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Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community

The Swedish government has vowed to set up a truth commission to examine the country's past treatment of the Sami minority.

Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community
Swedish and Sami representatives at a ceremony in 2019, which saw the reburial of Sami remains at the cemetery from which they were taken in Lycksele. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The commission would be tasked with charting and investigating the policies affecting the Sami and their implementation.

“It feels very good that we can finally appoint a truth commission,” culture and democracy minister Amanda Lind said in a statement.

“The government has a responsibility to increase knowledge of the abuses, rights violations and racism that Sami people have been subjected to,” Lind continued.

The minister also said that increasing awareness of “historical injustices” was important to “facilitate reconciliation”.

The Sami are believed to have arrived in the region at the end of the last ice age.

Victims of a brutal assimilation policy in the past, today they have been recognised as an indigenous people and have their own parliament in Sweden, but rights groups continue to denounce the state’s handling of Sami issues.

Although Sweden does not include ethnicities in any censuses, the Sami Parliament estimates between 20,000 and 40,000 Sami live in the country.

Of these, between 2,500 and 3,000 make a living from traditional reindeer herding, closely linked to Sami culture.

The commission would also be tasked with spreading awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect Sami people today.

Last week, a similar initiative was launched in neighbouring Finland, when the government officially appointed a truth and reconciliation commission to “collect Sami people’s experiences of the actions of the Finnish state”.

The independent Finnish panel, whose five members were appointed by both the government and Sami representatives, is expected to begin hearing testimony within the coming weeks and will deliver its final report in November 2023.

Members of the Swedish commission have yet to be appointed but according to the government it would be tasked with presenting its findings by December 1st, 2025.

Representatives of the Sami Parliament, which together with Sami interest groups petitioned Sweden’s government to establish a truth commission in 2019, welcomed the announcement.

“It is now time that the Sami people’s history and reality comes to light,” said Marie Persson Njajta, chair of the Sami Parliament’s group for a truth commission.

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POLITICS

Swedish PM’s top aide resigns over illegal eel fishing

One of Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson's top aides has resigned from his post after it emerged that he had been fined by police for illegally fishing for eels and had twice lied to the authorities about what happened.

Swedish PM's top aide resigns over illegal eel fishing

PM Nilsson lied twice to police about eel fishing equipment he was caught with, the second time after he was appointed as state secretary at the end of October. 

After the resignation, Kristersson said he was disappointed that Nilsson, who had previously been a columnist for the Dagens Industri newspaper, had had to step down. 

“I think of course that it is unfortunate that this situation has come about, but I understand his decision,” he said in a written comment to the TT newswire. “PM Nilsson has been a highly appreciated member of the team and is a highly competent person. We are going to miss him.” 

READ ALSO: Why a political aide’s eel denial is causing friction in Sweden

Nilsson announced his decision on Facebook, saying that he had already apologised and paid the fines. 

“I understand how improper it is to fish for eels without a permit and to not tell things as they were to the authorities, even if I have since then rung the police and admitted that I had caught 15 fish,” he wrote in the post. 

Nilsson was recently fined for poaching eel in 2021, and has admitted to having lied to police in a conversation just before Christmas when he claimed that the eel-fishing equipment he had been caught with was not his. He later regretted this decision and informed the police.  

In his Facebook post, Nilsson referred to media reports that police were now investigating him for a further crime of contravening a law to protect endangered species, saying he did not know if this were the case. 

The opposition Social Democrats on Monday referred Ulf Kristersson to the parliament’s Committee on the Constitution, requiring him to explain the situation around Nilsson, and about whether Kristersson knew of the poaching incident when he appointed him, and also on the security vetting which took place. 

“We need to get clarity about how the process of recruiting him took place,” Ardalan Shekarabi, the party’s justice spokesman, said. “What we are chiefly reacting against is that the state secretary lied to the authorities.”

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