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Title:  Sweden Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                                SWEDEN 
 
 
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a multiparty parliamentary 
democracy.  The King is Chief of State.  The Cabinet, headed by the 
Prime Minister, exercises executive authority.  The judiciary is 
independent of the Government. 
 
The Government effectively controls the police, all security 
organizations, and the armed forces. 
 
Sweden has an advanced industrial economy, mainly market-based, and a 
high standard of living, with extensive social welfare services.  More 
than 90 percent of businesses are privately owned. 
 
Human rights are deeply respected and widely protected.  Swedes are 
entirely free to express their political preferences, pursue individual 
interests, and seek legal resolution of disputes.  The Parliament, 
police, or an ombudsman investigate thoroughly all allegations of human 
rights violations, including the occasional allegation of police 
misconduct.  Sweden's ombudsmen, appointed by the Parliament but with 
full autonomy, have the power to investigate any private complaints of 
alleged abuses by authorities and to prescribe corrective action if 
required.  Sweden has one of the world's most equal distributions of 
income, but women still struggle towards reaching the same wage levels 
as men.  There is some societal violence against minorities.  The 
Government has established programs to deal with violence against women. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The law prohibits these abuses, and the authorities respect such 
prohibitions.  Occasional accusations of force by police in arrests do 
occur, but thorough investigations have not produced evidence of a 
systematic problem.  Typically, police officers found guilty of abuse 
have been suspended or otherwise disciplined.  Such disciplinary actions 
numbered less than a dozen nationwide and usually involved officers-in-
training found unfit for permanent duty. 
 
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Arrests are public and by warrant.  The police must lodge charges within 
6 hours against persons detained for disturbing the public order or 
considered dangerous, and within 12 hours against those detained on 
other grounds.  The law requires arraignment within 48 hours.  The time 
between arrest and the first court hearing may be extended to 96 hours 
for detainees considered dangerous, likely to destroy evidence, or 
likely to flee, but this occurs very rarely.  Other than such dangerous 
suspects, detainees are routinely released pending trial.  Bail as such 
does not exist.  If a person files for bankruptcy and refuses to 
cooperate with the official investigation, a court may order detention 
for up to 3 months, with judicial review every 2 weeks. 
 
The Government does not impose exile. 
 
Convicted foreign criminals who are not permanent residents often are 
deported at the conclusion of their prison terms, unless they risk 
execution or other severe punishment in their home country. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution forbids deprivation of liberty without a public trial 
by a court of law, and the Government respects this provision.  The 
judiciary is free of governmental interference.  The accused have the 
right to competent counsel, but the Government provides public defenders 
to indigents only in cases where the maximum penalty could be a prison 
sentence of 6 months or more.  Convicted persons have the right of 
appeal in most instances. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law limits home searches to investigations of crimes punishable by 
at least 2 years' imprisonment, such as murder, robbery, rape, arson, 
sabotage, counterfeiting, or treason.  The authorities respect this 
provision.  Normally, police must obtain court approval for a search or 
a wiretap; however, a senior police official may approve a search if 
time is a critical factor or the case involves a threat to life.  A 
parliamentary committee each year reviews all monitoring of telephones, 
facsimile (fax), or computers. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government respects these provisions in practice.  Most newspapers and 
periodicals are privately owned.  The Government subsidizes daily 
newspapers, regardless of political affiliation.  Broadcasters operate 
under a state concession.  Until a few years ago the State had a 
monopoly over ground-based broadcasting, but a variety of commercial 
television channels (one ground-based, and several via satellite or 
cable) and several commercial radio stations now exist. 
 
The Government may censor publications containing national security 
information.  A quasi-governmental body excises extremely graphic 
violence from films, television programs, and videos. 
 
Whether or not possession of child pornography should be criminalized 
became a highly charged issue during 1995.  Some citizens consider this 
to be a free-speech issue, others an issue of children's rights.  
Excepting child pornography from Sweden's strong free speech guarantees 
will require an amendment of the Constitution, according to most legal 
scholars.  The Parliament held preliminary hearings on the issue, but 
any such amendment cannot take effect until 1998, after a new 
parliamentary election. 
 
Academic freedom is respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association, and the Government respects these rights in practice.  
Police require a permit for public demonstrations, but the authorities 
routinely grant such permits, with rare exceptions to prevent clashes 
between adversarial groups. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
does not hamper the teaching or practice of any faith. 
 
