FECL 55 (August 1998):

US CITIZEN DENIED ASYLUM IN SWEDEN - USA A 'SAFE COUNTRY'?

A US citizen, Ritt Goldstein, has applied for asylum in Sweden. Goldstein has strong evidence indicating that he was systematically harassed and threatened by police ever since he founded a coalition on civilian oversight of law enforcement. Swedish immigration authorities have turned down his application on the summary grounds that the US is an internationally recognised constitutional democracy. The final outcome of the case is likely to have international implications as regards the right of nationals from stable Western democratic countries to seek asylum in a EU country.

 

The plight of a US rights activist

In 1993, Ritt Goldstein was a typical representative of America's white upper middle-class. After receiving a BA in Economics, and after university studies in Business, Goldstein worked in a number of marketing and sales positions before starting his own company in 1988. The firm thrived, and Goldstein won all the attributes of a well-doing bachelor and businessman. He had a handsome home, a nice sports car, and a net worth of approximately 1 million dollars.

Politically, Goldstein was thoroughly mainstream. Although a Democratic Committeeman and Justice of the Peace in Norwalk, in the State of Connecticut (CT), he never concealed his sympathies for some aspects of the political agenda of the Republicans.

Just four years later, in 1997, Ritt Goldstein had become a destitute asylum seeker in Sweden, living in constant fear of forceful return to the USA.

Goldstein left his home country on July 3rd, 1997, hoping to escape mounting terror, ranging from constant pepper spray and mace attacks against his person, to the destruction of his home and office, and murder attempts (i.e. somebody disabled the steering of his car).

Goldstein's problem is that he is not just good at doing business. He is also a man who cares. He likes to quote one of the Founding Fathers of American democracy, Thomas Jefferson: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". Goldstein's "mistake" was that he acted accordingly. Where others preferred to remain silent, Goldstein spoke out on one of the most sacred taboos, not only in American society, but in about every country of the world: the police.

Goldstein's plight can be traced back to an incident in 1993. That year, a black youth, Keith Sumpter, was shot to death in Norwalk, CT. Four eyewitnesses claimed a police officer shot him, but an internal investigation by the Norwalk Police found Sumpter had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound...1)

Goldstein, who had formed a citizens group to monitor the behaviour of the Connecticut police, questioned the police’s account in the press.

 

Attacks from "unknown source"

Shortly after, Goldstein and his neighbours in a residential area of Danbury, CT, all became strangely ill. The Health Department detected a "chemical smell".2) Goldstein moved. His former neighbours got better but the problem with the chemical smell that caused headaches, nausea, sneezing, coughing and vomiting followed him. Goldstein complained to Danbury Police Department about "harassment via chemical attack from an unknown source", but the police denied anything was happening.

Meanwhile, as Goldstein's complaints to the police became more substantive, the attacks worsened significantly. In December 1993, his car's steering was disabled. A mechanic from the auto dealership the car was taken to told the police somebody had "purposefully" unscrewed the steering.3) The police took no action and avoided the collection of evidence. A private investigation bureau detected signals from an electronic tracking device in Goldstein's car. Again and again, his home and the ventilation system of his car were sprayed with chemical spray (mace and pepper spray) by unknown perpetrators.

Goldstein has comprehensive documentation confirming his exposure to toxic chemicals, including: laboratory tests, medical certificates, police and private detective reports. But none of Goldstein's numerous complaints elicited any action from the police.

 

Targeted by "rogue" police

Goldstein began to understand that he had become a target of so called "rogue" police - police officers who engage in unlawful intimidation, harassment and violence to tackle what they regard as "enemies of the force" - that is, anybody from (preferably young and black) petty offenders, to innocent citizens disliked by the force, such as minority leaders and civil rights and liberties activists. This was confirmed for him as he watched police "mace" his car one night.

The problem of "rogue" policing and widespread police abuse in the USA has been highlighted by Amnesty International4) and, very recently, by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in their report 'Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States'.5)

The HRW report gives a chilling picture both of widespread police abuse and a blatant lack of control over the police in 14 cities throughout the country. The report notes that "police brutality is persistent in all of these cities; that systems to deal with abuse have had similar failings in all cities; and that, in each city examined, complainants face enormous barriers in seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution of officers who have committed human rights violations".

