• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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".

Story continues below…

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
Presented by Lernia
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Photo: Lernia

Struggling to learn Swedish? There are a few ways to make it easier. Here are seven tips from the experts.

Here's how much Sweden's highest-earning authors make
It was a good year for the likes of Jonas Jonasson (left) and Camilla Läckberg (right). Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Henrik Montgomery/TT

From Nordic Noir to a hundred-year-old man (and one called Ove), Sweden's authors had a good year in 2015.

Sweden named world's sixth most competitive country
The good news also came with some caveats. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT

The country moved up three places in the top ten of the latest edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

The Swedish celebs you really should not google
'Oh no, don't tell me I just clicked on THAT link.' Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

These are the world's most dangerous viral Swedish celebrities, according to a new report.

Furious elk mum attacks Swede, breaks his arm
You talkin' to me? Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

It came back and attacked him not once, but twice.

Report: Stockholm is at risk of a housing bubble
Apartments in Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Stockholmers are the third most likely to experience a housing bubble in their city, according to an international ranking.

The Local List
Reverse culture shock: the troubles of leaving Sweden
Does it get more Swedish than this? Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

Why is that stranger talking to me in the elevator?!

Police close Facebook thread after call for help derails
A file photo of police cars on Gotland not related to the article. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gotland Police Facebook post asking the public for information about an unprovoked attack on two boys had to be closed because the comments section spiraled out of control.

US election
What Americans in Sweden think of Trump and Clinton
The Local spoke to Americans in Sweden after the first US presidential debate. Photo: David Goldman/AP/TT

The Local spoke to four US voters based in Sweden about who they are planning on voting for in the November election, and it looks like it's complicated.

Presented by Emirates Center for Strategic Studies
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
File photo: sanjitbakshi/Flickr

As Sweden prepares to take a seat on UN Security Council next year, Abu Dhabi-based scholar and author Dr. Jamal Sanad al-Suwaidi argues for a greater UN role to fight extremist ideologies like those that fuel Isis and other terror groups.

Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,961
jobs available