Police Shooting in Immigrant Neighborhood Sparks Sweden’s Worse Riots

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Stockholm is burning, sparked by an incident of alleged police brutality twelve days ago.  According to the brother-in-law of the deceased 69 year-old male victim, the man returned home when he was accosted by a gang of youths, who he threatened with knife.  Later when police knocked on his apartment door, he mistook them for the gang and did not answer, prompting the police to break down the door.  The police in turn thought the woman inside the apartment, the man’s wife, was in danger, and shot the man.  Other reports indicate the man was still wielding the knife, and the police acted in self-defense.  The man, a resident of the primarily immigrant-dominated Husby neighborhood, had emigrated to Sweden from Portugal 30 years ago and married his Finnish wife.

(Photo Courtesy of The Local)

Since then, beginning Sunday evening five days ago, with the cry of “police brutality” the worst civil unrest in Sweden in modern times has erupted throughout the suburbs of Stockholm.  Rioters have particularly taken to burning cars as a sign of their contempt for the police, and more than 300 cars have met a toasty end.  A police station at one point was even set on fire, but the flames were quickly contained.  On one night, more than 200 people threw rocks at police.  On another night, firemen were called in to put out over 90 different blazes throughout the city.  Furthermore, shop windows have been smashed, and several police officers have been injured.

Local media also reported, however, that police officers used racist slurs, like “monkey” and “pig” while controlling the unrest.  Authorities say the claim is under investigation, although no formal reports of such an allegation have been filed.

Reza Al Bazi, 14, and his friend Sebastian Horniak, 15, said they witnessed the violence; Horniak said he saw police firing warning shots in the air and calling a woman a “monkey.”  “I got upset yesterday because I saw police attack innocent people, they beat a woman with a baton,” he said.

A small number of arrests were made each night, although generally those arrested were not from the area in which the arrests took place, leading to an increased belief that the rioters are in fact a smaller group that travel about to cause trouble.

Husby resident Marianne Farede, 26, spoke out angrily against the rioters: “It’s idiotic. They’re ruining things for the people that live here. We’re the ones that suffer. It’s our cars that are getting burned, it’s our money.  They’re just waiting for the smallest reason to take their frustration out on the police. I don’t know why they think police are their enemies? They aren’t their enemies. They’re doing their best to protect us.”

Although the death of the unnamed resident of Husby has been cited as the igniting force behind the riots, they represent a greater social tension.  Over the last century, Sweden has seen a swell in immigration, especially since WWII, and although its economy has done relatively well in light of the global financial crisis, Sweden has also seen the fastest growing rate of inequality of any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country over the past 25 years.

Although many immigrants (15% Swedish population) come to Sweden due to its generous refugee policy, they struggle to learn the language and find employment despite numerous government programs.  For example, in Husby, where 80% of the 12,000 residents are immigrants, the overall unemployment rate was 8.8% in 2012, as compared to 3.3% in Stockholm as a whole.  Furthermore, a total of 12% in Husby received social benefits last year, compared to only 3.6% on average in Stockholm.

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag emphasized that the actions of the rioters are not representative of the majority of immigrant youth.  “I’ve seen in the international media that this is a riot between young people in some parts of Stockholm and the society, but this is not true. It’s a small proportion. The majority of young people in Tensta, Husby, Rinkeby, they go to schools and they want to have opportunities in Sweden, and it’s important to tell that story,” he said.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt further stressed the need to end the violence and return control of the besieged neighborhoods to their residents.  “This is not OK. We will not give in to violence.  We must all help out to regain calm. The residents of Husby need to get their neighborhood back,” he said.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Rioters Continue to Battle Police in Sweden – 24 May 2013

Independent – Stockholm Burning: Riots Grip Surburbs as Violent Trouble Spreads – 23 May 2013

The Local – Minister: Stockholm Riots ‘Not Youth Versus Society’ – 23 May 2013

The Local – Stockholm Riots Spread South on Fourth Night – 23 May 2013

Al Jazeera – Sweden Riots Continue after Police Shooting – 22 May 2013

The Local – Stockholm Riots: a View from the Street in Husby – 22 May 2013

Norway Recommends Bringing Magnitsky Sanctions to the UN Security Council

Press Release

23 May 2013 – Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide has recommended bringing the issue of Magnitsky sanctions to the UN Security Council. Responding to a group of Norwegian parliamentarians, Minister Eide pointed out that the decisions of the UN Council are binding on all UN member states and would be a proper forum to consider the issue of sanctions and asset freezes in relation to Russian officials in the Magnitsky case, as opposed to an individual action by Norway.