Among others, the HRW report relates cases from New Orleans. In this city, "at least fifty of the 1,400-member force have been arrested for felonies including homicide, rape, and robberies since 1993". In one incident, an officer was convicted in April 1996 of hiring a hit man to kill a woman who had lodged a brutality complaint against him. On at least one occasion, New Orleans police seem to have been inspired by the murderous vigilante activities of some of their Brazilian colleagues: "After a white officer was killed in November 1980, mobs of police officers went on a rampage in Algiers, a black section of town, killing four and injuring as many as fifty residents. Some of the victims were tortured, including two who were dragged to swamps where officers carried out mock executions".

"Vendetta" operations by "rogue" police have also occurred in many other US cities not examined in the HRW report. Thus, in Portland, Oregon, police were caught spying on local Civilian Oversight activists. Before the Court, they tried to justify their behaviour by arguing that "this group of evildoers was going to do harm to the police through civilian review".6)

The commonality of "rogue" policing in the USA can be partly explained by this country's particular tradition of law enforcement. "Our police chiefs are the descendants of a wild-west tradition, based not so much around dispensing justice as being guardians of property and privilege", says Ritt Goldstein. "They have a hired-gun mentality". This is confirmed by Bill Collins, a former four term Mayor of Norwalk and State Representative of Connecticut: "Guns are looked upon differently here, for familiar historic reasons. So are the police. While other countries feel it's important to install civilian oversight, we feel the opposite. We like to turn our police loose, a bit like vigilantes. Mostly, that preference has to do with race. Many Americans feel that blacks are a menace to their safety, and if police have to rough them up once in a while to keep them in their place, so be it. And if some whites also get mistreated in this exuberance of power, well, that's a small price to pay for security. At any rate, that seems to be the thinking in Connecticut".7

 

Connnecticut: a record of police abuse

Indeed, Connecticut, in striking contradiction with its image as a liberal and peaceful New England state, has a disquieting record of rogue policing.

Emma Jihad Jones is a remarkable woman. She graduated first in her law school class, and has spent her professional life as an activist and legal council of the black community in New Haven, Connecticut. She told Fortress Europe? that in this city rogue police intimidate, harass and attack innocent young blacks on a daily basis. There is a group of "rogue" police commonly referred to as the "beat-down posse". One of the preferential methods is the abundant use of mace and pepper spray... The "advantage" of chemicals is that they are difficult to trace...

Ms Jones' own experience with the police is appalling. She says New Haven police broke down the doors of her home and ransacked it in alleged "hot pursuit" of a suspect (who was never found). They once arrested her son for driving a "stolen" vehicle (her car!). They repeatedly invented drug issues as a pretext for their terror. Her home was firebombed. Police repeatedly chased and beat her son, Malik.

Malik Jones was killed in one of the state's most recent cases of suspected rogue policing. On 14 April 1997, he was chased in his car by a police patrol and shot dead. Witnesses claim he was executed in cold blood with several shots fired at close range, while his car was standing still. Commenting on the incident, a former New Haven Police Chief, Nick Pastore, remarked bitterly that Malik Jones was "guilty of driving while black". "Pastore was describing what is by far Connecticut's most common offence", says Mayor Bill Collins. "It's even more common than 'driving while young'. That latter sin, of course, one can outgrow."8

Ritt Goldstein is convinced that Malik died because of his mother's work as a human rights activist fighting against police abuse. Two weeks before Malik's death, Ms Jones, in great dispair, confided to him: "They're after my children, they're after my children!"

