Vi Har Brug for et Permanent Uvildigt Juridisk orgen

Vi Har Brug for et Permanent Uvildigt Juridisk orgen

17 Jan 2021
Statement - uvildigt juridisk organ

Danish Democracy Needs a Permanently Independent Legal Body

Updated: 30 November, 2021

The Mink and the Støjberg cases clearly demonstrate that Denmark needs a permanent independent legal body to ensure rule of law!

For when it is ultimately a majority in Parliament that can decide whether to launch an impeachment, then Parliament can afford to ignore commissions, ignore the impartial legal assessment and ignore public opinion.
Parliament can rush a case, it can delay a case.

Danish democracy has seen too many irregularities to be ignored.
Other countries have independent courts and we think it's time Denmark had one too.

Nevertheless, 30 voted against impeachment, all from the national conservative parties Nye Borgerlige and Dansk Folkeparti, which publicly supported Støjberg.
Not for legal or other judicial reasons tied to a genuine doubt of guilt, but because of political conviction and ideology.

The Mink case: here a Citizens' Motion was needed before a Court of Justice was considered.
It was supported by a broad group in Parliament, with representatives from the Social Democratic Party itself, the Left Party, the Danish People's Party, the Socialist People's Party, the Radical Left Party, Enhedslisten, the Conservatives, the New Liberals, the Liberal Alliance, the Alternative Party, Inuit Ataqatigitt and two members of the Free Greens - presenting the Citizens' Bill in Parliament.

The Mink case has in many ways turned out to have the opposite meaning - the citizens of Denmark wanted an impeachment trial before a Commission had been set up - and here the Conservatives, Venstre, Liberal Alliance, the Radikale Venstre, Danish People's Party and Inger Støjberg voted in favour of an impeachment trial.
The government and the supporting parties voted against a Rigsretssat and now Minkkommissionen is well underway with their work.

The Støjberg case: The proposal for an impeachment trial was put forth by the government after an 11 month investigation - Instruction Commission (website in Danish only). The proposal itself was discussed over five calendar days.

In the end, the final decision of whether to impeach Inger Støjberg lies with a majority of the Danish Parliament. That is, Parliament could have chosen to ignore the Instruction Commission, ignore the impartial legal assessment and ignore public opinion. Parliament could have said no and 9 members of the Liberal Party's parliamentary group did actually - just as leading figures in the national conservative parties Nye Borgerlige and Dansk Folkeparti publicly supported Støjberg. Not for legal or other legal reasons bound in an actual doubt of guilt, but due to political beliefs and ideology.

No one can be required to assess their own guilt - it is time to have a proper, independent judicial body to ensure the rule of law in Denmark.

During the Instruction Commission, the former Minister of Education and current President of the Nordic Council, Bertel Haarder, regretted that Inger Støjberg had not just said sorry:

“Had she only made a timely apology.”

But would an apology have altered the fact that she knowingly deceived Parliament and misled our elected representatives, knowing that what she was doing was against the law?

So it is perhaps not so surprising that many Danes breathed a sigh of relief when the Impeachment was confirmed and it was to be tried.

But it could very well have gone differently. Political colleagues across parties and political standpoints could for various strategic or personal reasons protect Støjberg and avoid an impeachment at all costs by voting against.
Despite the fact that every independent legal body has confirmed the basis for a trial.
In the worst case scenario, the majority could have become a majority dictatorship, disabled rule of law and thus equated Denmark with a banana republic or the USA, where Trump continues to dodge his responsibility because Republicans refuse to realise the mistake of having elected him back in 2016. 

The term Constitutional Court has been mentioned by some Danish parties, like Alternativet, but the proposal carries little power as Denmark does not have a constitution in the known sense of the word.

We in Volt Danmark therefore proposes the establishment of a Permanent Independent Legal Body, which acts in parallel with the offices of the individual ministries to ensure that our elected ministers comply with the law.

The Commission has shown that this solution is possible and the Mink case has shown that it is necessary. This ensures that the generalists of the civil service can consult externally and can resist if a powerful demagogue is elected.

The creation of such a body is needed as no one is above the law - and certainly not during a crisis! 

Kathrine Richter & Alexander Nielsen
Co-Presidents, Volt Danmark