UN Expert Urges Sweden to Address Historic Assimilation Policies Impacting Sámi and Minority Groups

Stockholm, A UN human rights expert has called on Sweden to enhance its transitional justice efforts to rectify the longstanding effects of human rights violations against the Sámi people and the Tornedalian/Kven/Lantalaiset minority, stemming from historic assimilation policies. These policies, implemented by the state and church during the 19th and 20th centuries, included language bans, forced cultural assimilation, and various forms of abuse and disenfranchisement.

According to Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteur Fabian Salvioli commended Sweden for legislative reforms aimed at reversing the damaging impacts of these assimilation policies on the affected communities’ culture, identity, and language. However, Salvioli emphasized that the revitalization of their languages and cultures remains fragile and requires further support.

During an official visit to Sweden, Salvioli noted the country’s recent adoption of a transitional justice process, which includes establishing truth-seeking mechanisms for both the Sámi and the Tornedalians/Kven/Lantalaiset. He stressed the importance of implementing the recommendations from these truth commissions promptly and developing relevant mechanisms to do so.

Salvioli highlighted ongoing repatriation and reburial efforts but pointed out the lack of progress in psychosocial rehabilitation, compensation, and formal apologies. He advocated for a comprehensive reparation program to fill these gaps and called for policies to memorialize the legacy of past abuses.

Addressing the ongoing discrimination, racism, and hatred against these communities, the UN expert urged Sweden to meet international standards for combating ethnic hatred and discrimination. He also highlighted the insufficient support for the Tornedalians/Kven/Lantalaiset as a national minority and called for prioritization of their rights and adequate financial resources to support their representatives’ work.

The expert expressed concern over the rights infringements of these communities in the context of development projects, including those related to the “green transition.” He urged the Swedish government to adhere to international standards for consulting affected communities and securing the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples.

Salvioli’s visit included meetings with government officials, civil society organizations, and representatives of the Sámi people and the Tornedalian/Kven/Lantalaiset minority. He plans to submit a full report on his findings to the Human Rights Council in 2024.

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