OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION
reports of States parties due in 1997
[10 February 1998]
1. The Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of
Punishment of 10 December 1994 was signed by Iceland on 4 February
1995 subject to ratification. On 21 October 1996 the Secretary-General
of the United Nations received Iceland's instrument of ratification.
The Convention entered into effect for Iceland on 22 November 1996.
2. This report
is compiled in accordance with article 19 of the Convention, which
provides that the parties shall submit to the Committee reports on
the measures they have taken to give effect to their undertakings
under the Convention, within one year after the entry into force of
the Convention for the State party concerned. This report was prepared
under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice in November and December
1997. In the course of its preparation information was collected from
a multitude of sources engaged in matters to which the Convention
relates. Among the chief institutions from which information was gathered
were the Prison and Probation Administration, the Director of Public
Prosecutions, the National Commissioner of Police, the Immigration
Office, the Ombudsman of Parliament, the State Police School, the
Ministry of Health and the Director of Public Health.
3. In completing
the report, account was taken of United Nations Manual on Human
Rights Reporting of 1991. Recourse was also made to the guidelines
of the Committee against Torture of 18 June 1991 (CAT/C/4/Rev.2).
4. As this
is Iceland's first report on the implementation of the Convention,
a large part of it is unavoidably concerned with describing Icelandic
law in substance and individual Icelandic statutory provisions. Instead
of submitting attachments with translations of legal texts, an effort
will be made to provide summaries of their substance and descriptions
of them in the main text of the report. Attachment I to this report
is the report to the Icelandic Government of 2 March 1994 on the visit
of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to Iceland in the summer
of 1993. Attachment II* contains the replies of the Icelandic Government
to the CPT of 27 September 1994. These documents contain detailed
information on matters such as the administrative organization of
Icelandic prisons, the treatment and conditions afforded prisoners
and other persons deprived of liberty, and other matters coming under
the scope of the Convention.
* The attachments
may be consulted at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
5. The following
account presents an overview of the Icelandic constitutional order
and practice, and the human rights provisions of the written Constitution.
Other human rights instruments to which Iceland is a party will also
be mentioned and their status under Icelandic law described. A survey
will be provided of Icelandic statute provisions which prohibit torture
and make it a criminal act, and of rules designed to prevent it. Finally
a brief account will be given of the remedies open to an individual
person who alleges to have been a victim of torture. As regards further
information on the country and its inhabitants, reference can be made
to document HRI/CORE/1/Add.26 of 24 June 1993.
6. In this
report the Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be referred to as
"the Convention", or the "Convention against Torture".
A. Icelandic constitutional law and practice
is a parliamentary republic. The President of the Republic, the members
of the legislature and local authorities are elected by public ballot
at intervals of four years. Iceland became fully independent when
the links with Denmark were severed in 1944. The Constitution dates
from that year; however, most of its provisions are much older, and
can be traced back to 1874, the year in which Iceland first received
a written Constitution. In 1995 extensive amendments and additions
were made to the human rights chapter of the Constitution, which until
that time had remained almost unchanged since the first Constitution
was adopted. The new human rights provisions will be described in
the following. The principle of triple division of government is provided
for in the Constitution.
8. The President
of Iceland and Parliament exercise the legislative power jointly.
Parliament is composed of 63 national representatives, elected by
secret, public, proportional ballot for a term of four years from
eight different constituencies.
9. The ministers
of the Government, each within his or her own field, are the highest
holders of administrative authority. The ministries are 14 in number.
The ministers have usually only been 10 in number, so that some of
them are in charge of more than one ministry. The distribution of
duties between the ministers is determined by statute.
10. The magistrates
represent the administrative branch of government locally. They, and
their jurisdictions, are 27 in number. They do not wield any judicial
powers. Among their duties are direction of police, crime investigation,
public prosecution, direction of customs, collection of State revenues,
civil marriages, separations and divorces, decisions on rights of
access and support payments under family law, legal competency, real
estate records, registration of deceased persons and various involvement
with estates at death, enforcement of judgements, forced sales, etc.
Disputes concerning the functions of the magistrates can be referred
to the courts in many cases, in particular those concerning enforcement
proceedings and settlement of estates at death, but if not, administrative
appeal can be made to the Ministry of Justice. In Reykjavik, which
is the largest administrative area, there is, in addition to the Magistrate,
a commissioner of police, who, in addition to controlling the police,
is in charge of criminal investigation and public prosecution within
the area of his office.
11. The National
Commissioner of Police is in charge of police as an agent of the Minister
of Justice. His role is to perform various administrative functions
in fields related to law enforcement, such as providing general instructions
to regional commissioners of police and making proposals for rationalization,
coordination, development and safety in policing. His office shall
grant the regional commissioners of police assistance and support,
and carry out any police work which calls for centralization or coordination
among the offices involved. Finally, there are certain investigation
departments under the office of the National Commissioner of Police,
such as departments for tax and economic offences, treason and related
offences, and accusations against police of unlawful conduct. The
National Commissioner of Police has the authority of prosecution in
cases such as those enumerated above except for cases concerning alleged
criminal violations by police, where the Director of Public Prosecutions
has the power of prosecution.
12. The Director
of Public Prosecutions is the highest holder of prosecution authority.
His role is to ensure that legally prescribed sanctions are applied
against persons who have committed criminal violations, and to supervise
the exercise of prosecution authority by commissioners of police.
The Director of Public Prosecutions prosecutes the more serious offences
against the Criminal Code, including offences committed in official
13. The Constitution
provides that the judges wield judicial power. There are eight courts
of the lower instance in Iceland, one in each constituency. These
have jurisdiction in private and criminal cases, and they issue remand
orders and other orders necessary in the context of criminal investigation.
They also render bankruptcy orders and resolve disputes arising in
enforcement of judgements by the magistrates. Judges are furthermore
competent to resolve any disputes relating to the limits of administrative
authority. Thus, any decisions of administrative authorities can be
invalidated by the courts. The general principle is that the courts
are competent to resolve any dispute if its subject matter is governed
by law unless it is exempted from their jurisdiction by law, by custom,
or by the nature of the matter. The resolutions of the lower courts
can be referred to the Supreme Court of Iceland, which is a court
of appeals serving all Iceland. Criminal judgements can be referred
to the Supreme Court subject to certain conditions, and in private
cases appeal is subject to certain requirements concerning minimum
of the Althing
14. The Office
of the Ombudsman was established in 1988 by Act No. 82/1988. The Ombudsman
is elected by Parliament and reports to Parliament annually, but in
other respects he is autonomous. His role is to supervise State and
municipal administration. He is to secure the rights of the private
citizens vis-à-vis the holders of administrative authority. He investigates
administrative cases either on his own initiative or upon complaint.
Any person who maintains that he has suffered injustice at the hands
of an administrative authority can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman.
If a matter can be referred to a higher administrative authority such
complaint cannot be lodged until the superior authority has decided
on the matter. The activities of the judiciary and decisions and other
actions taken by administrative authorities which according to express
legal provisions shall be referred to the courts, are outside the
sphere of the Ombudsman's functions.
15. The Ombudsman
may request from administrative authorities any information he may
need. He may for example demand delivery of reports, documents, entries
and other evidence relating to a matter. He is free to enter and examine
the offices of any administrative authorities, and the personnel shall
provide him with all necessary assistance. In his conclusions in the
cases handled by him, the Ombudsman provides an opinion as to whether
a measure taken by an administrative authority conflicted with law
or good administrative practice. He may provide guidance or recommendations
on better practices to administrative authorities. His opinion is
not formally binding upon the authorities, as for example a judgement
would be, and the Ombudsman cannot formally invalidate an administrative
measure. His opinions, however, carry great weight and his recommendations
and guidance are usually acted upon.
16. The Ombudsman
keeps under observation whether laws conflict with the Constitution
or suffer from other faults, including whether they are in conformity
with international instruments to which Iceland is a party.
B. The human rights provisions of the Constitution
Act No. 97/1995 introduced many amendments and additions to the human
rights provisions of the Constitution. These measures were considered
highly timely, as the provisions in effect until then were in various
respects out of date, having remained practically unchanged since
1874. They had been the subject of criticism both in domestic debate
and internationally. The principal criticism related to the fact that
the Constitution lacked various explicit provisions on fundamental
human rights. In spite of the general consensus that Icelanders enjoyed
such rights in fact, as ordinary legislation or the unwritten principles
of the constitution secured them, this was no longer considered adequate.
The amendments to the Constitution were intended to amend this situation.
They added various new rights to those already provided for, and added
more detail to some of the older provisions.
18. The rights
added to the Human Rights chapter of the Constitution are the following,
referred to by article numbers:
A general principle
on equality before the law and that everyone shall enjoy human
rights (art. 65, para. 1);
Equal rights of men
and women (art. 65, para. 2);
deprivation of Icelandic citizenship and the rights of Icelandic
citizens (art. 66, paras. 1 and 2);
Freedom of travel
and the right to choose one's place of residence (art. 66, paras.
3 and 4);
Prohibition of torture
and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art. 68, para.
forced labour (art. 68, para. 2);
legalization of the death penalty (art. 69, para. 2);
of fair judicial procedure in private and criminal litigation
The duty of the State
to secure special legal protection to children (art. 76, para.
retroactivity of tax law (art. 77).
19. In addition
to the above rights introduced into the Constitution, the provisions
on other rights were phrased in a manner significantly clearer and
their wording modernized. This was done, inter alia, with a
view to international instruments in effect in these fields, in particular
the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights. The protection of personal freedom
(art. 67), freedom from interference with privacy, home and family
life (art. 71), and freedom of opinion and expression (art. 73) are
examples of rights that were significantly changed in substance.
rights protected by the Constitution are freedom of religion (arts.
63 and 64); the right of private ownership (art. 72); the freedom
of association and assembly (art. 74); the freedom of occupation and
the right to negotiate for terms of employment and other labour-related
rights (art. 75); the right to assistance in case of sickness, invalidity
et al. (art. 76, para. 1); the right to education (art. 76, para.
