'Elite school hazing was illegal torture': expert

Author thumbnail
'Elite school hazing was illegal torture': expert

A Swedish professor has said the hazing techniques used at the now-closed and scandal-hit boarding school Lundsbergs could be in breach of international law on torture, as certain incidents were close to waterboarding.


The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektion) closed the elite school - alma mater to Sweden's Prince Carl Philip - this week, after repeated reports of hazing culminated in two students having to seek medical attention after being burned by an iron.

Yet the incidents recorded at the school appear to have far surpassed the reported event, as certain students appear to have taken a leaf out of the Guantanamo book of torture.

"The student has to lie down on their back with a pipe in their mouth, before being told to "shut all hatches". Water is poured down the pipe and when the student gets water in their mouth, they are told that they didn't "shut all hatches'," the inspector's report read.

The description of the technique - nicknamed the "submarine" - has now been compared to waterboarding.

"It's not a longshot comparison," Ove Bring, Stockholm University international law professor, told the tabloid Aftonbladet.

"Waterboarding involves being on your back with a wet rag over your mouth, then water is poured onto the rag and the victim experiences a feeling of drowning. "The description from Lundsbergs sounds similar," he said. "And in that case it is a crime according to the UN torture convention from 1984."

Bring was not alone in his analysis following the highly publicized closure of the school, which has provoked a debate about penalism, hazing, the role of boarding schools in Swedish society, and whether the students have fallen prey of the authorities' "class hatred" toward the elite education institution that was based on the British board school model.

Three Swedish doctors with ties to the national chapter of the human rights watchdog Amnesty have added their voices to the fray and said the hazing techniques do appear to have the hallmarks of torture.

"It's shocking and puzzling," Inger Sjöberg, Amnesty Sweden medical group chairwoman, told Aftonbladet. "Both young adults and teenager must surely know it is dangerous to pour water on someone who is lying down. The water can risk ending up in the lungs."

The principal of the school, Staffan Hörnberg, has been dismissed by the school board. He said on Thursday that he was never aware that the "submarine" technique was employed by his students.

"I feel great disappointment and indignation when media claim that I was informed of and had approved a hazing technique called the submarine at Lundsbergs," he wrote in a Facebook post. "The claim is insulting and libellous."

The Local/at

Follow The Local on Twitter


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also