 

Goldstein's coalition for civilian oversight angers police union

In 1995, Goldstein founded and led a coalition calling for state and federal legislation to promote elected Statewide Civilian Law Enforcement Oversight Boards. Goldstein drafted a bill providing for legal remedies in cases of police brutality and misconduct. Law Enforcement Oversight Boards would sit in each state's parliament and provide the mechanism whereby cases of law enforcement misconduct could be removed from "local considerations". No member would hear a case involving his own constituency, and the Board would have its own investigators and the power to seek and enforce subpoenas of documents and witnesses. The Board would have the power to terminate an officer's employment, with there being no appeal from a Board decision except in the Courts.9

Goldstein's campaign for better control of police drew support from various and politically quite heterogenous quarters. On the federal level, Congressman Bill McCollum (Republican), the chairman of the House Crime Sub-Committee, offered Goldstein support. At the same time, state legislation campaigns based on Goldstein's bill were launched - through his coalition - in a number of states, including New York, Illinois, Washington State, Arkansas and California.

In Goldstein's home state of Connecticut, the bill received the backing of a Republican Senator and Co-Chair of the Connecticut Judiciary Committee. It was also endorsed by the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats and by the Reform party.

While Goldstein's bill was supported by politicians and experts on the state and federal level, the Connecticut Police Union reacted with barely veiled threats. Commenting on Goldstein's Bill, State Police Association spokesman David Mccluskey said: "Civilian review is an idea that will immediately inspire violent reactions from police" (our italics)10.

It is evident from the HRW report that the problem of powerful police unions, staunchly resisting any move towards a better control of the force, and even covering up "rogue" officers, is not limited to the state of Connecticut. In New York, the police unions "enjoy a great deal of power but have been unwilling to use their strength to support reforms that would lead to a more professional, and less brutal, police force. In fact, the unions have often been a primary obstacle to efforts to implement reforms.

In its statements and lobbying against reform efforts, the PBA [the largest police union in NY] has consistently opposed accountability".In Philadelphia, "the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is exceptionally powerful... - some say it has more control of the police than the Police Commissioner does". The report goes on to note that FOP has "persistently opposed the creation and operation" of a civilian oversight board. In Providence (Rhode Island), FOP repeatedly resisted strong action by police leaders against Providence police officers caught being abusive on videotape.

 

Goldstein chairs hearing in Connecticut legislature: appalling witness accounts

In December 1996, Goldstein chaired a hearing on statewide civilian oversight...despite mounting threats against his person. The hearing was sponsored by Senator Tim Upson and took place in the Connecticut parliament building. It comprised testimonies of leading US and foreign academics and experts of civilian oversight of the police; there were also accounts from victims of Connecticut police violence. What distinguished these witnesses from many other victims was that they were all white and middle-class.

Notable in the testimony presented was a well publicised attempt by two Connecticut police to murder a local rights activist - Phil Inkel. The two officers involved were never charged with a crime, but merely resigned from their positions. Moreover, in acts of apparent retaliation, the two major figures responsible for uncovering the murder plot - a police informer and a police detective - were subsequently charged with unrelated crimes.11

Noteworthy testimony also came from former Mayor Bill Collins. In alarming detail, Collins (who headed his city's Police Commission, nominally controlling the police) related how local police had even attacked his home. Collins discussed how police had proceeded to "break beer bottles on the porch" and "plaster their police union stickers around the house". He noted that while the attack was quite limited, its message was extremely disturbing: to convey to "even the chief elected official of the town, who's in charge... It isn't him, it's the members of the police department".

Collins also described a police raid in Norwalk where hooded and masked police officers attacked community residents. Some of these people were then taken for "interrogation" to a warehouse on the city's waterfront - not to the police headquarters. After first denying the raid, the police eventually confirmed it. But Collins said at the hearing that "to this day" no police officers will admit they were there.

