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Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community

The Swedish government has vowed to set up a truth commission to examine the country's past treatment of the Sami minority.

Sweden sets up truth commission to probe crimes against Sami community
Swedish and Sami representatives at a ceremony in 2019, which saw the reburial of Sami remains at the cemetery from which they were taken in Lycksele. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The commission would be tasked with charting and investigating the policies affecting the Sami and their implementation.

“It feels very good that we can finally appoint a truth commission,” culture and democracy minister Amanda Lind said in a statement.

“The government has a responsibility to increase knowledge of the abuses, rights violations and racism that Sami people have been subjected to,” Lind continued.

The minister also said that increasing awareness of “historical injustices” was important to “facilitate reconciliation”.

The Sami are believed to have arrived in the region at the end of the last ice age.

Victims of a brutal assimilation policy in the past, today they have been recognised as an indigenous people and have their own parliament in Sweden, but rights groups continue to denounce the state’s handling of Sami issues.

Although Sweden does not include ethnicities in any censuses, the Sami Parliament estimates between 20,000 and 40,000 Sami live in the country.

Of these, between 2,500 and 3,000 make a living from traditional reindeer herding, closely linked to Sami culture.

The commission would also be tasked with spreading awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect Sami people today.

Last week, a similar initiative was launched in neighbouring Finland, when the government officially appointed a truth and reconciliation commission to “collect Sami people’s experiences of the actions of the Finnish state”.

The independent Finnish panel, whose five members were appointed by both the government and Sami representatives, is expected to begin hearing testimony within the coming weeks and will deliver its final report in November 2023.

Members of the Swedish commission have yet to be appointed but according to the government it would be tasked with presenting its findings by December 1st, 2025.

Representatives of the Sami Parliament, which together with Sami interest groups petitioned Sweden’s government to establish a truth commission in 2019, welcomed the announcement.

“It is now time that the Sami people’s history and reality comes to light,” said Marie Persson Njajta, chair of the Sami Parliament’s group for a truth commission.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Sweden’s right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The four parties backing Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Sunday announced that they had agreed to keep the current Speaker, Andreas Norlén in place, when the role is put to a vote as parliament opens on Monday.

Sweden's right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The parties won a three-seat majority over the bloc led by the incumbent Social Democrats in Sweden’s general election on September 11th, and are currently in the middle of negotiating how they will form Sweden’s next government. 

Sweden’s parliament meets at 11am for the official installation of the 349 MPs for this mandate period. The votes for the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are the first item on the agenda, after which the parties each select their parliamentary leaders and then vote on who should chair each of the parliamentary committees. 

READ ALSO: What happens next as parliament reopens? 

In a joint press release announcing the decision, the parties also agreed that the Sweden Democrats would be given eight of the 16 chairmanships the bloc will have of parliamentary committees in the next parliament, and that MPs for all four parties would back Julia Kronlid, the Sweden Democrats’ Second Deputy Leader, as the second deputy Speaker, serving under Norlén. 

In the press release, the parties said that Norlén had over the last four years shown that he has “the necessary personal qualities and qualifications which the role requires”. 

The decision to retain Norlén, who presided over the 134 days of talks and parliamentary votes that led to the January Agreement in 2019, was praised by Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson. 

Norlén, she said in a statement, had “managed his responsibilities well over the past four years and been a good representative of Sweden’s Riksdag.” 

The decision to appoint Kronlid was opposed by both the Left Party and the Green Party, who said that she supported tightening abortion legislation, and did not believe in evolution.

The Green Party’s joint leader Märta Stenevi said that her party “did not have confidence in Julia Kronlid”, pointing to an interview she gave in 2014 when she said she did not believe that humans were descended from apes.

The party has proposed its finance spokesperson Janine Alm Ericson as a rival candidate. 

The Left Party said it was planning to vote for the Centre Party’s candidate for the post second deputy Speaker in the hope of blocking Kronlid as a candidate.

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