2), and the rights of children (art. 76, para. 3).
21. The Constitution
is the primary source of Icelandic law. The courts have reserved for
themselves the right to determine whether statutes conflict with the
Constitution, despite the fact that this power of review is not expressly
provided for there. If the courts consider that a statutory provision
conflicts with a constitutional human rights provision they will disregard
the former in their resolutions. A number of such examples are found
in Icelandic judicial practice. The courts do not, however, have jurisdiction
formally to invalidate a statutory provision, even if they consider
it in conflict with the Constitution.
C. International agreements to which Iceland is a party and their
under national law
is a party to numerous human rights instruments prepared under the
auspices of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. The most
important ones, apart from the Convention against Torture, are enumerated
as follows. The year in which each agreement entered into effect for
Iceland is stated in parentheses.
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965
(1967). Iceland has made the declaration under its article 14
concerning communications from individuals claiming to be victims
of violations of the Convention to the Committee instituted in
accordance with its provisions;
on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (1979). Iceland has ratified
the Optional Protocol to the Covenant concerning communications
from individuals claiming to be victims of violations thereof
to the Committee instituted in accordance with its provisions,
as well as the Second Optional Protocol, aiming at the abolition
of the death penalty;
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 (1979);
Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979
Convention on the
Rights of the Child, 1989 (1992).
for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950
(1953), and Protocol Nos. 1, 4, 6 and 7, which add substantial
European Social Charter,
for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment, 1987 (1990).
is among the States that adhere to the doctrine of the duality of
international and national law. This means that the provisions of
an international human rights instrument do not achieve the status
of national law unless active measures are taken to adopt them into
has generally held the view that Icelandic legislation conforms to
the provisions of the human rights instruments to which Iceland is
a party. The method of implementing the provisions of such instruments
has usually been adaptation of national law to their provisions. The
courts of Iceland have also interpreted the provisions of national
law to conform to international human rights obligations. To this
extent the provisions of human rights instruments are indisputably
among the sources of law to be taken into account when interpreting
statutory provisions; however, they yield to express statutory provisions
which directly conflict with them. In the past few decades some instances
have occurred when the courts had to give Icelandic statutes, which
conflicted with the European Convention on Human Rights, precedence
over its provisions. In order to prevent such discrepancies between
national law and the provisions of that Convention, the Convention
in its entirety was incorporated into national law by Act No. 62/1994.
This is the first and only instance of such incorporation of a human
rights instrument into national law.
25. The influence
of international human rights instruments on Icelandic legal procedure
and the implementation of constitutional provisions on human rights
has increased substantially since Iceland became a party to them.
This has particularly been the case during the past decade. This is
especially marked as regards their effect on the interpretation of
Icelandic law. The amendments made to the Constitution by Constitutional
Enactment No. 97/1995 can to some degree be traced to this influence.
By reason of the discrepancies that could manifest themselves between
the European Convention on Human Rights and Icelandic legislation,
its incorporation into national law was thought necessary. The attention
of the public and public debate has increasingly concerned the question
whether Iceland has fulfilled its obligations under other human rights
instruments. For the time being there is, however, no intention of
incorporating other human rights instruments into national law. It
may be noted that all the most important human rights instruments
mentioned above are officially published in a law collection regularly
issued by the Ministry of Justice, where only enacted statutes are
26. As mentioned
above, the new provisions of the Constitution have been formulated,
bearing in mind the provisions of international human rights instruments.
The provisions of the Constitution remain, however, less detailed
than the international provisions, as the former seek chiefly to lay
down broad principles. It must be kept in mind that the foundations
of these principles are of wide scope, and they can be seen in the
detailed provisions of the human rights instruments to which Iceland
has become a party. The Constitution now enumerates all the most important
fundamental rights that these instruments aim to secure. The international
instruments now play a still more important role than before in further
interpretation of what these rights involve.
D. Icelandic laws on prohibition of torture
27. In the
past decade Icelandic legislation on legal procedure and law enforcement
has been profoundly changed. The new enactments have to a greater
degree than before taken international human rights obligations into
account, including the requirement for protection against torture
and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
legislation prohibiting torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment can be said to fall into three categories. Firstly,
such conduct and treatment are prohibited in article 68, paragraph
1, of the Constitution. Secondly, a comparable prohibition is found
in article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has
the force of law after its incorporation into national law by Act
No. 62/1994. The two provisions are identically worded, but their
sphere of effect is wider than what may be inferred from article 1
of the Convention against Torture, because they are not restricted
to torture applied by a person acting in an official capacity or other
holder of public authority. Instead, they apply generally.
there are criminal provisions in the General Penal Code, No. 19/1940
(GPC), where torture is made a criminal act. If a public servant applies
physical torture his conduct falls under the provisions on infringement
of physical inviolability in sections 217 or 218 of the GPC, depending
on the severity of the act. Chapter XIV of the GPC contains special
provisions criminalizing offences committed in an official capacity,
of which sections 131, 132, 134 and 135 would chiefly be applicable
to conduct such as described in article 1 of the Convention. These
would usually, in cases of physical torture, be applied jointly with
the provisions concerning infliction of physical injury. In cases
of non-physical torture these provisions, by themselves, make criminal
sanctions possible if a person acting in an official capacity applies
such torture. There is no doubt that these criminal provisions apply
to any conduct described in article 1 of the Convention against Torture,
despite the fact that a term corresponding to "torture" is not used
there. In addition, the provisions mentioned are in some respects
of more extensive scope than the definition in article 1 of the Convention,
as they make punishable any misuse of public authority, not only such
misuse for the purposes which article 1 describes. It should be noted
that intent is not always a condition for applying these criminal
provisions. Punishment may also be ordered in cases of gross negligence.
The substance of the above provisions will be further described when
discussing articles 2 and 4 of the Convention against Torture.
30. In addition
to the above provisions on offences committed by public officials,
physical torture is of course punishable under a large number of criminal
provisions, despite the fact that a term corresponding to "torture"
is not used. Generally speaking, all provisions of the GPC making
punishable intentional acts committed against life and limb in fact
make physical torture punishable as well. In addition to the provisions
of sections 217 and 218 already referred to, examples such as section
225 on unlawful duress, section 226 on deprivation of liberty and
various provisions of chapter XXII on sexual offences can be mentioned.
Icelandic statutes, in particular the provisions of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, No. 19/1991 (CCP), protect the rights of arrested persons
and remand prisoners in connection with police investigation of criminal
cases. Their specific aim is to prevent the occurrence of torture,
any excesses in order to obtain confession from persons deprived of
their liberty, and any compulsion exercised by holders of public authority
for investigative purposes. Section 69, paragraph 2, of the CCP and
the Regulations on the Legal Status of Arrested Persons and Police
Interrogations, No. 395/1997, specify the maximum duration of interrogation
of a suspected person, according to which a person may not be questioned
for more than six hours at a time following adequate sleep and rest.
Section 42, paragraph 2, of the CCP ensures that legal counsel may
always be present when a suspect is being interrogated. The Regulations
on Custody on Remand, No. 179/1992, contain more detailed provisions
on interrogation procedure and the treatment of remand prisoners.
These will be further described in connection with article 11 of the
32. The Prisons
and Imprisonment Act, No. 48/1988, contains general provisions on
the treatment to be afforded convicted prisoners, for example concerning
the rights they are to enjoy in prison and to what extent their special
needs are to be taken into account if they suffer from physical ailments
or mental deficiencies. The Act also contains clear provisions on
disciplinary measures and the conditions under which a prisoner may
be subjected to solitary confinement. The rights of convicted prisoners
will be further described in connection with article 11 of the Convention.
33. A specific
piece of legislation, Act No. 15/1990, was enacted on account of Iceland's
ratification of the European Convention against Torture of 1990. Its
provisions specify how Icelandic authorities are to assist the Committee
for the Prevention of Torture when that Committee examines the conditions
afforded to persons deprived of liberty in Iceland. The Committee
came to Iceland in the summer of 1993 and visited a few prisons and
police stations in order to examine the conditions of imprisonment
and seek indications of whether torture occurred or whether prisoners
were subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. Among its conclusions
was that no such indications were observed. The Committee, on the
other hand, made observations on the poor condition of some places
of detention which it had visited. Various improvements have been
made since then. Among them are the opening of a new prison and the
closure of a remand prison considered unacceptable by the Committee.
The Committee plans to visit Iceland again in the first half of 1998.
34. The death
penalty has long since been abolished from Icelandic law, as has corporal
punishment. Article 69, paragraph 2, of the Constitution prohibits
adoption into law of the death penalty. The kinds of punishment provided
for in Icelandic law are only fines and imprisonment. The latter is
of two kinds, i.e. commitment to prison and penal custody. There is
no difference in practice between the two kinds of deprivation of
liberty, but penal custody is usually ordered for a shorter period
than deprivation of liberty of the other distinction. There is no
provision in Icelandic law for imprisonment involving torture or any
punishment regarded as cruel, inhuman or degrading.
law provides for measures to protect other persons than those deprived
of liberty on account of suspicion of criminal conduct or for serving
a prison sentence from torture or other inhuman treatment; the danger
of such treatment is deemed not only to exist in prisons, but also
for example where persons have been deprived of their liberty by reason
of mental illness and committed to hospitals against their will, or
where adolescent persons, not responsible under criminal law, have
against their will been committed to institutions. Such danger is
also deemed to exist where an individual is placed in full personal
charge of another individual, or where a person is dependent on another
person by reason of his or her sensitive position. Situations which
may be examined in this context include the treatment of children
in homes or schools, and of patients in hospitals. The law responds
to this, to some extent, by protective provisions regulating such
situations in order to prevent cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Section 63 of the Act on Protection of Children and Adolescent Persons,
No. 58/1992, makes it a punishable offence if a person who has a child
or an adolescent person in his care affords such person ill-treatment,
violates such person's mental or physical integrity, or endangers
such person's life or health by negligence. According to its section
64 it is a criminal act to punish, threaten or intimidate a child
so as to endanger its emotional or physical well-being. Section 52,
paragraph 2, of the Act the subject of which is supervision of homes
and institutions for children and adolescent persons, prohibits physical
and mental punishment. Patients also enjoy particular protection against
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, for example under the provisions
of the Act on the Rights of Patients, No. 74/1997. This provides among
other things for the right of patients to decline medical treatment
(sect. 7) and, according to section 10, the written approval of a
patient is required for his or her participation in scientific experimentation,
for example in testing new drugs.