Sweden has maintained a state (Lutheran) church for several hundred 
years, supported by a general "Church Tax" (although the Government 
routinely grants any request by a taxpayer for exemption from that tax).  
After decades of discussion, however, in 1995 the Church of Sweden and 
the Government agreed to a formal separation.  This reform will not 
become effective until the year 2000, and the Church will still receive 
some state support.  Nevertheless, beginning in 1996 citizens will no 
longer automatically become members of the state church at birth. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The law provides for free movement within, from, and returning to the 
country, and the Government respects these rights in practice.  
Foreigners with suspected links to terrorist organizations may be 
required to report regularly to police authorities, but can travel 
freely within Sweden.  Courts must review the reporting requirement for 
each case at least once every 3 years. 
 
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, and 
does not expel those having what the Government considers a valid claim 
to refugee status.  On some occasions, the Government has granted 
permission to stay for humanitarian reasons even when a refugee (often a 
minor) does not meet normal standards for refugee status.  Those 
standards are relatively generous, although the European Court of 
Justice did ask Sweden to re-examine one case involving deportation of 
two Kurdish families.  As of late 1995, the Government had not put that 
decision into effect.  A similarly controversial case, involving a Sri 
Lankan family which initially entered Sweden under diplomatic status, 
also remains pending. 
 
Sweden granted temporary residence to approximately 5,000 Bosnians who 
initially entered Sweden on Croatian passports, after a public uproar 
(including an ad hoc "sanctuary" movement) ensued when Sweden in March 
deported several busloads of "Bosnian-Croatians" to Croatia.  The 
Government cited the escalating conflict in Croatia as the reason for 
halting the deportations.  The period of temporary residence was 
scheduled to expire late in 1995, with the future status of these 
Bosnians remaining uncertain.  Sweden has accepted over 100,000 refugees 
from the former Yugoslavia. 
 
The Government placed a visa requirement on visitors from Cuba on 
January 1, 1995, resulting in a rush of several hundred Cuban asylum 
seekers in the last weeks of December 1994.  Approximately 1,500 Cubans 
applied for asylum in 1994, and in 1995, approximately 600 of those 
received asylum status.  Of the remainder, at least 100 had been 
deported or voluntarily returned to Cuba by the end of 1995; the other 
cases remain under consideration or have entered the appeals process.  
The Government observed international standards in determining whether 
applicants had a well-founded fear of persecution. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Constitution provides ways and means for citizens to change the 
Government.  Elections to the 349-member unicameral Parliament are held 
every 4 years.  Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 years and older, 
with secret balloting.  Noncitizen residents have the right to 
participate in local (city and county) elections. 
 
Women participate actively in the political process and Government.  
They currently compose 41 percent of the Parliament and half of the 
Cabinet.  The governing Social Democratic Party largely has held to its 
pledge to place women in half of all political appointments at all 
levels. 
 
Section 4   Government Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
Several private organizations actively monitor issues such as the impact 
of social legislation, anti-immigrant or racist activities, and the 
condition of the indigenous Sami population.  The official ombudsmen 
also publicize abuses of state authority and have the right to initiate 
actions to rectify such abuses.  Government agencies are in close 
contact with a variety of local and international groups working in 
Sweden and abroad to improve human rights observance. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens, and the 
Government respects this provision. 
 
   Women 
 
Nearly 18,600 cases of assault against women took place in 1994 (the 
last year statistics are available), an increase of 600 over 1993.  Most 
involved spousal abuse.  In three-quarters of the assaults, the 
perpetrator was an acquaintance of the victim.  Reported abuse against 
women occurs disproportionately in immigrant communities. 
 
The law provides complainants protection from contact with their 
abusers, if so desired.  In some cases the authorities help women obtain 
new identities and homes.  Since 1994 the Government has provided 
electronic alarms or bodyguards for women in extreme danger of assault.  
Both national and local governments provide monetary support to 
volunteer groups that provide shelter and other assistance to abused 
women.  The authorities strive to apprehend and prosecute abusers.   
 
Typically, the sentence for abuse is a prison term or psychiatric 
treatment. 
 
The number of rapes (not available for the 1994 report) rose sharply in 
1993, from approximately 1,400 to over 2,100.  In 1994, the number 
dropped somewhat, to 1,800.  Women's groups believe the increase in 
recent years is partly an effect of increased willingness to report rape 
(including spousal or "date" rape), but cannot rule out the possibility 
of a real increase resulting from worsened economic and social 
conditions.  The law does not differentiate between spousal and 
nonspousal rape. 
 
A study conducted by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in preparation 
for the U.N. Conference on Women gave Sweden the highest ranking on 
equality for women.  The law requires employers to treat men and women 
alike in hiring, promotion, and pay, including equal pay for comparable 
work.  The equality ombudsman, a public official, investigates 
complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market.  Women may also 
pursue complaints through the courts.A third option, and by far the most 
common, involves settling allegations using the employee's labor union 
as mediator.  Virtually all gains in the status of women have occurred 
through such negotiations, with relatively little resort to legislation 
or legal decisions. 
 
