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Court lowers penalty for Swedish girl’s Cambodia abduction

An appeals court in Sweden has reduced the sentence of the father of a now six-year-old girl whom he abducted and took to Cambodia, hiding the girl for more than a year.

Court lowers penalty for Swedish girl's Cambodia abduction

The Court of Appeal for western Sweden on Friday shortened by three months the sentence previously handed down to 48-year-old Torgeir Nordbo.

Nordbo will now serve one year and two months in prison on a conviction for unlawfully separating the child, Alicia Elfversson, from her legal guardian (egenmäktighet med barn).

The ordeal began in June 2007 when Nordbo told the girl’s mother, Maria Elfversson, that he was taking his daughter on a two week vacation. He ended up taking the girl first to Thailand, then Cambodia, disguising Alica by cutting her hair to make her look like a boy.

After more than a year on the run, Nordbo was arrested in Cambodia in July 2008 and brought back to Sweden to stand trial.

The appeals court also lowered the level of damages to be paid by Nordbo to Alicia’s mother from 87,900 kronor ($10,460) to 69,404 kronor.

Even though the appeals court agreed with the lower court’s ruling regarding the seriousness of the crime, it made another assessment regarding the appropriate level of punishment.

H&M

Swedish fashion giant faces child labour claims

Organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized, among others, Swedish retailer H&M over alleged child labour and poor work conditions in its Cambodian factories, in a report published on Thursday.

Swedish fashion giant faces child labour claims
Swedish clothes retailer H&M has been criticized by Human Rights Watch. Photo: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Justin Tang

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In the report, which also mentions international brands such as Adidas, Marks and Spencer and Gap, HRW interviews workers at 73 factories in Cambodia and many tell of forced overtime, few opportunities to take a break, and of sexual harassment.

In one of the factories, which produces clothes for H&M, workers describe how they have been made to work on their days off. They also claim that staff at one of the factory's sub contractors uses children as cheap labour.

“Some of the worst employment related crimes happen at the larger factories' smaller suppliers. The reason is that nobody really investigates them,” Aruna Kashyap, who focuses on women's rights at HRW, told Swedish broadcaster SVT.


Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson and Aruna Kashyap at an HRW press conference. Photo: AP

In one factory, workers claimed that their productivity was being monitored on behalf of H&M.

They are now assessing how much time it takes to make a shirt. I don't know what H&M is thinking but this is very difficult for workers. (…) We can't rest. (…) For some types of shirts they are setting 2,000 as quota. We have to meet this quota every day. Otherwise we get shouted at,” he said in an interview with HRW.

H&M representatives told HRW that they have not commissioned any productivity studies in their supplier factories, but added it was possible it could have been done without their knowledge.

Press officer Håcan Andersson told SVT that they have sought information to find out what factories are involved.

“We have asked HRW to share the information about the alleged H&M suppliers mentioned in the report so that we can follow it up on site, but they have not been willing to do that,” he wrote in an email.

He added that H&M representatives are going to meet with HRW later this week.

“They have shown interest in the report and is one of few clothing companies that openly publish the factories they work with,” Nisha Varia, advocacy director of HRW's women's rights division, told SVT.