E. Jurisdiction over matters dealt with in the Convention
36. If a
person maintains that he or she has suffered torture at the hands
of a person acting in official capacity, as defined in article 1 of
the Convention, Icelandic law provides for investigation of such cases
and for criminal action against the perpetrator. The remedies available
and the power to resolve such questions will be described here in
general terms, but a more detailed account and statistical information
on cases which have occurred, etc. will be included in the consideration
of articles 12 and 13 of the Convention.
to the police and criminal proceedings before the courts
37. The Police
Act, No. 90/1996, provides for the procedure to be applied if a complaint
is lodged against a policeman on account of an alleged criminal act
in the exercise of his or her duties. Prior to the entry into effect
of the Act on 1 July 1997, the procedure to be employed was not provided
for by law. The objective in laying down such rules by statute law
was to ensure careful and impartial investigation from the beginning.
Article 35 of the Police Act specifies that if a complaint is received
against a policeman on account of an alleged criminal offence in the
exercise of his functions, or if such an offence is suspected, the
Commissioner of Police shall immediately notify the Director of Public
Prosecutions. The office of the National Commissioner of Police operates
a particular investigation department whose duties include investigation
of all such complaints. The Director of Public Prosecutions is in
charge of such investigation, but not the National Commissioner of
Police, who is in charge of all other investigations coming under
his office. If an investigation indicates that the conduct evidenced
by a policeman is likely to lead to conviction, the Director of Public
Prosecutions will bring criminal action. While a complaint of alleged
criminal conduct on the part of a policeman is being investigated
the policeman is temporarily suspended from his duties. It depends
on the outcome of the investigation whether criminal charges are brought
in court, whether the policeman is given a formal warning by his superior,
that is, the regional commissioner of police in question, or whether
his employment is terminated.
38. If a
prisoner maintains that a prison warden has subjected him to torture,
he can complain to the prison governor or to the Prison and Probation
Administration, which is in charge of all Icelandic prisons, or send
a complaint directly to the commissioner of police having jurisdiction
in the area of the prison. If the Director of the Prison and Probation
Administration receives information of torture or other ill-treatment
by a prison warden, he can likewise lodge a complaint with the local
commissioner of police, alleging a criminal offence on the part of
a prison warden. If the conduct of a prison warden does not involve
torture but is nevertheless inappropriate and unprofessional, the
prison governor may give him a formal warning, which may be followed
by termination of employment. A prison warden will be temporarily
suspended from work while an investigation of an alleged criminal
offence against a prisoner takes place.
39. A complaint
of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
on the part of a person acting in an official capacity may be sent
to the Ombudsman of Parliament.
Commission on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights
has accepted the power of the European Commission on Human Rights
to receive communications under article 25 of the European Convention
on Human Rights from individual persons alleging violations of their
rights under the Convention. Iceland has also accepted the jurisdiction
of the European Court of Human Rights. Icelandic authorities are not
aware of any complaints having been lodged with that Commission alleging
violations of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Rights Committee instituted under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights
has ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights concerning the competency of the Committee
working in accordance with its provisions to receive communications
from individuals claiming violations of them. The Icelandic Government
is not aware of any communications to the Committee alleging violations
of article 7 of the Covenant.
F. Other information on prisons and imprisonment in Iceland
42. At the
end of Part I of this report it is proper to present an overview of
provisions of law relating to deprivation of liberty on account of
suspected criminal conduct, and of prisons and imprisonment in Iceland.
This is done in light of the fact that the specific measures to prevent
torture are most likely to be called for in these fields.
to article 67, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, any person arrested
by reason of suspected criminal conduct shall be brought before a
judge without undue delay. If he is not released at once the judge
shall, within 24 hours, give a reasoned decision on whether he shall
be imprisoned on remand. Now the present rule is that, without exception,
a person must be brought before a judge within the specified period
of time following his arrest, and until this is done he is detained
at the detention facility of the commissioner of police in the relevant
jurisdiction. When an arrested person is brought before a judge it
is customary that the judge renders, in the same court session, a
reasoned decision on whether he is released or remanded, but if this
is not done such a decision must be rendered within 24 hours. A person
may only be remanded if accused of conduct punishable by imprisonment.
The CCP presents in detail the conditions for custody on remand in
other respects, and section 105, paragraph 2, provides that custody
on remand must always be allowed for a limited, specified period.
According to its section 108, paragraph 3, a remand prisoner can always
refer to the judge any matter relating to how the remand custody is
carried out. Further rules on the treatment of remand prisoners are
found in the Regulations on Remand Custody, No. 179/1992.
to the Prisons and Imprisonment Act, No. 48/1988, Icelandic prisons
are of two kinds, namely prisons for sentenced prisoners, and prisons
for remand prisoners. Remand prisons are for prisoners remanded for
custody according to the provisions of the CCP for the purposes of
criminal investigation. The total number of prison places in Icelandic
prisons is 138. The numbers of prisoners during the past four years
are as follows, referring to the average number of prisoners each
day. The numbers in parentheses indicate prisoners serving their sentences
outside prisons, for example in hospitals or in treatment facilities
for misuse of alcohol or drugs.
The past five years have seen various improvements to Icelandic prisons.
The attached documents contain detailed information on prison organization
in Iceland, the treatment of prisoners and the remedies open to them
if they consider that they have suffered torture or other ill-treatment
by police or prison wardens.
II. INFORMATION ON INDIVIDUAL PROVISIONS OF PART
OF THE CONVENTION
45. As mentioned
above, article 68, paragraph 2, of the Constitution provides that
no one may be subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment. This prohibition is unreserved and unconditional, allowing
no exceptions. The provision is comparable to that of article 3 of
the European Convention on Human Rights which has the force of law
in Iceland by virtue of Act No. 62/1994.
46. The term
"torture" is not defined in Icelandic statute law. Given the accepted
interpretation of the term in article 3 of the European Convention
on Human Rights the detailed definition in article 1 of the Convention
against Torture will be accepted here.
47. The Constitution
has no provision making possible any derogation from its human rights
provisions by reason of specific circumstances, such as war, danger
of war, insecure domestic political situation or any other public
emergency. The question of having to derogate from the human rights
provisions of the Constitution by reason of emergency, whether in
time of war or peace, has never arisen. It is clear that even if a
situation developed such as defined in article 2, paragraph 2, of
the Convention against Torture, article 15, paragraph 2, of the European
Convention on Human Rights ensures that the principle of prohibition
of torture can never be disregarded. It may also be noted that Iceland
is bound by a comparable principle in article 4, paragraph 4, of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to
which no derogation may be made from article 7 of the Covenant.
measures have been taken within the fields of legislation, public
administration and law enforcement in order to prevent torture. These
differ in nature, and will be described further when considering the
individual provisions of the Convention against Torture. Nevertheless,
it is proper to mention firstly legislation prohibiting torture of
any description as well as other inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment
or punishment. Torture is made punishable in Icelandic legislation,
and special criminal provisions apply in the field of law enforcement
to persons acting in an official capacity. These rules of law will
be described in detail under article 4 of the Convention.
the General Penal Code (GPC) makes it possible to prosecute a person
for an offence described in article 1 of the Convention against Torture.
Under the legislation now in effect, a person may be prosecuted before
the courts of Iceland on account of such an offence, irrespective
of the place of commission or the defendant's nationality. These rules
will be described further in the discussion on article 5 of the Convention.
measures have been taken specifically in order to prevent torture.
These include rules on the interrogation and treatment of arrested
persons, prisoners and other persons deprived of their liberty, which
regulate the conduct of public servants working in this field. In
this context it is also proper to mention information given public
servants concerning the prohibition of torture, which forms a part
of their education, and the professional standards required of them.
The measures taken in this field will be further described under articles
10 and 11 of the Convention.
legislation does not provide for the defence of referring to the orders
of superiors or administrative authorities for justification of torture.
It is a principle of Icelandic criminal law that punishment is ordered
for the individual person based on his or her criminal guilt. A person
committing an act described in article 1 of the Convention against
Torture will be sentenced without regard as to whether the act was
committed on the orders of a superior. The GPC also allows punishment
of a superior who has ordered a person subject to his authority to
apply torture, even if the superior does not himself commit the act.
In fact, such orders are viewed as particularly serious. Thus, section
135 of the GPC provides that if a public servant takes part in the
commission of an offence by another public servant subject to his
authority, or seeks to entice him to commit such offence, he shall
be subjected to the penalty provided for on account of that offence;
however, up to one half of the penalty in question shall be added
to the sentence.
law ensures that a person cannot be extradited or sent back to another
State if there is a significant reason to believe that he or she faces
a risk of torture there. The provisions to this effect are chiefly
found in the Act on Extradition and Other Assistance in Criminal Matters,
No. 13/1984 (the Extradition Act) and the Act on Supervision of Foreigners,
No. 45/1965 (the Immigration Act). A separate statute, Act No. 7/1962,
applies to extradition to Denmark, Finland, Norway or Sweden.
to the Extradition Act a person may be extradited to a State where
he or she is suspected of, or has been indicted or sentenced for a
punishable offence. The Act, however, makes various reservations to
this general principle. Thus, according to section 3 extradition is
only allowed if the act is punishable by more than one year in prison
under Icelandic law. Article 5 prohibits extradition on account of
political offences. According to article 6 extradition is prohibited
if the person in question faces a significant risk of being, following
extradition, subjected to oppression or persecution endangering life
or liberty, or any oppression or persecution which is otherwise of
serious nature, on account of his or her race, nationality, religion
or political opinion, or on account of political conditions in other
respects. Article 7 also permits denial of extradition in special
cases on humanitarian grounds, such as on account of age, health or
other personal conditions.
