Human Rights in Europe - Review of 2019 - Sweden [EUR 01/2098/2020]


The authorities failed to adopt effective strategies to prevent racist and xenophobic attacks. Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread but there were few convictions. Roma people continued to face discrimination. Courts convicted individuals for serious crimes under international law committed in Syria and Rwanda.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Emergency temporary measures introduced in 2016 prevented asylum-seekers who had been granted subsidiary protection from having the right to family reunification. During his visit to Sweden in October, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that Sweden lift the measures.

Crimes under international law

In February, Svea Court of Appeal upheld the sentence of life imprisonment of a Swedish citizen of Rwandan origin, convicted in Sweden of genocide and other crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994.

In May, Svea Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment of a Syrian citizen convicted in Sweden of war crimes for the extrajudicial execution of seven Syrian army soldiers.

In September a Syrian man who had served in the Syrian army was convicted of war crimes by the Södertörn District Court and sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for violating the dignity of five dead or severely injured persons by posing for a photograph with his foot on one victim’s chest.

Sweden had yet to make torture a crime under national law.


Roma citizens from Romania and Bulgaria supporting themselves through begging continued to be subjected to harassment and denial of basic services including shelter, water and sanitation, education and subsidized health care. In September, Vellinge in southern Sweden became the first Swedish municipality to ban begging, and one of the main political parties declared its intent to do the same nationally. The decision in Vellinge was later declared non-conforming with the Law on Public Order; the matter was subject to appeal. Anti-Roma prejudice towards Roma from other EU countries was widespread.

Violence against women and girls

Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. In December, based on a proposal by the 2014 Sexual Offences Committee, the government presented draft legislation to the legal council which included a consent-based definition of rape and sexual abuse.

Serious concerns remained about rape attrition rates. The number of rapes reported to the police increased by 14% during the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2016 (from 2,999 to 3,430). Between January and June 2017, decisions to prosecute were taken in just 111 cases, according to preliminary official statistics.