Despite the available remedies, surveys show that women remain 
underrepresented in higher-paying jobs, with salaries averaging only 72 
percent of men's, a decrease from a high of 80 percent only a decade 
ago.  This decrease largely reflects recent substantial cuts in social-
sector jobs, where women comprise the vast majority of the workforce.  
In addition, tight economic conditions in recent years have made unions 
less willing to pursue claims of pay discrimination.  Women submit 
hundreds of complaints to the equality Ombudsman each year, but almost 
all of these complaints are either resolved or dropped before the 
ombudsman takes action. 
 
As a result, women increasingly have begun to turn to the courts in 
cases of individual discrimination.  Women initiated several test cases 
of the "equal pay for comparable work" clause in 1995, with decisions 
expected in 1996. 
 
The law prohibits sexual harassment.  As with other forms of 
discrimination, women may take complaints to the equality ombudsman, the 
courts, or to their unions. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government allocates funds to private organizations concerned with 
children's rights, and also supports a special ombudsman for children.  
The Ombudsman has focussed her work on ensuring adherence to the U.N. 
Convention on the Rights of the  
 
Child, which Sweden was among the first countries in the world to 
ratify. 
 
Although child abuse appears relatively uncommon, the public and 
authorities remain concerned by consistent data indicating an increase 
over the past several years.  The number of reported cases, for children 
under the age of 15, rose significantly in 1994, to 4,400 from 3,300 in 
1993.  Many children's rights advocates believe this change reflects a 
true increase (as opposed to increased incidence of reporting) due to 
the strains imposed on families by the difficult economic situation. 
 
The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children 
mentally or physically in any way.  Parents, teachers, and other adults 
are subject to prosecution if they physically punish a child, including 
slapping or spanking.  Children have the right to report such abuses to 
the police.  The authorities respect these laws, and the usual sentence 
is a fine combined with counseling and monitoring by social workers.  If 
the situation warrants, however, authorities may remove children from 
the home and place them in foster care.  However, foster parents 
virtually never receive permission to adopt long-term foster children, 
even in cases where the parents are seen as unfit or seek no contact 
with the child.  Critics charge that this policy places the rights of 
biological parents over the needs of children for security in permanent 
family situations. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  The 
Government provides disabled persons with assistance aimed at allowing 
them to live as normal a life as possible, preferably outside an 
institutional setting.  This includes educational aid, such as provision 
of personal tutors or assistants at all stages from day care to 
university studies, as well as assistance in the workplace, such as 
provision of a personal aide or improvement of the workplace's 
accessibility to wheelchairs.  It also encompasses services such as home 
care or group living.  Regulations for new buildings require full 
accessibility, but the Government has no such requirement for existing 
public buildings.  As a result, many buildings remain inaccessible to 
disabled persons. 
 
   Indigenous People 
 
Sweden counts at least 17,000 Sami (Lapps) among its 8.6 million 
inhabitants (Sami organizations place that number somewhat higher, 
between 25 to 30,000).  In 1994 Sweden was the last of the Nordic 
countries to allow formation of a Sametinget, or Sami Parliament, as an 
advisory body to the Government.  Under the current Government, Sami 
issues fall under the Ministry of Agriculture. 
 
The Sami continue a protracted struggle for recognition as an indigenous 
people under a variety of international agreements, such as 
International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169.  Historically, 
the Government has resisted granting Sami such rights.  For instance, 
Sami children had no right to education in their native language until 
provision of such education to immigrant children forced the Government 
to grant Sami at least equal treatment.  As a result of such education, 
northern Sami dialects have enjoyed a recent renaissance.  Sami dialects 
in the southern portions of traditional Sami lands, however, now may 
have too few native speakers to survive as living languages. 
 
Late in 1994, the Government removed from Sami the right to control 
hunting and fishing activities on Sami village lands, permitting instead 
totally unlimited hunting and fishing activity on all government 
property.  In 1995 Sami leaders strongly protested this change as well 
as an additional law permitting hunting far earlier than before, and 
several confrontations occurred. 
 
Although some Sami state that they face discrimination in housing and 
employment on an individual basis, particularly in the southern mountain 
regions, the Government does not condone such discrimination. 
 
   Religious Minorities 
 
Some synagogues received bomb threats, and neo-Nazi groups carried out 
acts of desecration against several Jewish cemeteries.  The Government 
supports activities by volunteer groups working against anti-Semitism.  
Moslem mosques also received a number of threats. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Scattered acts of violence or harassment against minorities continue, 
usually from "skinhead" groups with neo-Nazi ties.  Although the 
Government does not compile national statistics on such acts, 1 
newspaper counted over 100 violent incidents with racist overtones (most 
involving neo-Nazis) in a recent year.  Two resulted in death, one an 
African asylum seeker stabbed to death, and the other a 14-year-old son 
of immigrants brutally beaten by four teenage skinheads, and then 
drowned after several hours of torture.  Most of the other incidents 
also involved assault on lone immigrants by groups of teenage skinheads, 
but actions against military facilities to steal weapons also occurred. 
 