54. The Ministry
of Justice receives requests for extradition made by foreign States.
The procedure for handling such requests is laid down in sections
13–18 of the Extradition Act. If the Ministry considers, on
the basis of the extradition request and the attached documents, that
it is to be declined at once, this shall be done. If the request is
not declined at once by the Ministry it shall be forwarded to the
Director of Public Prosecutions, who shall have the necessary investigation
carried out immediately. The person to whom the request relates may
request a court to determine whether the legal requirements for extradition
are fulfilled. At the time the Director of Public Prosecutions notifies
a person of a request for his extradition and the arguments in its
support, he shall inform him of his right to refer the matter to the
courts and that he can have legal counsel appointed for him. The fees
of such legal counsel and other costs of the case shall be paid by
the State Treasury.
to the rules mentioned above, the court assesses, upon the request
of the person whose extradition is requested, whether the legal conditions
for extradition are fulfilled. The court will then examine, among
other things, whether sections 6 or 7 of the Extradition Act stand
in the way of extradition. If there is a significant reason to believe
that a person may be subjected to torture in the country to which
he is extradited, the legal conditions are not fulfilled, and the
court will then deny extradition.
56. A case
of this kind was recently brought before the courts of Iceland for
the first time. A judgement of the Supreme Court on 17 October 1997
confirmed a decision of the district court denying extradition of
a wife and her husband to the United States. The United States authorities
had requested their extradition on account of a criminal action taking
place against them in their home country. The spouses challenged the
request and submitted detailed evidence in court, establishing that
there was significant danger that they would not receive a fair trial
before a court in Arizona. There was also a significant likelihood
that they would be treated inhumanely by being transported in irons
to their destination in accordance with rules governing prisoner transport
in the United States, and in being remanded to a prison in Maricopa
County, Arizona. They demonstrated that the conditions in that prison
were inhuman and degrading, and that an Icelandic decision to grant
the extradition request would therefore conflict with their rights
under article 68, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, article 3 of the
European Convention on Human Rights and article 7 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Supreme Court sustained
the view that the legal requirements for extradition were not fulfilled
and that the administrative authorities were to observe the principle
of proportionality when taking a decision on the extradition, such
as by seeking to negotiate with the United States authorities that
the spouses travel to the United States of their own free will and
that they be granted bail instead of imprisoned on remand while their
case was in progress in Arizona. The spouses are still in Iceland,
despite the fact that their residence permit has expired. At the time
of writing a decision has not been taken on whether they shall be
may be denied entry into Iceland or expelled under the conditions
specified in the Immigration Act, No. 45/1985. Iceland is a party
to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the
Protocol of 1967. According to section 10, paragraph 4, of the Act
a foreigner cannot be denied entry to Iceland if he claims to have
had to seek asylum as a refugee and this claim is considered likely
to be true. Here, the meaning of the term "refugee" is as defined
in article 1 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
A particular body, the Immigration Office, decides on the request
of a person for political asylum. Appeal against the decision of the
Office can be lodged with the Ministry of Justice, and the person
seeking asylum must be notified of his right of appeal. The Immigration
Act, and the general rules of the Administrative Procedures Act, No.
37/1993, provide for procedure in such cases, including a foreigner's
right of protest and his right to submit evidence on his behalf. During
the past five years there have been no instances of a request for
political asylum being granted in Iceland, i.e. of an applicant being
deemed a political refugee within the meaning of the Convention relating
to the Status of Refugees, but such applications have been relatively
few in number. Such persons are frequently returned to the countries
from which they came, most often the Nordic countries, and their requests
for asylum are often under consideration by the authorities of those
countries. There are, however, a few examples of foreigners seeking
asylum being granted residence permits, for example on account of
conditions in their home countries which nevertheless do not justify
their being granted refugee status. The following table shows the
number of requests for asylum in Iceland and the conclusions reached.
58. In three
of the above cases (one in 1995 and two in 1996) the applicants exercised
their right to appeal to the Ministry of Justice against the decision
of the Immigration Office denying asylum. The Ministry confirmed two
of these decisions, but granted residence in one case.
59. In the
opinion of the Icelandic Government, Icelandic law makes torture,
mental as well as physical, as defined in article 1 of the Convention,
punishable to an adequate degree. In the following, the criminal provisions
already mentioned, which make conduct involving torture punishable,
will be described in further detail.
60. A term
corresponding to "torture" is not used in Icelandic criminal legislation.
Icelandic criminal statutes are as a general rule formulated so as
to declare some specific act or conduct punishable, and the consequences
of the act or conduct may be decisive as to what criminal provision
is applied. Physical torture is punishable under many of the criminal
provisions of the GPC. All the provisions of the Code making punishable
intentional acts committed against a person's life or limb can be
said to make physical torture punishable. The subject of section 217
of the Code is minor physical assault, which is punishable by fines
or imprisonment for up to one year. Section 218 makes major physical
assault punishable. It provides that if a person inflicts physical
injury upon another person by wilful physical assault, and the perpetrator
is responsible for the consequences of the act by reason of intent
or negligence, he shall be subjected to penal custody or imprisonment
for up to three years, or fines in cases of particularly mitigating
circumstances. If serious physical injury results from such assault,
or if the offence is particularly dangerous by reason of the methods
or implements used, or if the victim dies as a consequence of the
act, the offence is punishable by imprisonment for up to 16 years.
61. In addition
to these two important provisions of the GPC on physical assault,
there are criminal provisions in section 215 on manslaughter, section
225 on unlawful duress, section 226 on deprivation of liberty, and
various provisions in chapter XXII, the subject of which is sexual
offences. Finally, certain mental torture is made punishable in section
221, the subject of which is failure to come to the assistance of
a person whose life is in danger if this can be done without endangering
one's own life or health; in section 225 on unlawful duress; section
226 on deprivation of liberty, and in various provisions of chapter
XXV on offences against reputation and privacy.
62. The general
observations above enumerated certain criminal provisions in chapter
XIV of the GPC concerning offences committed in official capacity.
The provisions most likely to come into consideration in connection
with the definition of torture in article 1 of the Convention will
now be described. These are sections 131, 132 and 134.
131 provides that a judge or other public servant entrusted with public
authority under criminal law, who employs unlawful methods in order
to bring a person to confess or to provide a statement, arrests or
imprisons a person unlawfully or carries out an unlawful investigation
or unlawfully seizes documents or other objects, shall be fined or
imprisoned for up to three years.
132 provides for fines or penal custody, subject to any heavier penalties
provided for by law, if a person acting in an official capacity intentionally
fails to observe correct methods in the procedure or resolution of
a case, arrest, search or imprisonment, or in the implementation of
a sentence or seizure, or violates other rules of similar kind.
134 provides for penal custody or imprisonment for up to three years
if a person in an official capacity misuses his position in order
to compel a person to perform an act, suffer an act or refrain from
section 138 of the GPC provides that if a public servant commits an
offence deemed to constitute misuse of his position, and his offence
is not punishable as an offence committed in official capacity, he
shall be subjected to the penalty provided for on account of that
offence; however, up to one half of the penalty in question shall
be added to the sentence.
67. As regards
torture, sections 132, 133 and 134 of the GPC have been interpreted
as relating chiefly to mental torture on the part of persons acting
in official capacity. In case of physical torture, such as described
in article 1 of the Convention against Torture, a person acting in
an official capacity would also be indicted for physical assault on
the basis of section 217 or 218 of the GPC, depending on the seriousness
of the injury inflicted. According to section 138 it is possible,
as mentioned above, to increase the penalty by up to 50 per cent.
In two criminal judgements of recent years policemen were sentenced
for ill-treatment of arrested persons. In the earlier judgement, rendered
14 November 1991, a policeman was sentenced on the basis of sections
218 and 138 of the GPC, but the additional application of section
132 was not deemed justified. In the later judgement, pronounced 21
March 1997, a policeman was sentenced for a violation of sections
217, 138 and 132 of the Code. These judgements will be further described
in connection with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention.
68. The discussion
relating to article 2 of the Convention described the special provision
on the liability of an accessory in section 135 of the GPC, namely
participation of a superior in an offence committed by a person over
whom he has authority, or an offence committed on the orders of a
superior. Such offences are regarded as particularly serious, as the
penalty applicable to the person in authority may in such cases be
increased by half. The general rules applicable to persons attempting,
aiding or abetting crime are found in sections 20 and 22 of the Code.
The general principle is, according to section 20, that anyone who
has resolved to commit an offence punishable under the Code and overtly
demonstrated this intention by an act aiming at its commission is,
even if the offence has not been carried out, guilty of the attempted
offence. In cases of an attempt, a sentence may be ordered which is
lower than the sentence applicable to the completed offence.
69. The principle
of section 22 on accessory participation is that anyone who in word
or deed provides aid in the commission of an offence punishable under
the Code, or has a part in its commission by persuasion, exhortation
or otherwise, shall be sentenced as if he had committed the actual
Icelandic law an offence as defined in article 1 of the Convention
comes under Icelandic criminal jurisdiction in all the cases enumerated
in its article 5. Icelandic criminal jurisdiction is governed by the
detailed provisions of sections 4–6 of the GPC.
71. In order
to fulfil the commitments described in article 5, paragraph 2, of
the Convention against Torture, amendments were made to section 6
of the GPC by Act No. 142/1995, which extended Icelandic criminal
jurisdiction in cases involving torture offences. According to section
6, subparagraph 9, of the Code, a person can be sentenced under Icelandic
criminal law for an offence described in the Convention against Torture
even if it has been committed outside Icelandic territory and irrespective
of the perpetrator's nationality. However, criminal action can only
be brought under this provision if so ordered by the Minister of Justice.