 

"A single hearing is no groundswell"

The widely publicised hearing marked both the peak and the beginning of the end for Goldstein's coalition on civilian oversight. In a radio broadcast shortly after the hearing former Mayor Collins predicted: "Legislators hesitate to annoy the powerful police unions. If victims themselves aren't willing to make a big stink, then maybe the problem really isn't so bad. Reforms tend to grow from groundswells, and a single hearing, no matter how moving, is no groundswell. Particularly if the press is tepid. Tracking down fearful victims and persuading them to talk is hard work. TV stations lack the time, and newspapers the money. If 1,000 victims jammed the General Assembly and broke up a session, now that would be news. But unearthing them, one-by-one, isn't going to happen. There is, of course, a price to pay for unresolved injustice. Often it's violence. In my own Norwalk, it's broken out before. No doubt it will again, simply because minorities believe, rightly, that no effective oversight of police violence exists".12

Goldstein himself payed a high price for his challenge of police power. Immediately after the hearing, the level of attacks against him rose even further. Prior to the hearing in Connecticut's legislature, Goldstein met with the legislative committee of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. "They offered me a "deal" for their support, Goldstein recalls. "They wanted effective immunity and the ability to "kill" any investigation - I turned them down. The "deal man", Chief Tony Salvatore of Cromwell, later sought my arrest for making a "false report" about the attacks on me. As retaliation for my hearing, my home and offices were completely destroyed and I began my life as a refugee living in hotels... I continued to be on radio, television, and in the newspapers... and the attacks kept escalating".

Goldstein says he had no chance of obtaining protection and legal remedy inside the USA. His many complaints to state and federal authorities were shelved. A letter from the President of NACOLE, the US Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, to Federal Justice Minister Janet Reno, describing the plight of Goldstein and urging for a quick remedy, remained unanswered...a pattern highlighted in the HRW report.

Quoting from the report: "A victim seeking redress faces obstacles at every point in the process, ranging from overt intimidation to the reluctance of local and federal prosecutors to take on brutality cases. Severe abuses persist because overwhelming barriers to accountability make it all too likely that officers who commit human rights violations escape due punishment to continue their abusive conduct.... Those who claim that each high-profile human rights abuse is an aberration, committed by a "rogue" officer, are missing the point: human rights violations persist in large part because the accountability system is defective". The report goes on to note: "There are many obstacles to successfully prosecuting police officers under the federal civil rights statutes: Due to inadequate resources and, in some cases, an apparent lack of will or interest by investigators or prosecutors (...), federal authorities do not routinely collect and review cases that may be viable for prosecution under federal civil rights statutes. When they do learn of the cases, (...) they choose to pursue and prosecute less than 1 percent".

 

Goldstein trustworthy?

While conceding that the type of harassment described by Goldstein, and in particular the use of chemical spray as a means to harass and intimidate innocent people, did occur in the USA, some American observers questioned whether police would treat even white middle-class citizens in such a way and suggested Goldstein might be exaggerating. People monitoring police conduct in Connecticut do not share this view. While insisting that non-whites were the prime and regular victims of "rogue" police, Emma Jihad Jones told Fortress Europe? that, given his high-profile as a critic of police abuse, Goldstein would have been a dead man long ago, had he been black.

A leading expert on police abuse, who declined to be quoted for attribution out of fear of police retaliation, stated he knew Connecticut people who had been members of local Civilian Police Review, who "have been stopped, harassed, threatened. And that they had to leave the Board...and that they felt unsafe....Mr Goldstein had a proposal for an Oversight Review on the state level - which is a much broader level. And, if you find controversy and dislike by some police on a local level, imagine how they would feel on the broader level...You've got to understand that police here are very powerful... What was more important [for Goldstein] - to keep fighting this battle that was tormenting him and taking his life, his health, or to give up and start a new life?"

On 3 July 1997, Goldstein finally made his choice and left the USA.

 

Asylum procedure in Sweden

Goldstein entered Sweden legally as a tourist and applied for asylum with Statens Invandrarverk (SIV: Swedish Immigration Authority).

In September 1997, SIV turned down Goldstein's application. The only reason given for the rejection was SIV's summary assessment that "the USA is an internationally recognised democracy and constitutional state". Consequently, the authority found it "obvious" that there were no grounds for granting Goldstein residence permit based on the right of asylum or another need of protection.13

The rejection was accompanied by a decision of "immediate removal". This meant that Goldstein should be deported even before final decisions on the merits of an asylum application or of the removal order itself. The Swedish Aliens Law allows (but does not require) such immediate removal "where it is obvious that there are no grounds for asylum, and where residence permit shall not either be granted on other grounds". If Goldstein was not able to designate another country willing to receive him, he was to be sent back to his home country.

