Statement in the regional council was not agitation against a population group

A member of the regional council in Region Sörmland was prosecuted for a statement he made at a council meeting. The Supreme Court has found that the statement is not punishable as agitation against a population group.

The member made the statement that prompted the prosecution – that the population of a particular country is among the peoples with the lowest intelligence in the world – during a speech in connection with discussions concerning the region's annual report. The speech concerned unemployment in the region, which, according to the member, was affected by the reception of quota refugees from the country in question decided by the Swedish Migration Agency. The member said that he wanted to express that people from that country find it difficult to get work in Sweden because of a low level of education and extensive illiteracy and that he did not intend to offend or disparage them.

The Supreme Court states that there is little scope for holding that statements made in the context of a debate in a political assembly are punishable. It should only be considered in the case of statements with a particularly offensive content and which clearly go beyond what is acceptable in political discussions.

The member's explanation concerning his purpose in making the speech is supported by the investigation into the case. The Supreme Court finds that, given the context, the statement, although clearly derogatory to the group targeted, did not go beyond what must be accepted in the context of a debate in a political assembly. The member is therefore acquitted of the charge of agitation against a population group.

- The importance of a free and open debate must carry great weight when assessing whether statements made during a debate in a political assembly should be considered punishable as agitation against a population group, says Justice Cecilia Renfors. This view is strongly supported by statements made by the legislature when the penal provision was introduced and when it was subsequently amended, as well as by the protection of freedom of expression afforded by the Instrument of Government and the European Convention on Human Rights.