This requirement applies also to other cases involving exception from
the main principle that Iceland only has criminal jurisdiction in
cases where an offence has been committed on Icelandic territory or
by an Icelandic national or a person residing in Iceland. Examples
of other cases where Icelandic criminal jurisdiction is similarly
extended are those described in article 1 of the European Convention
on the Suppression of Terrorism of 27 January 1977, and in the International
Convention against the Taking of Hostages of 18 December 1979. To
date, the question of prosecution by Icelandic authorities, and consequently
the power of decision of the Minister of Justice in cases of such
extended Icelandic criminal jurisdiction, has never arisen.
enabling the measures described in article 6, paragraph 1, in the
Convention against Torture, are mainly to be found in the Code of
Criminal Procedure (CCP), No. 19/1991. According to its section 97,
paragraph 1, a policeman may arrest a person if there is reasonable
cause to believe that he has committed an indictable offence, provided
arrest is necessary in order to prevent continued commission, to secure
the suspect's presence and security or to prevent concealment or destruction
of evidence. According to section 99, a judge may also order an arrest
upon the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the police.
The Extradition Act also provides, in section 19, for the arrest of
a person wanted by the authorities of a foreign country as a suspected,
indicted or sentenced perpetrator of an offence that could justify
extradition under the Act. Such arrests, and other coercive measures,
for example remand, are subject to the provisions of the CCP as if
the person arrested were accused of a similar offence in Iceland.
73. The right
of an arrested person to be brought before a judge without undue delay
if he is to be placed in custody is protected by article 67 of the
Constitution, as noted in the general observations above. Section
102 of the CCP also contains a similar rule. Chapter XIII of the CCP
provides for custody on remand and related measures. According to
section 103, paragraph 1, a person can only be remanded if there is
a reasonable cause to believe that he has committed an act punishable
by imprisonment, provided he has attained the age of 15 years. In
addition to this, at least one of the following four conditions, enumerated
in the section quoted, must be fulfilled:
the accused person may hinder the investigation of his case, for example
by removing the evidence of his offence, concealing objects or influencing
witnesses or other persons who have taken part in the commission of
he may leave the country, go into hiding or otherwise evade prosecution
he may continue criminal activity while his case has not been brought
to a conclusion;
imprisonment on remand is deemed necessary in order to protect others
from the suspect, or the suspect from others.
section 103, paragraph 2, of the CCP provides that a person may be
remanded even if the conditions in subparagraphs (a)–(d) have
not been fulfilled, if there is a strong reason to believe that he
has committed a crime punishable under law by 10 years in prison,
and custody on remand is deemed necessary to the public interest.
Icelandic law provides adequately for custody of a person suspected
of conduct described in article 1 of the Convention against Torture.
Remand imprisonment ordered by the courts of Iceland is in practice
most frequently justified by subparagraph (a) of section 103, paragraph
1, i.e. the interests of the investigation. This subparagraph may
be expected to be applicable if a person is suspected of an offence
involving torture. Subparagraph (b) may also be applicable, for example
in the case of a foreigner who may be expected to attempt to leave
the country. Paragraph 2 of section 103 may also be applied in case
a person is suspected of a serious offence involving torture, punishable
by up to 16 years in prison. It may finally be noted that in place
of remand, a judicial order may be issued prohibiting a person from
leaving a particular area. Thus a judge may, according to section
110 of the CCP, order a suspect to remain within a certain geographical
boundary, or prohibit his departure from Iceland.
custody, or a related measure such as an order to stay within a certain
area, must be ordered for a specified period of time. An order to
this effect may be appealed to the Supreme Court, where it is handled
expeditiously. It is difficult to state the average duration of remand
imprisonment. The period is of course ordered with regard to the facts
and needs on which the order is based. In judicial practice remand
is seldom ordered for a period exceeding four to six weeks. Shorter
periods are more common, in particular when remand is ordered with
regard to investigative needs. Remand can be extended for a definite
period by a new order, but in cases where remand is justified by the
needs of an investigation, the courts make stricter demands that the
investigation authority establish the need for continued custody.
During the past few years, the period of investigation of serious
criminal cases where remand has been ordered, and their procedure
in court, has become appreciably shorter. One of the chief aims of
the new Police Act, No. 90/1996, which entered into effect 1 July
1997, was to make criminal investigation more efficient and shorten
the time until an indictment is issued.
to section 108 of the CCP, the treatment of remand prisoners shall
be such as necessary to achieve the purpose of their custody, and
any severity or harshness is to be avoided. The section then provides
further for the accommodation afforded remand prisoners, for example
concerning their right to receive visitors and to send or receive
mail. These rules, with other matters concerning their custody, are
regulated in further detail in the Regulations on Imprisonment on
Remand, No. 179/1992. The main principle is that a remand prisoner
is allowed the use of a telephone if this does not interfere with
the interests of the investigation (section 62 of the Regulations).
A remand prisoner may also send letters subject to the Regulations'
chapter VII, but these may be held if they can harm the investigation
of his alleged offence. The Regulations also contain provisions in
chapter VI on the right of a remand prisoner to receive visitors during
specified visitation hours, but this right can also be limited with
a view to the interests of the investigation. This shows that a remand
prisoner is fully entitled to contact the nearest appropriate representative
of his country of nationality, for example an embassy, as it is very
unlikely that this could affect the interests of an investigation.
It should finally be mentioned that a remand prisoner is always in
his right to refer matters relating to his accommodation to a judge,
including any limitations imposed on his contact with others.
78. It may
finally be noted that remand has never been ordered in Iceland on
account of a suspected offence involving torture, as described in
articles 1 and 4 of the Convention against Torture.
79. No rules
have been laid down by statute concerning the matters described in
the Convention's article 6, paragraph 4. It is clear, however, that
Icelandic authorities would immediately contact a State where a person
is suspected of having committed a torture offence. Cooperation with
the authorities in that State, for example concerning collection of
evidence, is a necessary precondition for prosecution before the courts
of Iceland, if the suspected offender is not extradited to the country
where the crime was allegedly committed.
80. If an
arrest takes place on account of a suspected offence as described
in articles 1 and 4 of the Convention, committed by a policeman acting
in official capacity, the matter will be investigated by the office
of the National Commissioner of Police. In case the offender is some
other person, a prison warden for example, or some other public servant,
the commissioner of police having jurisdiction at the place of commission
will investigate his case. The commissioner of police in question
can ask for the assistance of the investigation department of the
National Commissioner of Police, which renders assistance in serious
criminal cases. If a person is arrested under suspicion of having
committed such offence in a foreign State and he is not extradited
to that State, the office of the National Commissioner of Police would
in any event take charge of the investigation.
investigation has been completed, different rules apply as to the
decision to be taken on prosecution, depending on whether the suspected
offence was committed in Iceland or abroad. If an offence involving
torture was committed in Iceland or by an Icelandic national abroad,
the Director of Public Prosecutions will decide on prosecution. According
to section 27 of the CCP the Director of Public Prosecutions only
initiates prosecution on account of the most serious offences, including
all offences allegedly committed in official capacity, but in other
cases the various commissioners of police have power of prosecution.
If the offence was committed abroad by a person who is neither an
Icelandic national nor a resident of Iceland, the special rule described
above in connection with article 5, namely that the Minister of Justice
shall decide on prosecution, will apply. The reason for this arrangement
is that extended criminal jurisdiction of this kind is a clear exception
from the principle that a suspected offender or offence must have
ties to Iceland. A decision on such a measure, involving the application
of a special exception from the general rules on prosecution, is deemed
to require particular care, and the Ministry of Justice is deemed
to be the proper authority to assess this need.
law does not provide for any reduction of the demands for available
proof in connection with prosecution or determination of guilt in
cases such as mentioned in article 5, paragraph 2. It is a basic principle
of Icelandic criminal law that a person charged with a criminal offence
is deemed innocent until his guilt is proven, and this principle is
enshrined in article 70, paragraph 2, of the Constitution. A reference
can also be made in this context to article 6, paragraph 2, of the
European Convention on Human Rights and article 14, paragraph 2, of
the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. An important aspect of
this principle is seen in section 45 of the CCP, providing that the
burden of proving a defendant's guilt and any facts deemed to his
disadvantage rests with the prosecution. According to section 112
of the CCP, criminal action cannot be brought against a person if
the evidence available following investigation is deemed inadequate
or unlikely to lead to conviction. There would be no purpose in bringing
criminal action under such circumstances, because the courts are always
bound by the rule that a person is deemed innocent until his guilt
is established, and the burden of proving this rests with the prosecution.
83. The right
of a person to a fair trial, both in civil and criminal cases, is
secured by article 70 of the Constitution. In substance it is largely
similar to article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and
article 14 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The detailed
provisions on criminal investigation and court procedure in criminal
cases are in the CCP. The Icelandic Government is of the opinion that
these sources of law fulfil in every respect the requirements of article
7, paragraph 3, of the Convention, that a person charged for an offence
involving torture is ensured a fair procedure at all stages.
84. A report
of this kind would be too long if the rights of a suspect and criminal
procedure were described in detail, but it is well to mention a few
main characteristics of criminal procedure as laid down in Icelandic
legislation. The CCP now in effect, which entered into force 1 July
1992, provided for the first time for a complete separation between
the role of the prosecution authority and the police on the one hand
and judicial functions at the investigation stage on the other. Investigation
of criminal cases is now exclusively in the hands of the prosecution
authorities and the police, and a judge never takes any initiative
as regards investigation, or controls investigation. The role of the
judge in the investigation stage is limited to resolving various issues
referred to the court by the parties.