For Goldstein, the decision entailed several drastic consequences. In order to escape immediate deportation, he had to go into hiding. He still had a right to appeal against the decision of SIV with Utlänningsnämnden (UN: the Aliens Appeals Board), but was denied legal aid on the grounds that his application was "manifestly unfounded".

His lawyer, Robert Camerini, working on a voluntary basis, appealed to UN. Camerini held that SIV "has failed to carry out an individual examination of the applicant's claims and asylum grounds in accordance with law in force" and emphasised the fact that Goldstein had repeatedly and in vain sought protection and legal remedy inside the USA.

The Board rejected the appeal in January 1998. It found that Goldstein had failed to prove that "police authorities in the USA lie behind the purported attacks". Referring once again to the USA as a recognised democratic state based on the rule of law, the Appeals Board found that the harassment claimed by Goldstein "must be regarded as criminal acts perpetrated by individuals - police officers or others".14 Commenting on the decision, an Appeals Board spokesman told Reuters news agency: "He may have been harassed... but it was by individual police and not authorised by police authorities... It could have happened in Sweden as well. The United States is a recognised democracy" 15.

There is nothing to suggest that the Appeals Board carried out any thorough examination of the evidence presented by Goldstein, which included statements in support of his claim by, among others, NACOLE (the US National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement), the '8th Day Center for Justice' (a Catholic human rights group in the USA), and the Swedish section of Amnesty International (AI). In a letter to the Appeals Board, AI emphasised that its 1996 report on police brutality in New York confirmed Goldstein's account in that it described a pattern of police misconduct typical of other cities and states in the US. Hinting at the Immigration authorities' reference to the USA as a recognised constitutional democracy, AI questioned their practice of resorting to "general categorisation resulting in certain asylum seekers being denied due and fair examination [of their claim]". AI noted that "every asylum application must be considered on its individual merits... An individual may have well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin even where this country respects human rights and can be characterised as a state respecting the rule of law".16

The fate of Ritt Goldstein has raised public attention beyond what is usual in Sweden. Just recently, the country's leading newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, published a debate article signed by a number of public figures such as the senior rabbi of Stockholm's Jewish congregation, the president of FARR (Swedish Network for Asylum and Refugee Support Groups), the head of refugee aid of the Catholic Charity, Caritas Sweden, and a bishop of the Swedish Lutheran church. The article ends with a call to the immigration authorities: "Given the facts, and in the name of justice, Ritt Goldstein should be granted protection".17

 

 

Comment

The Goldstein case involves a number of extremely sensitive and controversial issues: it is about policing and police accountability in democratic systems; it is about changing asylum law and practice and their implications for individual asylum seekers; and it is about how political considerations such as friendly relations between states and other "state interests" affect the rights of refugees.

 

Police and accountability

The Goldstein case highlights the changing character of policing in Western democracies. Confronted with the chilling reports of Amnesty International and HRW, and strikingly concurring accounts on police abuse in Connecticut, European readers might be tempted to regard the situation described as an "American problem". However, while some of the disquieting phenomena highlighted by the reports may, partly, find their explanation in the particularities of American history and society, this is no reason to relax.

What the reports describe is a police force upon whom elected politicians have steadily conferred ever more powers in trying to meet the law-and-order demands of their predominantly white, middle-class voters. Faced with increasing social gaps, resulting in the exclusion of ever larger groups of the population and a growing climate of violence and insecurity (real or supposed), government seems all too often have chosen the quick and easy solution of unleashing the police, rather than tackling the roots of the problem. The police were portrayed as the "wonder drug" for the problems politics failed to tackle. The extraordinary publicity made in recent years around the "new" "zero tolerance" and "aggressive policing" policies introduced in New York are an illustration of this tendency. Little attention has, however, so far been paid to a development noted in the HRW report: while "aggressive policing" appears to have contributed to a temporary drop in crime in some cities, this approach also regularly leads to an increase in police abuse.