In his letter to a group of Norwegian lawmakers (available at:http://nhc.no/filestore/Dokumenter/Land/Russland/2013/ResponsefromNorwayFM8May2013.pdf), Foreign Affairs Minister Eide said that Magnitsky case has now become symbolic of the negative trend in human rights in Russia, and “raises the question of the Russian legal system independence.”

I also agree that Magnitsky case has become of symbolic significance as an expression of the negative trend we are now seeing of an increased pressure on human rights, civil society and political opposition in Russia,” said Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister.

Minister Eide shared the concern expressed by Norwegian members of parliament over the posthumous trial of Sergei Magnitsky carried out by Russian authorities in spite of it being three years after his death in police custody.

I share their [Norwegian members of parliament] concern about how Russian authorities have handled the supervision of Sergei Magnitsky death in custody. The posthumous trial of Magnitsky is just as disturbing,” said Minister Eide.

Responding to the matter of introducing visa sanctions and asset freezes on Russian officials in the Magnitsky case in Norway, Minister Eide suggested that the best forum to consider it would be the UN Security Council, rather than a unilateral action by Norway, who is not an EU member.

“When it comes to the issue of sanctions and the freezing of funds, I underline that the basis for the Norwegian sanctions policy is that sanctions should be based on binding decisions of the UN Security Council, such decisions are also legally binding for all UN member states. Norway has no tradition of unilateral action against individual countries or persons, and in our opinion it is not necessarily legitimate and have the legal effect to be effective,” said Minister Eide.

Minister Eide stressed that Norway will continue to use its membership in international organizations, such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, to individually and jointly with other like-minded people raise the human rights agenda in Russia, including through the strengthening of the monitoring mechanism at the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

Major Event in Germany Promoting European Magnitsky Sanctions Cancelled Because German Government Refuses to Grant Safe Passage to William Browder from Politically Motivated Russian Arrest Warrant

Press Release

22 May 2013 – German authorities have refused to grant William Browder, the leader of the global campaign for justice for Sergei Magnitsky, safe passage to Germany from a politically motivated Russian arrest warrant, resulting in the cancellation of the European Magnitsky Law event, scheduled in Berlin on 27 May 2013.

In the latest development concerning the Magnitsky sanctions, the German government has informed the event organisers that Germany is not able to guarantee the safe passage of Mr Browder to Berlin, in light of the recent actions from the Russian government who are seeking assistance from police worldwide to “locate” Mr Browder in retaliation for his campaigning for sanctions on Russian officials.

William Browder was a keynote speaker at the ‘Time for European Magnitsky Law’ event, on the invitation of European Parliament deputy Kristiina Ojuland, and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.  The event was to be held in Germany next week within the framework of the Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy & Human Rights 2013 (www.bhrc.de), which has freedom of expression on the agenda.

“It is remarkable that the German authorities, who have refused calls to sanction Russian officials responsible for torturing and killing 37-year old Sergei Magnitsky, are now effectively sanctioning the person fighting for justice for Mr Magnitsky. By doing so, the German authorities are, for all intents and purposes, becoming an accessory to the Russian cover-up of Magnitsky’s killers in Europe,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

The actions of the German authorities are in contrast to actions from the UK, Belgian and Norwegian governments, who undertook not to act on political and abusive requests from the Russian government in relation to Mr Browder.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Vol. 8, Issue 3 – 6 May 2013


Central African Republic & Uganda



Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)




Special Court for Sierra Leone


Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber


International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia


Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma


United States 

South & Central America







Gender-Based Violence


UN Reports