Sweden Ratifies Rome Statute on Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes

By Barbro Plogander
Barbro Plogander
Barbro Plogander
July 1, 2014 Updated: July 4, 2014

STOCKHOLM—On July 1 2014 Sweden implemented a new law concerning genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The law means that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is now part of Swedish national law.

Christer Engelhardt, a current Swedish MP, had a meeting a few years ago with Lise Berg, then Secretary General of the Swedish section of Amnesty International. She informed him about important human rights issues, and about the Rome Statute, finalised in July 1998, which is the legal basis for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“It’s almost as if we take this for granted in such a democratic society as Sweden, where no forms of violence are allowed in society,” Engelhardt said. “So we might think it’s so obvious that we don’t need specific laws for such crimes.”

The preamble to the Rome Statutebegins in an almost poetic fashion, stating that the parties are “[c]onscious that all people are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage, and concerned that this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time”.

This mosaic was shattered on several occasions during the 20th century as more acts of genocide were carried out than during any previous century. In 1948, after World War II, states committed themselves to a legally binding United Nations Document to prevent genocide, but such crimes have continued unabated.

In 2002, the ICC was finally established to internationally prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, including heads of state.

But the preamble to the Rome Statute also recognizes that “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured by taking measures at the national level”.

This is where Amnesty International wanted Christer Engelhardt’s help, and after his briefing on human rights issues, he felt that if he could contribute to making the Rome statute part of Swedish legislation, he would.

“It seemed like an obvious thing to do”, he said, and told The Epoch Times about how he promised Amnesty International that he would put human rights issues on the agenda if he was elected as member of the Swedish Parliament. He was indeed elected, and in September 2011, he wrote a motion where he pointed out that Sweden had not yet made the Rome Statute part of Swedish legislation.

Crimes against humanity – unlike genocide and war crimes – were previously not even a classification under Swedish law, but from July 1 2014, there is a law concerning penalties for all three. When crimes against humanity were not a classification under Swedish law, Sweden risked becoming a refuge for individuals guilty of such crimes, but this loophole has now been closed.

“We are very clear about this: you will be punished, and if you come here, you won’t feel safe [if you have committed such crimes] just because Sweden is an open and democratic country,” Engelhardt said.

The ongoing atrocities in the world cause major displacements. People are trying to escape their shattered lives and find a safe place to start over. But the instigators of these crimes sometimes become refugees themselves, when circumstances change.

“We will accept refugees fleeing persecution, but not individuals who are trying to escape the consequences of their criminal acts, such as crimes against humanity,” Engelhardt stated.

Another related unresolved issue, according to Engelhardt, is the question of torture. After successfully implementing the Rome Statute in Sweden, Engelhardt is now working to make torture a separate classification under Swedish law. On June 24, the Swedish government announced that it will look into the need for such a classification.

Engelhardt stressed the need for actively implementing international conventions, as opposed to just agreeing to them passively:

“Sometimes it never moves beyond the pretty words. We sign conventions, but we never really take them to heart”, he said.

Barbro Plogander
Barbro Plogander