85. In addition
to abolishing completely inquisitive procedure and instituting accusatory
procedure, the new act introduced various amendments with the specific
purpose of ensuring fair treatment of accused persons before the courts.
Thus, both article 70 of the Constitution and individual provisions
of the CCP now ensure that a person accused of criminal conduct is
always entitled to the resolution of an independent and impartial
tribunal, within a reasonable period of time and following an open
trial. The law also ensures for an accused person the rights enumerated
in article 6, paragraph 3, of the European Convention on Human Rights
and article 14, paragraph 3, of the Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. Thus, his right to be informed of the charges brought against
him, the right to legal counsel from the first stages of an investigation,
the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence, the
right to question witnesses testifying against him or to have such
witnesses questioned, and the right to the assistance of an interpreter
free of charge, to mention a few examples, are all secured.
86. The main
provisions in Icelandic law concerning extradition are found in Act
No. 13/1984 on extradition of criminal offenders and other assistance
in criminal matters (the Extradition Act), previously mentioned. A
separate Act, No. 7/1962, applies to extradition to Denmark, Finland,
Norway or Sweden, and similar legislation, with mutual extradition
provisions, is in effect in the above Nordic countries. Iceland is
a party to the European Convention on Extradition of 1957 and the
Additional Protocols of 1975 and 1978. Some other extradition agreements,
concluded with individual States, are in effect. It may also be noted
that Iceland is a party to the European Convention on the International
Validity of Criminal Judgements of 1970 and the Convention on the
Transfer of Sentenced Persons of 1983. A particular act of law, No.
56/1993 on international cooperation concerning validity of criminal
judgements, was enacted on the basis of these two Conventions. A different
Act, No. 69/1963, applies to the execution of criminal judgements
rendered in Denmark, Finland, Norway or Sweden.
87. An extradition
agreement with a foreign State is not necessary in order to make possible
the extradition of a suspected offender to that State. Section 1 of
the Extradition Act provides for the extradition of a suspected, indicted
or convicted person to a foreign State, if the further requirements
specified in the Act are fulfilled. Among these is the principle of
section 3 of the Act that the conduct on account of which extradition
takes place must be punishable by more than one year in prison under
Icelandic law. It is clear from the account given on article 4 of
the Convention, concerning punishment of torture offences under Icelandic
law, that this condition does not prevent extradition of a person
to a foreign country.
88. It is
proper to mention again the provisions in sections 3–7 of the
Extradition Act, described in connection with article 3, to the effect
that extradition may be denied if the person whose extradition is
requested faces a risk of torture or persecution directed against
his life or liberty on the grounds there mentioned. Extradition may
also be denied on humanitarian grounds in certain instances.
to section 2 of the Act, Icelandic nationals may not be extradited.
If an Icelandic national is suspected of a torture offence his case
must be investigated and prosecuted before the courts of Iceland.
A special provision of the Act on extradition to Denmark, Finland,
Norway or Sweden makes the extradition of an Icelandic national nevertheless
possible, as according to section 2 of the Act, the person in question
may be extradited if he or she has been a resident of the country
requesting extradition for two years before the offence was committed,
and if the offence, or a corresponding offence under Icelandic law,
is punishable by more than four years in prison.
90. A request
for extradition of a person under the extradition legislation, on
the grounds of suspicion, indictment or conviction of an offence such
as described in article 1 of the Convention, has never been submitted
to Icelandic authorities.
legislation makes it possible for Icelandic authorities to render
assistance to a foreign State in the manner described in article 9
of the Convention. The rules in this respect are chiefly found in
chapter IV of the Extradition Act. According to its section 22, the
provisions of the CCP may be applied for collection of evidence on
account of a criminal case prosecuted in a foreign State, if this
is requested by the authorities of that State. Accordingly, an agreement
on such judicial assistance with the State in question is not necessary.
The statutory provision in question provides an adequate basis for
22 and 23 of the Extradition Act provide in further detail for the
handling of requests for judicial assistance. Icelandic assistance
can only be granted if the act to which the request relates is also
punishable under Icelandic law. There is no question of this condition
standing in the way of prosecution on account of torture offences,
as these are certainly punishable under Icelandic law. According to
section 23, Icelandic authorities may grant the request of a State
where a criminal case is in progress to send to that State a person
who has been remanded or is serving a sentence in Iceland, for testimony
in that case. If the person in question does not consent to such transport,
a judge of the District Court of Reykjavik shall resolve whether the
legal requirements for transport are fulfilled.
is a party to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal
Matters of 1959 and the Additional Protocol of 1978. It may also be
noted that a specific statute, Act No. 49/1994, has been enacted concerning
judicial assistance to the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia. The Act makes it possible to grant a request from
the Tribunal or its Prosecutor for extradition, other assistance,
transfer of persons deprived of liberty in order that the Tribunal
may receive their statements, and for the execution of judgements
pronounced by the Tribunal.
94. No requests
from foreign States for judicial assistance on account of torture
offences call for application of the legislation described have been
received by Icelandic authorities. Nor have they received any requests
for such assistance from the Tribunal.
95. The rules
governing the appointment of policemen and their training and duties
are found in the Police Act, No. 90/1996. The Minister of Justice
appoints policemen, who must have passed an examination from the State
Police School. The Icelandic police force numbers approximately 600
96. The State
Police School is an independent institution coming under the Minister
of Justice. The School operates a department of basic education providing
general police education for the students, and a department of advanced
education providing for active policemen continuing education, advanced
education and special education. The National Commissioner of Police
advertises for students everywhere in Iceland. He decides the number
of students to be admitted each year, on the basis of a plan for renewal
of the force's personnel. Applicants for admission must fulfil certain
general requirements. They must be between 20 and 25 years of age,
mentally and physically healthy, have completed a certain basic education,
and must not have been sentenced for an act punishable under the General
Criminal Code. Before admission, they must pass an admission examination.
The study takes place in two terms. Before commencing the second term
the National Commissioner of Police shall provide the students with
practical training with the State police for a minimum of eight months.
On the average, about 30 new students are admitted annually. The number
of students at the present time is 48.
in the first term of police studies includes the basic aspects of
criminal law and criminal procedure. The provisions of the Constitution
are described, with a particular emphasis on its human rights provisions.
The second term provides a more detailed survey of human rights. The
objectives of the course are to provide the students with an overview
of the history of and the reasons underlying the human rights provisions
of the Constitution, as well as knowledge of international human rights
cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations and the Council
of Europe and the chief international human rights instruments to
which Iceland is committed, including the Convention against Torture.
Practical education and training includes physical arrests, in order
that the students may safely arrest a person even in cases where resistance
is offered, and self-defence. On the whole, ethical standards and
correct police procedures are given great emphasis in the training
of new students at the Police School and in police work generally.
This applies especially to the conduct of policemen in their relations
with arrested persons. Police trainees and active policemen cannot
fail to be aware of the fact that any brutality in their relations
with arrested persons calls for disciplinary measures or criminal
prosecution, and that complaints against police are examined and processed
in an appropriate manner.
98. As regards
competence requirements and education of policemen in charge of others,
it may be noted that all 27 Icelandic commissioners of police are
lawyers, and legal training is a condition for their appointment.
Human rights education, which includes the human rights provisions
of the Constitution, is one of the central themes in law studies.
The Ministry of Justice sent all Icelandic commissioners of police,
for their information, the report of the European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture following that Committee's visit to Iceland
in 1993. The Ministry has also sent to all commissioners of police
a publication containing the most important human rights agreements
to which Iceland is a party.
more detailed provisions concerning the competence and education of
prison wardens were issued in Regulation No. 11/1996 on requirements
for appointment of prison wardens and the training of prison wardens.
This provides some general requirements to be fulfilled for such engagement.
The Regulations are issued on the basis of the Prisons and Imprisonment
Act. The general requirements which an applicant for engagement as
a prison warden must fulfil include an age of between 20 and 40 years,
unblemished reputation, good personal character, tactful behaviour
and mental and physical health. In addition, a certain minimum education
is required. An applicant may be required to undergo psychological
and psychiatric tests if this is considered necessary. A particular
committee, composed of representatives of the Ministry of Justice,
the Prison and Probation Administration and the Association of Prison
Wardens, assesses whether an applicant fulfils the general requirements.
The Prison and Probation Administration operates an education department
and a training committee is active under its auspices, the members
of which are representatives of the above parties. The committee is
in charge of organizing the education and tuition provided for prison
wardens. Basic education of prison wardens takes six months, divided
into three months of theoretical education and physical training and
three months of practical training, which takes place in a prison.
Among the courses provided are criminal law, the Code of Criminal
Procedure and the service of sentences. The curriculum also includes
the basic principles of human rights, the rights and duties of prisoners
and human interaction. At the time of writing of this report, a formal
description of the education of prison wardens is under preparation.
This will emphasize the human rights provisions that relate to prohibition
of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, both those of the Constitution
and those of international human rights instruments. The European
Convention for the Prevention of Torture and the Convention against
Torture will thus be given particular consideration.
persons who have completed the basic education described above, passed
an examination and otherwise established to the committee that they
are suited for such employment, can receive permanent appointment
as prison wardens. When a prison warden has completed his or her basic
education and practical training period, continued education is required
for one term of at least 300 hours. This is designed to increase the
general knowledge, competence and professionalism of the persons so
employed, promote safety in prisons and strengthen the assistance
and guidance roles of the prison wardens. Finally, the aim is to provide
prison wardens with the opportunity of refreshment courses within
five years from completing their prison warden education. Active prison
wardens in Iceland are now about 80 in number.
to the Prisons and Imprisonment Act persons who have passed an accredited
university examination shall have precedence for appointment as prison
governors. The Director of the Prison and Probation Administration
shall be a lawyer.
Icelandic Judges' Association recently conducted, in cooperation with
the Ministry of Justice, a course for judges on human rights as enshrined
in the Constitution and international human rights instruments. The
Convention against Torture was specifically introduced to them as
the most recent human rights instrument to which Iceland is committed.
