• 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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Two Russian warships equipped with long-range missiles have entered the Baltic Sea after passing Denmark.

Why businesses are worried about Sweden's drone ban
A drone filming in Stockholm. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Local investigates what Sweden's new drone ban could mean for businesses in the country.

This is the new top boss of Swedish Ericsson
Börje Ekholm. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Telecoms giant Ericsson has appointed a new CEO after a turbulent year for the company.

These are Sweden's best universities: ranking
A new university ranking has been released. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se

At least according to this global ranking, which picks 12 Swedish universities among the top-1000.

Swedish pharmacies restrict paracetamol sales for teens
The move is intended to cut paracetamol overdoses. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

Sweden's pharmacies are banning teens under 18 from buying more than one pack of pills at a time.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

Rwandan genocide suspect held in Sweden
A memorial centre in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

A man has been arrested in Sweden suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available