No due process for human rights defenders in Sweden

By Jallow Momodou, ENAR Sweden
Jallow Momodou, from ENAR Sweden, gives his testimony on the harassment he faced because he tried to defend himself in a case of incitement to racial hatred.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights states in its preamble that all men are created equal and it is up to the member states to protect us from all forms of violations of our rights and dignity. This places special demands on multi-ethnic societies and is often expressed in the form of legislation in order to legally ensure that our rights are not being infringed upon.
Messages and comments such as ”We will shoot you and your nigger kids” and anonymous phone calls with denigrating comments became an everyday part of my life.
Last year, in April 2011, at a student dinner gathering at the prestigious Lund University, students arrived with their faces blacked up, with nooses and shackles around their necks and arms, and led by a white "slave trader". During the course of the evening, a slave auction was enacted whilst the rest of the guests (all white students) participated in this racist enactment of buying and selling of what was supposed to be enslaved Africans. When I was informed of this racist spectacle, I did what any reasonably sensible person would do: I filed a complaint against the students for incitement to racial hatred. This complaint triggered massive racist sentiments amongst the population and as a result I was subjected to a racist reprisal and death threats. Messages and comments such as ”We will shoot you and your nigger kids” and anonymous phone calls with denigrating comments became an everyday part of my life. Apart from threats against me and my family, a manipulated picture of me as a slave in shackles was made into posters bearing the words, in Swedish: "This is our runaway nigger slave and he answers to the name Jallow Momodou. If you should find him please call this number." These were put up in several different spots around my workplace, Malmö University and the entire city of Lund.
This incident gained significant attention and was reported in several mainstream media outlets around the world. International civil society and civil rights organisations reacted with concern. The incident prompted the veteran civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson to write a letter to the Swedish government calling for a national response to the incident and he visited the University in Lund and Malmö, describing the event itself as “a very distasteful, harmful and hurtful act". He warned that "there are no slave trade jokes, there is too much hurt" and he emphasized the importance of taking action against such acts and for the protection of my rights. However, despite all the attention and discontent this incident and my victimization prompted, neither the law enforcement agencies nor the political representatives and the judicial system reacted to protect my rights.
The prosecutor dropped the case against the students who were responsible for the slave auction with the explanation that there wasn’t any racist intent “because it was just a masquerade”. The person who created the manipulated racist depiction of me in shackles admitted to the crime without any regrets whatsoever and in fact admitted in court that he would do it again. However, in spite of his confessions and lack of remorse, the court only gave him a suspended sentence and a relatively low fine, with the motivation that “the court has no reason to believe that the accused will commit a similar crime again” (even though he said he would in court).
The failure of the political representatives, the law enforcement agencies and judicial system in recognising the gravity of this situation and shows that in Sweden, the legislation that is meant to protect the human rights of every individual only exists in theory but is never put in practice when it comes to protecting minority group rights. The legislation only seems to serve the purpose of providing a deceptive image of openness and tolerance in Swedish society. Human rights defenders cannot expect any protection from the Swedish judicial system.

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Antumi Toasijé

Antumi Toasijé
Doctor en Historia, Cultura y Pensamiento