The pattern of police abuse, and, even more, the fact that "rogue" police (actually a small minority within the force) feel they can act with impunity, protected by the "code of silence", powerful unions and defective systems of accountability, suggest that the development has reached a point where the government and the judiciary are losing control over the police. One can reasonably speculate whether they now have become the hostages of the force they themselves unleashed.

Any observer of the development of policing in Europe will acknowledge that, although European police unions can hardly be compared to US unions, and despite a different tradition of justice, even here, the police have been given ever more powers in recent years, while systems of accountability have not been adapted in consequence on the national level, or do not exist on the supra-national level of EU and Schengen police cooperation. Here too, democratic scrutiny and accountability is steadily being undermined in the name of public order, and the fight against "organised crime", by short-sighted politicians. Here too, the issue addressed by people like Goldstein is a "hot potato" indeed.

 

Asylum affected by "inter-State concerns"

The Goldstein case is also a striking illustration both of problems most asylum seekers have long faced in seeking protection, and of the less known implications of more recent developments in the field of asylum for a small category of applicants - those coming from western constitutional democracies.

To begin with the "old" and common problems: Goldstein was not able to present evidence proving beyond doubt that the harassment and serious abuse he had been subjected to was actually carried out by police officers. For obvious reasons, such evidence is all but impossible to produce, especially where persecution emanates from police officers acting outside the law but benefiting from both the organisational means of the law enforcement apparatus and the "code of silence" which is a characteristic feature of police around the world.

However, the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention does not require such proof. Instead, a refugee must merely substantiate in a plausible way a "well-founded fear" of persecution. The Swedish Aliens Appeals Board found that Goldstein had not proven that "police authorities in the USA" lay behind the attacks. As a matter of fact, Goldstein never claimed this. "Rogue" police cannot be equated with the police authorities. But thanks to his education and his familiarity with western legal standards, Goldstein was able to present comprehensive evidence showing that he had been the target of attacks for a long time, that these attacks were closely related to his political activity as regards their timing and growing intensity, and that the pattern of police abuse he claims to have been exposed to is well documented both in his home state of Connecticut, and in the US at whole. Moreover, he showed that all his efforts to seek redress and protection from US authorities remained fruitless.

It seems Swedish immigration authorities were well aware of the weight of this evidence that should have led to Goldstein being granted protection. In actual fact, they have not made any attempt to invalidate any of the numerous pieces of evidence and statements in support of Goldstein's claim and have explicitly admitted that Goldstein may have been a victim of criminal acts carried out by "individual police officers". Instead, the Immigration authorities appear to have based their decisions on two arguments:

- their assessment of the USA as a constitutional democracy, i.e. a genuinely "safe country of origin";

- the fact that Goldstein is not a victim of state-sponsored persecution.

As regards the latter, Swedish authorities appear to have acted in line with the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council 1995 "Joint Position" defining the term 'refugee', rather than in compliance with national law (see FECL No.39: "Joint Position on a common definition of the term 'refugee'"). This Joint Position states that persecution generally emanates from an "organ of the state" and that, as a rule, persecution by other parties shall be considered as an asylum ground only when it is "encouraged and authorised" by public authorities.

However, pressed by human rights and asylum groups at home, Sweden was the only member state to add a declaration to the Joint Position stating that the Refugee Convention shall also apply where a state is incapable of protecting a person from persecution by other parties.

As to the interpretation of the term "safe country of origin", the Goldstein case must be considered against the background of recent developments of EU asylum policies.

Indeed a Protocol on asylum applications from citizens from other EU-member states attached to the Amsterdam Treaty provides that, as a rule, a member state of the EU will not admit asylum applications from citizens of another EU country. Implicitly, this amounts to differing between applications from "fairly safe countries" and those from "absolutely safe countries". In Amsterdam the EU governments agreed that their countries belonged to the latter category. At that time, UNHCR voiced strong concern that the principle stated in the protocol could undermine the rights of people in genuine need of protection and could result in other regions in the world introducing similar rules.

