Thursday, May 5, 2011

Denmark: Man found guilty of racism against Muslim men

At a time when xenophobia is on the rise in Europe, a 68-year-old Danish man has been found guilty of racism by a court in Denmark. Lars Hedegaard, a proclaimed "free speech advocate", was found guilty for making offensive and denigrating comments against Muslim men.

In December 2009, Lars Hedegaard granted a 35 minutes interview that was published on a Danish blog. Here's what he said during the interview, amongst other things:

"Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their fathers," and "when a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is in his right to do so." [Source].

Lars was dragged to court for comments depicting Muslim men as rapists  and "warriors" who believe that "women have no value, they are not human beings. Their function is to be wombs - they bear the warrior's offspring and create new warriors..." [Source].

The free speech advocate was acquitted in January 2011 by a lower District Court on grounds that he didn't know his offensive comments would be published.

The decision to acquit Lars was appealed by the state prosecutor and on 3 May 2011, the Eastern High Court found Lars Hedegaard guilty of racism. He was fined 5000 Danish Kroner (about 985 U.S. Dollars as of today) for his derogatory comments against Muslim men.

Lars Hedegaard is said to be a free speech advocate and President of the Danish Free Press Society. In this capacity, he's expected to know that the right to free speech has limitations prescribed by law and should not be used to insult, defame or instigate hate against a group of people.

Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides for the right to freedom of expression and many proponents of "hate speech" in the name of free speech often invoke Article 19(2) of the ICCPR, but fail to put into perspective Article 19(3) of the same Covenant that provides "certain restrictions" to free speech "provided by law."

At the level of the European Union, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guarantees free speech. Article 10(2) on its part lays down duties and responsibilities in the exercise of free expression.

Section 266b of the Danish Penal Code provides certain limitations to free speech in Denmark. It states:

Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years.”

I concur with the decision of the Eastern High Court to fine Lars Hedegaard under Section 266b of the Danish Penal Code. There's a fine line between free speech and hate speech and it's important to ensure that the exercise of the right to free expression does not threaten, insult, denigrate or instigate hate against a group of people.

A lot has been written about the trial of Lars Hedegaard and comments on all the blogs and websites I've read reveal that many people are of the opinion that the conviction of Lars is an attack against freedom of expression. Some have labeled the trial a witch-hunt against truth-tellersThere's therefore a need to educate the public about the duties and responsibilities that go with freedom of expression.

*Photo of Lars Hedegaard.[Source].


  1. This is definitely a blog worth following. Youve got a great deal to say about this subject, and so much knowledge. I think that you know how to make people listen to what you have to say, especially with an issue thats so important.

  2. Way to go Zuzeeko! A good eye-opener for many who use the free-speech argument to spread racism.

  3. It is a wonder that this is allowed. Unfortunately, many of the instigators tend to be Christian and white where racism occurs.

    We could all post denigrating remarks about one another's races, but honestly where would it get us?


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