The Ministry of Justice has also sent all Icelandic judges a publication
containing the texts of all international human rights agreements
to which Iceland is a party.
103. A prohibition
of torture is not expressly mentioned in the professional rules of
policemen or prison wardens. This prohibition is deemed so self-evident
as not to need mentioning. It is, however, well to reiterate that
both the training and the rules of conduct applying to these professions
place a heavy emphasis on proper conduct in relations with prisoners
and other persons deprived of liberty, and their members are required
to keep in mind at all times that any brutality is totally prohibited.
enjoy special protection of the law according to Act No. 74/1997 on
the rights of patients. According to its section 17, the members of
medical and health-care professions and others having relations with
patients in the course of their work shall respect the personal dignity
of patients. Section 7 of the Act provides specifically for the right
of a patient to refuse medical treatment, and according to section
10 a patient must give a written approval of any participation in
scientific tests, such as experiments with new drugs.
Legal Competency Act, No. 71/1997, contains special provisions on
the treatment of persons committed to hospitals against their will.
According to that Act, a person can be committed to a hospital for
a limited period of time subject to strict conditions, if he or she
suffers from a serious psychiatric illness or is seriously addicted
to alcohol or other drugs of abuse. A person so committed is entitled
to the support and counsel of a specially appointed counsellor, whose
remuneration shall be paid by the State Treasury.
106. In other
respects the professional conduct of the members of the medical and
health-care professions is first and foremost based on their own rules
of ethics, such as those of doctors and nurses, where humane treatment,
respect for the dignity of patients and tactful conduct is heavily
emphasized. A prohibition of torture is, however, not expressed, as
this is regarded as self-evident.
legislation and rules based on enacted laws now stipulate in detail
interrogation procedure and the conditions afforded detained persons.
When the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited
Iceland in the summer of 1993, it made the observation that formal
interrogation rules, giving among other things detailed description
of the procedure to be followed in various contexts, were lacking
in Iceland. The Committee also observed that more detailed rules were
needed on the right of an arrested person to have a close relative
or other party, as the arrested person might require, notified of
the arrest. These observations provided an occasion for various amendments
to the CCP, which were made by Act No. 136/1996. Rules on the above
matters are now found in the CCP and Regulations No. 395/1997 on the
legal status of arrested persons and on police interrogations. The
Regulations also contain provisions on the questioning of witnesses
and the receiving of statements, and on sound recording of interrogations
and questioning of suspects and witnesses, and detailed rules on the
registration of various matters relating to arrests and custody of
arrested persons in police detention.
to section 32 of the CCP and section 7 of the Regulations, a suspected
person must be informed that he is not obliged to provide replies
to questions concerning the alleged criminal act, or provide an independent
account of any matter relating to that act. He is also to be informed
of his right to the support and assistance of legal counsel during
interrogation and at all stages of the procedure. According to section
42 of the CCP and section 10 of the Regulations, legal counsel may
always be present when a suspected person is being interrogated, and
the person interrogated may counsel with him, provided the police
do not consider that this disturbs the interrogation.
33 of the CCP and section 8 of the Regulations contain further provisions
on the interrogation procedure, the main content of which will now
be described. The questions asked the suspect must be clear and unequivocal,
and the suspect must not be confused by untrue information or subjected
to any compulsion in word or deed. A suspect must not be promised
any concessions or privileges in order to obtain confession or any
important information, if such promises are unlawful or if it is not
in the power of the interrogator to grant them. A policeman must always
conduct an interrogation calmly and tactfully. No methods may be employed
which are suited to affect a suspected person's awareness or ability
to take decisions. Interrogation of a suspected person believed to
be under the influence of alcohol or other inebriating substances
shall be avoided if possible. An interrogator shall seek to avoid
making the suspect tired, and the suspect shall be offered food at
ordinary mealtimes and sufficient sleep and rest. A suspected person
must never be interrogated for more than six hours at a time. If a
suspected person has been interrogated for 16 hours in the same day,
including stays and interruptions, he shall be offered rest for eight
hours before resuming interrogation.
to section 72, paragraph 2, of the CCP, police interrogations and
other investigative measures shall, if possible, be witnessed by a
reliable and trustworthy person. The aim of the provision is both
to strengthen the evidential value of the suspect's statement and
to protect the suspect against harshness of any description. The latter
function is now not as important as it was, after the right of a counsel
to be present at all times has been expressly provided for by statute.
In practice the witness is usually another policeman or some staff
member of the police agency in question, and in fact the most common
arrangement is to have the witness only present when the statement
received from a suspect is read out to him and his confirmation given.
In serious criminal cases, and when a statement is of high importance,
for example with regard to the situation of proof, a witness is usually
present during the interrogation itself. The attestation of a witness
is strictly required to show what the witness has been witnessing,
for example whether the witness was present during the interrogation
or merely when a statement was read out and confirmed.
the general principle applies that an arrested person is provided
with medical assistance when this is requested. Police employ no doctors.
If medical assistance is deemed necessary, an arrested person is either
taken to the place where emergency medical services are provided to
the public, or the doctor on watch who provides emergency services
in the particular area is summoned. Medical examination of arrested
persons takes place without the presence of police, except if the
doctor requires otherwise.
above rules show that the rights of arrested persons are given high
emphasis, both by detailed rules on interrogation procedure and, even
more importantly, by providing for supervision of the treatment of
a suspect. Of chief importance in this context is a person's unreserved
right to consult with his legal counsel at all times and that legal
counsel may always be present during interrogation. A witness who
is present when interrogation takes place in serious criminal cases
also serves an important purpose. It should also be noted that doctors
who tend arrested persons are not dependent on police in any way;
they are employees of the public health system and the identity of
a doctor who provides emergency medical service at any particular
time is purely subject to chance. The principle that an arrested person
is to be brought before a judge within 24 hours from his arrest, who
decides whether he is remanded or set free, should also be recalled.
a person has been remanded on the basis of the provisions of the CCP,
the rules described above concerning interrogation and the right to
consult with legal counsel continue to apply. Remand accommodation
is, however, governed by Regulations No. 179/1992, the substance of
which was briefly described above in connection with article 6. The
Regulations are voluminous and elaborate, containing 114 sections,
and a detailed description of them here is not warranted. The Regulations
address the following main subjects: reception and registration of
remanded persons; accommodation in and arrangement of remand imprisonment;
food of remand prisoners; medical services, which are provided by
a prison doctor; visits to remand prisoners; the right of remand prisoners
to correspondence, use of telephone and access to mass media; work;
liability for damage they may cause, and general provisions on their
rights and duties. The provisions on security measures taken with
respect to remand prisoners, such as physical searches, use of force,
use of handcuffs and confinement to a security cell, are particularly
detailed. Finally, the Regulations allow the application of disciplinary
measures with respect to remand prisoners in certain situations.
114. It is
well to mention again the basic principle of section 108, paragraph
3, of the CCP, that a remand prisoner can always refer matters relating
to his imprisonment, including the treatment afforded him, to a judge.
provisions governing the service of criminal sentences in prisons
are mainly found in chapter III of the Prisons and Imprisonment Act,
No. 48/1988. Chapter IV of the Act contains rules on security in prisons
and disciplinary sanctions applied to sentenced prisoners. Regulations
No. 119/1990 have been issued in accordance with the Act, concerning
correspondence, use of telephone and visits to sentenced prisoners.
The general rule is that sentenced prisoners can send and receive
letters without interference, unless the prison governor considers
necessary to examine them in individual cases for the maintenance
of order in the prison or for prevention of crime. The prison authorities
are, however, not allowed examination of mail to or from the following
parties: the Minister and Ministry of Justice; the Prison and Probation
Administration; the courts; the Director of Public Prosecutions; police;
the Ombudsman of Parliament; the European Commission on Human Rights
and, finally, the prisoner's legal counsel, irrespective of whether
that person was legal counsel for the prisoner in the case leading
to the sentence or in some other criminal case prosecuted against
116. At the
end of this discussion on the practical aspects of the custody of
persons deprived of liberty, it is proper to mention again the right
of a person committed to hospital against his will under the Legal
Competency Act, No. 71/1997, to have a personal counsellor appointed
to guard his or her interests.
above account describes the most important rules governing interrogation
of arrested persons and persons remanded to custody, and those on
the custody and treatment of arrested persons, remanded persons and
persons serving sentences. No systematic, overall control is exercised
in this field, for example by having a particular party or institution
regularly visit places where persons deprived of liberty are accommodated.
Nevertheless, it is well to recall the unrestricted right of the CPT
to visit such places, have personal interviews with persons deprived
of liberty and otherwise to examine their accommodation and treatment.
The above account shows that the right of a person deprived of liberty
to contact his or her legal counsel, doctor or personal counsellor,
in addition to relatives, is emphasized at all times, and that the
right to correspond freely with certain public institutions in order
to submit a complaint relating to his or her treatment is secured.
The purpose is to create conditions where the treatment of such persons
is effectively supervised in fact, as Icelandic law ensures that complaints
of police or other public servants relating to torture, other ill-treatment
or suspicions thereof are effectively examined and addressed. The
following discussion of articles 12 and 13 of the Convention describes
further the measures taken if the authorities receive a complaint
of torture or other ill-treatment, or if a suspicion of such conduct
investigation at the initiative of the competent authorities in case
of suspicion of torture, cf. article 12 of the Convention, and the
right of a person under article 13 to submit a complaint of torture
or other ill-treatment which shall be impartially examined, will be
discussed together in the following.