Nevertheless, most estimates place the number of active neo-Nazis at 
less than 2,000, and few appear to support their activities or 
sentiments.  Many Swedes doubt whether such youth actually embrace neo-
Nazi ideology, and the Government supports activities by volunteer 
groups working against racism.  The Government investigates and 
prosecutes race-related crimes, although in many clashes between Swedish 
and immigrant youth gangs, authorities judge both sides as at fault.  In 
the murder of the 14-year-old noted above, the judges, defense and 
prosecution all received criticism for not drawing attention to the Nazi 
sympathies of the perpetrators, who forced their victim to say Nazi 
slogans before murdering him.  The chief prosecutor himself criticized 
the legal system late in 1995 for not vigorously pursuing this and other 
instances where discrimination against minorities is a motivating factor 
in crimes. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The work force is 87 percent unionized.  Career military personnel, 
police officers, and civilian government officials, as well as private 
sector workers in both manufacturing and service industries, are 
organized.  Most business owners belong to counterpart employer 
organizations. 
 
Unions and employer organizations operate independently of the 
Government and political parties (although the largest federation of 
unions has always been linked with the largest political party, the 
Social Democrats).  The law protects the freedom of workers to associate 
and to strike, as well as for employers to organize and to conduct 
lockouts.  Within limits protecting the public's immediate health and 
security, public employees also enjoy the right to strike.  These laws 
are fully respected and are not challenged. 
 
Unions have the right to affiliate with international bodies.  They are 
affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and 
European Trade Union Confederation among others. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Labor and management, each represented by a national organization by 
sector (for example, retailers and engineering industries), negotiate 
framework agreements every 2 to 3 years.  More detailed company-level 
agreements put such framework agreements into effect at the local level. 
 
The collective bargaining agreements covering virtually all public and 
private sector workers expired, but new agreements are being concluded 
with a minimum of disruption to the economy.  Of the few job actions in 
1995 involving significant numbers of employees, all came to settlement 
relatively quickly.  This included strikes or lockouts involving retail 
workers, airline pilots, and municipal workers, as well as an overtime 
ban by metal workers. 
 
The law provides both workers and employers with effective mechanisms 
for resolving complaints.  The vast majority of complaints are resolved 
informally.  If informal discussions fail, the issue goes to a labor 
court, whose ruling sets a precedent to be followed by employers and 
unions.  Cases of an employer firing an employee for union activities 
are virtually unheard of; no cases occurred in 1995.  Several wildcat or 
illegal strikes took place in 1995, but at a very small, local level and 
with quick resolution. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the authorities 
effectively enforce this ban. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age of Employment of Children 
 
Compulsory 9-year education ends at age 16, and the law permits full-
time employment at that age under supervision of local authorities.  
Employees under age 18 may work only during daytime and under 
supervision.  During summer and other vacation periods, children as 
young as 13 may work part time or in "light" work with parental 
permission.  Union representatives, police and public prosecutors 
effectively enforce this restriction. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There is no national minimum wage law.  Wages are set by collective 
bargaining contracts, which nonunion establishments usually observe as 
well.  Even the lowest paid workers can maintain a decent standard of 
living for themselves and their families through substantial benefits 
(such as housing or day care support) provided by social welfare 
entitlement programs.  However, cutbacks in these programs have made it 
harder for some workers to make ends meet, particularly for low-paid 
single women with children. 
 
The standard workweek is 40 hours or less.  Both the law and collective 
bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods.  For workers 
not covered by a labor agreement, the law stipulates a limit for 
overtime at 200 hours a year, although exceptions may be granted for key 
employees with union approval; some collective bargaining agreements put 
the limit at 150 hours.  The law requires a rest period after 5 hours of 
work, but does not stipulate a minimum duration; in practice it is 
usually 30 minutes.  The law also provides all employees with a minimum 
of 5 weeks of paid annual leave; labor contracts often provide more, 
particularly for higher ranking private sector employees and older 
public service workers. 
 
Occupational health and safety rules are set by a government-appointed 
board and monitored by trained union stewards, safety ombudsmen, and, 
occasionally, government inspectors.  These standards are very high, 
making workplaces both safe and healthy.  Safety ombudsmen have the 
authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an 
inspector.  An individual also has the right to halt work in dangerous 
situations in order to consult a supervisor or safety representative. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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