
government policy is not a punishable offense, and censorship
is not practiced.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Danish residents are free to assemble and form associations
for any lawful purpose. Police are entitled to be present at
public meetings or demonstrations which could constitute a
danger to the public peace.
Under the general agreement of 1960, workers and employers
acknowledged each other's right to organize. Workers have the
right to strike and bargain collectively. Labor agreements
and legislation protect the rights of workers and employers
and regulate the work environment. Approximately 85 percent
of Danish wage earners are members of trade unions.
c. Freedom of Religion
Under the Constitution, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is
recognized as the established church of Denmark. However,
religious freedom is guaranteed to all residents. No one may
be discriminated against because of religious beliefs. These
laws are strictly enforced in practice.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Danes have complete freedom to travel and to reenter Denmark.
Denmark is a homogeneous ethnocentric society with
historically only a small number of nonnorthern European
residents. However, these non-Danish residents have been
accorded a high level of acceptance. Refugees and asylum
seekers are provided with travel documents, when needed, which
permit return to Denmark. Forced repatriation is not utilized.
The Alien Act of 1983 spells out in detail the rights of
aliens in Denmark and provides for appeal procedures when
residence permission is denied.
Since 1983 there has been a massive influx of asylum seekers.
Over 20,000 people have asked for asylum (mostly Sri Lankan
Tamils, Iranians, and Lebanese). Measures designed to protect
the rights of potential refugees or asylum seekers include the
establishment of a Refugee Board with authority to reverse
decisions of the Alien Directorate and guaranteed access to
legal counsel and interpreter service.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
The Prime Minister is appointed by the reigning monarch after
consultation with the political parties represented in the
Folketing. The 179 members of the Folketing are elected in
free and open elections under a complex system of proportional
representation designed to protect the rights of minority
parties and to reflect the popular vote. Every Danish citizen
18 years or over may vote. A political party must obtain at
least 2 percent of the total vote to obtain representation in
the Folketing. Nine political parties with a variety of
political beliefs are currently represented. The Constitution
states that parliamentary elections must be held at least
every 4 years. The Government can be changed in an election
or, as happened in 1982, by the resignation of the government
in power and the formation of a new government composed of
parties already represented in the Folketing.
All Danish citizens and subjects are guaranteed equal
protection under the law. The territories of Greenland and
the Faroe Islands have home rule governments with broad powers
encom.passing all but foreign and security affairs. Native
Greenlanders enjoy all the rights and privileges of other
Danish citizens. In addition, Greenland and Faroe
representation in the national Folketing is proportionally
larger than that for continental Denmark, and Greenland has a
special criminal code designed for local customs and
conditions. Native Greenlanders freely participate in
international ethnic organizations such as the Inuit
Circumpolar Conference, based in Greenland, which has been
recognized by the United Nations. Despite periodic
disagreements between home rule authorities and the
Government, there have been no formal accusations of human
rights violations made against the Government.
Section 4 Novernmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
There were no complaints or requests for investigation of
human rights violations.
In September 1987, a Human Rights Center, mandated by the
Folketing, was established as a private, government-funded
institution to conduct research and provide information on a
broad range of human rights issues. Denmark is a party to
various international human rights conventions designed to
promote and protect human rights. The Government's commitment
to human rights issues is fully supported by the Danish
population, as shown in opinion polls.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Food, shelter, health care, and education are available to all
inhabitants regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic
background, or political opinion.
The growing number of ethnically dissimilar refugees who
require shelter, education, and public assistance has created
pressure on the Danish welfare system and contributed to a
rise in tensions between native Danes and refugee and
immigrant groups. Although some opposition politicians have
suggested that aliens be obliged to assimilate, Danish
political leaders emphasize the need for Danish tolerance of
the newcomers' culture and religion.
The living standards and educational levels of native
Greenlanders (Eskimos) are lower than those of other Danish
citizens, but they are improving steadily, in part because of
heavy spending on housing, health, and education programs by
The Equal Rights Council has worked successfully to eliminate
laws and regulations which contained sex discrimination
provisions. In nonagricultural activities, women's average
wages in 1985 were about 84 percent of those of men. Women
hold positions of authority at all levels of society and
actively participate at all levels of the political process.
They are in positions of authority in political parties, local
governments, and in the national Government. Women head three
cabinet ministries and hold 28 seats in the Parliament.
CONDITIONS OF LABOR
There is no minimum wage, but the lowest wage level set in any
national labor negotiation is approximately the equivalent of
$6.40 per hour. Denmark is now taking steps to reduce the
standard workweek from 40 to 39 hours. The "11-hour rule"
stipulates that any worker has the right to rest for 11 hours
before the start of the next day's work.
The minimum age for the employment of children is 15, and
specific limitations described in detail in the Working
Environment Act of 1975 apply to the type of work which may be
performed by those between 15 and 18 years of age. This act
also describes acceptable conditions of work, including safety
and health; the general duties of employers, supervisors,
employees, and suppliers; the performance of work; rest
periods and rest days; and medical examinations. The act
establishes a Directorate of Labor Inspections which ensures
effective compliance with labor legislation