• Sweden edition
 
Holder hails Sweden as human rights 'champion'
US Attorney General Eric Holder. Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericsson/TT

Holder hails Sweden as human rights 'champion'

Published: 04 Feb 2014 18:31 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Feb 2014 18:31 GMT+01:00

"I have repeatedly seen the significant, positive difference that Swedish engagement brings to the international stage," Holder told the gathered audience of politicians, dignitaries, and representatives from various human rights groups in Sweden.

Holder, the first African American Attorney General of the United States, went on to praise Sweden for passing the Discrimination Act of 2008 and for being a leader in recognizing same-sex marriages.

"By becoming the seventh nation in the world to extend the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples, you've stabilized families and expanded individual liberty," he said.

He went on to reference Sweden's tradition of being a "safe haven" for refugees dating back to the granting of asylum to Jewish migrants fleeing persecution during World War II.

"You've shown that, although it is seldom easy, it is both noble and, more importantly, right to fight the short term comfort of indifference; to welcome those who flee from persecution; and to shelter those who struggle to survive in the lands where they were born," he said.

The speech, billed as a talk about confronting contemporary civil rights challenges, comes as Holder faces questions back home and from leaders in Europe about the surveillance methods of the National Security Agency (NSA).

The issue came up once again during questions following the Tuesday's speech in Stockholm, when Holder was asked whether individual privacy protections need to be strengthened following revelations about the extent of the NSA's data gathering activities.

"The activities undertaken by the NSA are legal under American law," Holder pointed out.

"But that doesn't answer the question. Simply because we have the technical ability to do certain things and the legal ability to carry out certain surveillance activities, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not this is something that we should do."

He added that he, along with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, is now engaged in an effort to review US surveillance methods.

"It's with the understanding that we want to keep the American people safe; we want to help keep the citizens of our allies safe," said Holder, adding he hopes to "strike a balance".

Holder was in Sweden for a brief visit before heading on to Poland. In addition to giving his speech, the attorney general also met with Sweden's Justice Minister Beatrice Ask. According to a US embassy spokesman, the two discussed "US-Swedish cooperation in global law enforcement issues" but refrained from providing any more specifics.

Holder also met with Swedish Prosecutor General Anders Perklev, an embassy source confirmed for the TT news agency. Perklev had come under pressure from legal experts in Sweden to take action to resolve the ongoing case of whistle blower Julian Assange.

A recurring theme of the speech was the importance of protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world, with Holder quoting remarks made by Barack Obama during his September 2013 visit to Sweden in which the US president noted that "our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law".

Holder called the fight for LGBT equality one of the "defining civil rights challenges of our time", before praising the US embassy in Stockholm for proclaiming during last summer's annual Pride festival that the embassy was "anti-anti-gay".

Among those who attended the speech was author and television presenter Mark Levengood, a US-born Finn who moved to Sweden when he was 19 and who is active in Sweden's LGBT movement.

"I thought it was a brave speech," he told The Local following the event.

"We have Russia as a close neighbour with all sorts of terrible things happening to the LGBT community there, so it's great to hear a US attorney general come with such tough words."

Levengood was particular moved by Holder's reference to Obama's comments on the importance of LGBT rights.

"It was a huge moment for me," he said.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Elections 2014
Reinfeldt in US for first post-election speech
Fredrik Reinfeldt after a previous meeting in the US. Photo: TT

Reinfeldt in US for first post-election speech

Outgoing Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is at a UN climate summit in New York where he is making his first public appearance since election night. READ  

Elections 2014
Loophole lets neo-Nazis onto Swedish councils
Members of the Party of the Swedes march in central Stockholm in August 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Loophole lets neo-Nazis onto Swedish councils

Two neo-Nazis who received only a handful of votes have won seats on Swedish councils thanks to a kink in the country’s election laws. READ  

Assange extradition battle
Sweden pours doubt on Assange extradition
Julian Assange is currently living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Photo: TT

Sweden pours doubt on Assange extradition

Swedish prosecutors said it was "far-fetched" to think that fugitive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could be extradited to the United States if he returned to Sweden, in a statement released on Tuesday. READ  

Police drop case of thief caught on camera
Happier times at Park Lane: Charles Simonyi and Lisa Persdotter celebrate thier wedding in 2008. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/Scanpix

Police drop case of thief caught on camera

Damning video evidence and an apology from an alleged thief’s daughter were not enough to convince police that a well-known criminal had stolen hundreds of thousands of kronor worth of equipment from one of Gothenburg’s most popular night spots. READ  

Opinion
Sweden 'missed' global opportunities
Sweden's outgoing Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Photo: TT

Sweden 'missed' global opportunities

As Stefan Löfven attempts to form a coalition government, Social Democrat MEP Jytte Guteland says her party needs to focus on Sweden's international image. READ  

National
Politics 'most shared' topic in Sweden
Photo: Shutterstock

Politics 'most shared' topic in Sweden

Swedes are more likely to share posts or articles on politics than on any other issues, according to a new report from Mid Sweden University. READ  

National
Fears schoolboy murdered in Sweden
Photo: TT

Fears schoolboy murdered in Sweden

Police in Halmstad say the results of forensic tests suggest a 16-year-old boy found dead in a creek was murdered. READ  

National
Elk hunters risk injury in Sweden’s woods
Hunter Ingela Olsson loads her rifle at sunrise in Norrbölla, northern Sweden. File photo: Gunnar Lundmark/SvD/Scanpix

Elk hunters risk injury in Sweden’s woods

Sweden’s vast annual elk hunt spells danger not just for the majestic animals but also for hunters, with crumbling towers and over-tiredness just two of the season’s perils. READ  

Malmö
Rat invasion closes Malmö preschool
Rats like this one have been found in a kindergarten. Photo: TT

Rat invasion closes Malmö preschool

Children in central Malmö are staying at home on Tuesday after a rat infestation was discovered at their kindergarten. READ  

National
Sweden's benefit agency site restored
Photo: TT

Sweden's benefit agency site restored

UPDATED: Sweden's Social Insurance Agency website is working again after being out of action since Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week - Torslanda
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: September 20th
The 'black gold' of Sweden's west coast.
National
West Sweden prepares for the 2014 lobster premiere
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Blog updates

22 September

Welcome National Geographic! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"What comes to mind when you think of the “The Arctic”? Crystal-encased cliffs jutting from the sea, baronial Polar bears scavenging over sheets of cracked ice or a lone explorer heading north into the night. The image my mind invokes is of three sparkling green lines splashed across the sky like graffiti— the Aurora Borealis— our..." READ »

 

19 September

Editor’s blog (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday readers! It sure has been a exciting week in Sweden, where we’re set to get a new Prime Minister after Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down following Sunday’s elections. The Local blogged live from the key political gatherings across Stockholm. Why not re-visit the action by taking a look at our photos, tweets, videos and analysis? Since the..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

858
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN