The FIDC is disappointed and saddened by the opinions expressed by the Ombudsman in his Letter of 29 December 2003 regarding the wrongful treatment of Falun Gong practitioners by the Icelandic Government at the time of the visit to Iceland of Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin in June 2002.
The Ombudsman has basically approved all the arguments from the Government for its unacceptable actions of denying entry of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners, compiling and distributing and using a blacklist of practitioners, detention of practitioners and other wrongful treatments.
We do acknowledge the time and effort that the Ombudsman’s office took to translate intricate points of Icelandic law and his decision into English. We also acknowledge the difficulty of undertaking such a sensitive and high-profile case, one with national -- indeed international -- ramifications. Nevertheless:
The Ombudsman’s Letter may be good news for a few government officials, but represents a sad moment for good values, human rights and the Icelandic people. In fact the Ombudsman, by siding with the government, has turned his back on the Icelandic people. His Letter effectively says that the government, which kowtowed to the brutal dictator, was right and the ordinary Icelandic people who took to the street en masse in opposition to the outrage were wrong; and that the government’s compromising the long Icelandic tradition of democracy and liberties was legal and the Icelandic people’s outcry against abuses of basic human rights was ill-informed. This can not be correct, morally or legally.
Reading the Letter from the Ombudsman is like reading the defence from the government itself. There is scant independent contribution from the
Ombudsman. In a meeting with representatives of the Ombudsman shortly after the complaint was launched, we were advised that we would be kept current with the progress of the case, provided copies of letters from the Ombudsman to other parties, and given opportunities to make further comments and supply information. Unfortunately, this did not happen. However, we were informed that the Ombudsman had had a meeting with representatives from the ministries involved. We were denied information about the contents of the meeting, let alone an opportunity to comment or supply further information.
The whole argument of the government, as accepted by the Ombudsman, rests on the far-fetched excuse that Falun Gong practitioners represented a threat to security and public order. As witnessed by the Icelandic public in June 2002, nothing can be further from the facts -- Falun Gong practitioners have been exceptionally peaceful and orderly. Even prior to the practitioners’ arrival, the Government had knowledge of numerous, non-violent and peaceful Falun Gong appeals. They knew about the overwhelming number of cases of good cooperation with police forces around the world, but chose to disregard this information. Instead the Government referred to exceptionally rare incidents where practitioners supposedly “push or rush through police lines” as their excuse for the unjustifiable excess of blacklisting, barring entry of, detaining and deporting practitioners. It is sad that the Ombudsman sided with the government and found the latter’s extraordinary actions not “unreasonable”
One purpose of law is to uphold moral standards in society. In this regard, the Ombudsman failed miserably. The Ombudsman’s statement that it falls outside his competences to express an opinion if something conforms to general standards of justice and morality, though a standard text, sounded particularly ominous in the context of this case.
Is a government free to define anyone as a threat without due justification, then interfere with his/her human rights as it wishes? Definitely not -- but that happened in June 2002 and today the Ombudsman has effectively lent his support to that outrageous behaviour. At a more fundamental level, the Government’s actions with the Ombudsman’s approval effectively make them siding with the Chinese dictator, who persecutes Falun Gong practitioners with brutality and hate propaganda.
This goes against the proud traditions of Icelandic democracy and the overwhelming wishes of the modern Icelandic people. This must be corrected, for the sake of Iceland and its people as well as justice for practitioners involved. We call on the Ombudsman to re-consider his conclusions as urgently as possible.
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