As opposed to Belgium (the only member state to do so), Sweden refrained from adding a reservation to the protocol, but in a letter of 21 August 1997 the Swedish Minister responsible for asylum, Pierre Schori, reassured concerned Swedish NGOs that "Sweden has not agreed to any restriction of [EU-citizens'] right to seek asylum in another EU-country" and went on to state that "Sweden will examine asylum applications wherever they come from". Just one month later, SIV turned down Goldstein's asylum application and ordered his immediate removal without any individual examination and on the mere grounds that his country of origin was an "internationally recognised" constitutional democracy - read: an "absolutely safe country".

The Goldstein case highlights a trend, initiated by the Amsterdam Protocol on asylum applications from EU citizens, towards "politicising" asylum. The protocol implicitly establishes the view that granting asylum, or merely examining an application, from a citizen of another EU country, is tantamount to questioning a friendly country's status as a "internationally recognised" democracy and constitutional state, and therefore must be regarded as an unfriendly act.

The problem was addressed by an internal paper of the UNHCR shortly before the EU Summit in Amsterdam:

"By declaring the refugee a social and humanitarian problem, which should not become a cause of tension between States, and by regulating it in this manner, the 1951 Convention [on refugees] works to ensure that no discord is sown among Contracting States. It does so not least by depoliticising the process of refugee status determination through employing a universal definition linked to a judgement of individual circumstances not State behaviour. It also works on the basis that all asylum applications should be processed, without discrimination or favour regardless of inter-State concerns. The new proposal [the Amsterdam protocol on asylum applications from EU countries] would work to the contrary, by making refugee protection depend on highly inter-State consultations and specific judgements about the behaviour of States".18

In light of the above, the handling of the Goldstein case is particularly disquieting. It indicates that, out of "inter-State concerns" (i.e friendly relations with the US) Sweden is already applying the logic of the EU Amsterdam protocol in dealing with an application from outside the EU. The final outcome of the Goldstein case is therefore likely to become a precedent with international implications. As a consequence of EU "inter-State concerns" it might soon become virtually impossible for citizens from "internationally recognised" (western) democracies such as the USA, Canada, and Australia to seek protection in Europe.

Ironically, such concerns do not appear to plague the USA. Last year, a German and a Swiss citizen were granted refugee status in the US. Nobody in Europe drew the conclusion that the USA thereby questioned the status of Germany and Switzerland as stable and constitutional democracies.

N.B.

 

References:

1. Norwalk Hour, 15.12.93.

2. Danbury Health Dept., report, 2.8.93.

3. Danbury Police dept, incident report, 30.12.93.

4. USA: Police brutality and excessive force in the new York City Police Department, AI Index AMR 51/36/96, June 1996.

5. Human Rights Watch: Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States, report, June 1998.

6. Article by Mitzi Waltz in PDXS, Volume 5, No.21, 25.1.-8.2.96.

7. Facing up to police horrors, by Bill Collins, broadcast on WSUH/WSUF-FM, 1.1.97.

8. Time to get serious about the police, by Bill Collins, broadcast on WSUH/WSUF-FM, 6.8.97.

9. See: The Standing Committee on Law Enforcement Development (SCOLED): An Act to Provide for a Statewide Civilian Law Enforcement Oversight Board.

10. Cops Who Kill: Lawmakers vs. Law Enforcers, by Eric Friedman, Fairfield County Weekly, 1997.

11. The testimonies are recorded on a video-tape on the hearing, made available to the FECL.

12. Facing up to police horrors, by Bill Collins, broadcast on WSUH/WSUF-FM, 1.1.97.

13. SIV, beslut 1997-09-24, Ärende 9-21 51 05.

14. UN, beslut 1998-01-30, UN 97/08501.

15. Reuters, 10.2.98.

16. AI Swedish section, statement re R. Goldstein, 10.10.97.

17. Dagens Nyheter, 19.7.98.

18. UNHCR, Geneva: Talking points: Protocol on Asylum for nationals of EU Member States: preliminary observations, April 1997.