• Sweden's news in English
 

Holder hails Sweden as human rights 'champion'

David Landes · 4 Feb 2014, 18:31

Published: 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
Sweden Democrats: 'We will run the country'
Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, speaking on Saturday. Photo: Rickard Nilsson/TT

Sweden Democrats: 'We will run the country'

20 hours ago

In his summer talk on Saturday in his hometown of Sölvesborg, Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, predicted that his party would one day be strong enough to run the country and called for a referendum on immigration.

Plane crash-lands on Swedish road
Photo: Adam Ihse

Plane crash-lands on Swedish road

20 hours ago

A light aircraft was forced to land on Highway 27 outside Borås at lunchtime. No one was harmed.

The Local investigates
Should more people live on boats in Stockholm?
House boats at Pampas Marina. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Should more people live on boats in Stockholm?

1 day ago

Living on a boat in Stockholm used to be the preserve of the rich. But as the city's housing crisis swells, could more affordable floating accommodation help provide a solution to the shortage? The Local investigates.

Julian Assange
Sweden and Ecuador set to launch Assange talks
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Sweden and Ecuador set to launch Assange talks

1 day ago

Sweden is seeking to reach a deal to pave the way for prosecutors to question Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where the Wikileaks founder has been holed up for over three years as he fights an extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Stockholm bin men rescue doomed kitten
'It trembled like a leaf'. Photo: Bekir Mercil/Private

Stockholm bin men rescue doomed kitten

1 day ago

Stockholm waste collector Bekir Mercil and his two colleagues were on Friday hailed heroes of the day after they saved a terrified kitten who had fallen into a garbage truck, stuck in tonnes of food waste headed for the incinerator.

Trio in court over attack on Swedish serial rapist
Umeå held a demonstration against sexual violence toward women when Lindgren was released in July. Photo: John Gunseum/TT

Trio in court over attack on Swedish serial rapist

2 days ago

UPDATED: Three men have been remanded in custody over a weekend golf club attack on one of Sweden's most notorious serial rapists who was released from prison earlier this month.

Swedes debate capital's first Airbnb rent ‘ban’
The apartment is located in Stockholm's trendy Södermalm neighbourhood. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Swedes debate capital's first Airbnb rent ‘ban’

2 days ago

UPDATED: A landmark ruling banning a woman in Stockholm from renting out her apartment via the home-sharing website Airbnb after a rent tribunal likened the letting with running a "hotel business" on the premises has sparked debate in Sweden.

Text messages to warn Swedes of terror attacks
Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Text messages to warn Swedes of terror attacks

2 days ago

The Swedish government wants to step up its fight against terror with a new strategy that includes warning civilians to stay away from certain geographical areas via text message.

Champions League
Zlatan breaks internet in Malmö rush for tickets
Former Malmö player Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: Audun Braastad/NTB scanpix/TT

Zlatan breaks internet in Malmö rush for tickets

2 days ago

The excitement in Malmö knew no limits after its football champions were drawn in the same Champions League group as Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain.

Migrant crisis
Were human smugglers on board boat of death?
The Swedish coastguard ship reaching the port of Palermo. Photo: Kustbevakningen

Were human smugglers on board boat of death?

2 days ago

Swedish officials suspect that people involved in human smuggling were on board a migrant boat rescued by the coastguard's ship off the Libyan coast in a catastrophe that claimed 52 lives.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Lifestyle
Six reasons to stay outdoors this week
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
National
Are anti-immigration nationalists really now Sweden's biggest party?
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin in anti racism drive
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
National
Sunshine brightens up Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: August 7th-9th
National
Shocking video sheds light on Swedish 'anti-gay discrimination'
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
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

3,218
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se