25 of the Police Act, No. 90/1996, specifies that if a complaint is
received against a policeman alleging a criminal offence in the course
of the performance of his duties, or if a suspicion of such offence
is evoked, the commissioner of police shall immediately notify the
Director of Public Prosecutions. He shall decide whether further investigation
of the matter shall take place. There is an investigation department
at the office of the National Commissioner of Police, among the functions
of which is investigation of such cases. The Director of Public Prosecutions
is in charge of such investigation, not the National Commissioner
of Police, who is in charge of the investigation in other cases handled
by his office. If the investigation leads to the conclusion that criminal
conviction is probable, the Director of Public Prosecutions will initiate
criminal prosecution. While the complaint is being examined, the policeman
will be temporarily suspended from his duties. It depends on the conclusion
of the investigation whether the policeman is formally warned by his
superior, who is the commissioner of police in question, or permanently
relieved of his duties.
120. In the
past five years, a few complaints have provided an occasion for investigation
concerning misuse of police authority, in all cases concerning use
of force in connection with an arrest or in police detention following
arrest. There is no example of a complaint alleging that policemen
or other persons having to do with legal procedure have compelled
a person to confess to a crime or provide information in connection
with criminal investigation. The following table presents statistical
information on complaints against policemen in the past five years:
Number of complaints against policemen on duty:
1 Dec.) 5
121. In one
instance (a complaint in 1995), the Director of Public Prosecutions
decided to press charges against a policeman for physical assault
and an offence committed in official capacity. The policeman was indicted
for having surpassed his authority when he involved himself with a
man who disregarded an order given him to extinguish a fire he had
lit in a public space. There was a struggle between them, with the
result that the man's arm was fractured. The policeman was indicted
for a violation of section 218, paragraph 1 (in reserve for a violation
of section 219, i.e., commission by negligence), and section 138 of
the General Penal Code. The District Court of Reykjavik acquitted
the policeman of the charges by a judgement rendered 10 September
1996. The court found that the complainant had refused to obey the
order of the policemen who had arrived on the scene and assaulted
one of them. The police had held him in order to restrain him, but
he had struggled with the result that the man's arm was fractured.
Given the events preceding the hold applied by the policeman and the
situation in other respects, the court found that he had not surpassed
his authority when performing the arrest.
122. A complaint
from a person alleging torture is not a prerequisite for investigation.
The police authorities can request such investigation of their own
accord in case of suspicion of such conduct. There is one such example
from the past five years, in connection with a criminal case investigated
at the initiative of the Commissioner of Police in Reykjavik. Suspicion
was aroused that a policeman active with his office had, in the autumn
of 1996, evinced conduct involving brutal treatment of a person. Following
investigation, the policeman was indicted for having unlawfully treated
an arrested man in police detention. The policeman had dealt blows
with the fist to the man's chest and side. A judgement of the District
Court of Reykjavik found the policeman guilty of physical assault
in the lesser degree under section 217 and of an offence committed
in official capacity under sections 132 and 138 of the GPC. The court
pronounced a sentence of 30 days' penal custody, suspended for two
years. Following this judgement the policeman's employment was permanently
123. In addition
to the above criminal judgements, there is one other example from
this decade of criminal action against a policeman relating to misuse
of power when conducting an arrest. A judgement of the Supreme Court
of 14 November 1991 pronounced a suspended sentence of three months'
imprisonment of a policeman for a violation of section 218 of the
GPC (grave physical assault), on account of an injury inflicted on
a man when he was arrested in a very rough manner. His head hit the
ground, seven of his teeth were broken and his face extensively bruised.
A Supreme Court judgement of 25 January 1996 awarded him damages from
the policeman and the State Treasury for financial and non-financial
loss. The right of a person to compensation will be discussed under
article 14 of the Convention.
if a complaint against a policeman on account of harsh treatment or
other unlawful conduct does not lead to an indictment, this may be
an occasion for a formal warning or admonition by a commissioner of
police to a policeman working with his office. Such admonition may
precede termination of employment.
125. A prisoner
may lodge a complaint on account of torture on the part of a prison
warden to the person in charge of the prison, to the Prison and Probation
Administration, or directly to the commissioner of police with jurisdiction
in the area where the prison is situated. Special rules apply to correspondence
from prisoners to police and other public parties. If the matter is
deemed to warrant an investigation, this takes place under the auspices
of the relevant commissioner of police. The case is then forwarded
to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who takes a decision on whether
to prosecute the alleged offender. If the Director of the Prison and
Probation Administration, who is in charge of that institution, obtains
knowledge of torture or other harsh treatment of a prisoner on the
part of a prison warden, he can likewise lodge a complaint with the
commissioner of police, alleging an offence by a prison warden acting
in an official capacity. If the prison warden's conduct is deemed
not to involve torture, but is nevertheless inappropriate, the official
in charge of the prison can formally warn the prison warden in question,
which measure may precede termination of employment. A prison warden
will be temporarily relieved from his duties while an investigation
takes place of an alleged criminal offence against a prisoner.
the past five years (in 1996), one complaint has been lodged on account
of a prison warden's treatment of a prisoner. A prisoner serving a
sentence reported to police that he had to suffer degrading treatment
because of a warden. The police investigated the matter, but found
that further involvement was not necessary and closed the case. There
are no instances of a formal warning being given a prison warden in
this period on account of harsh treatment of a prisoner.
127. In the
above cases, no special measures have been requested for protecting
a complainant or witnesses against ill-treatment or intimidation as
a consequence of a complaint or any evidence given. No rules have
been enacted in Iceland for this purpose. In case of need such measures
can be taken, for example police protection, if they are regarded
necessary. According to the Public Servants Act, No. 70/1996, a policeman
will be temporarily relieved from his duties while an investigation
takes place of whether a complaint against him is well-founded. His
employment is permanently terminated if he turns out to be guilty
of criminal conduct. This ensures, for example, that a remanded prisoner
or a prisoner serving a sentence has no contact or interrelation with
a public servant whom he has accused of torture or other ill-treatment
while an investigation of the matter is in progress.
128. In Part
I of this report it was noted that anyone who maintains that he has
suffered a wrong at the hands of a holder of public authority could
lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman of Parliament. Since the office
of Ombudsman was established in 1988, no complaint has been received
by him which relates to torture or other harsh or inhumane treatment
of a prisoner or a person otherwise deprived of liberty on the part
of a person acting in official capacity. It may be noted, however,
that the Ombudsman received one complaint on account of unlawful arrest
and deprivation of liberty in 1988. This was not examined on its merits
by the Ombudsman, as the time which had passed from the arrest until
the complaint was lodged was too long. In his response to the complainant
the Ombudsman expressed the opinion that, according to the Code of
Criminal Procedure, any claims on account of the conduct to which
the complaint related were to be referred to the courts, and therefore
the complaint did not fall within the sphere of the Ombudsman's duties.
129. A person
committed to hospital against his will in accordance with the provisions
of the Legal Competency Act can, under section 30 of the Act, refer
the decision on his commitment and any compulsory medical treatment
afforded, to the courts. Other general recourses open to a patient
who maintains that he or she has been afforded ill-treatment in hospital
are provided for in the Act on the Rights of Patients, No. 74/1997,
and the Health Services Act, No. 97/1990. A patient wishing to complain
of his treatment can direct his complaint to the office of the Director
General of Public Health or a special committee appointed to resolve
disputes that may arise in the relations of the public with persons
working within the health-care system. This committee is composed
of three members appointed by the Supreme Court. Its chairman shall
be a lawyer, and no member may be actively engaged within the health-care
system. If the Director General of Public Health or the committee
have suspicion of criminal conduct on the part of a health-care worker,
the matter will be reported to the police.
130. At the
end of this description of the remedies open in accordance with article
13 of the Convention, international avenues, on the one hand to the
European Commission on Human Rights and on the other to the committee
receiving communications in accordance with the Optional Protocol
to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, may be
mentioned. As stated in Part I, the Icelandic Government is not aware
of any complaints that have been submitted to these bodies alleging
that the Icelandic Government has violated its international obligations
concerning prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.
a person who has suffered torture, Icelandic law provides the remedy
of claiming fair and reasonable compensation in court. According to
section 176 of the GPC, a person can be awarded damages from the State
Treasury on account of arrest, personal search, examination of a person's
health or remand custody, if such measures have not been justified
by law or if they have been carried out in an unnecessarily dangerous,
damaging or offending manner. Thus, the right to compensation is not
limited to torture within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention.
Criminal liability on the part of a policeman or other public servant
is not a condition for a suspected person's entitlement to compensation.
132. It is
a condition for liability for damages on the part of the State Treasury
that the policeman or other public servant in question caused the
loss in connection with the performance of his functions. Liability
of the State Treasury thus comes into play when a public servant exceeds
his authority by harsh or abnormal conduct. According to the CCP,
compensation can be made for both financial and non-financial loss.
133. A person
claiming damages on account of such conduct by a policeman shall be
awarded free process in both judicial instances. This is provided
for in section 178 of the CCP. He may however be ordered to pay legal
costs in accordance with the generally applicable rules if he loses
general rules on compensation for tort are in the Damages Act, No.
50/1993. In case of torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of
a person acting in official capacity, which is unrelated to the investigation
of a criminal case, damages can be claimed from the State Treasury
in accordance with the Damages Act. According to its section 1, the
party responsible for physical injury shall pay compensation for loss
of work, medical expenses and other financial loss ensued, and also
compensation for suffering. If physical injury is of permanent effect,
compensation for non-financial loss and disability shall also be paid,
i.e., compensation for reduction or loss of earning ability. According
to section 26, compensation for non-financial loss can also be awarded
in the absence of physical injury. The section provides that a person
responsible for an unlawful violation of the liberty, peace, reputation
or inviolability of another person shall make compensation to the
party suffering such violation.
135. If a
court does not sustain a claim against the State Treasury for damages
on account of the actions of a public servant, on the grounds that
his actions bore no relationship to the performance of his functions,
damages can only be claimed from the public servant personally. According
to Act No. 69/1995 on compensation to the victims of crime, the State
Treasury compensates losses from an offence against the provisions
of the General Criminal Code. This ensures that even if the offender
cannot make good the damage, the State Treasury accepts liability
up to a certain amount. The State Treasury will then seek recovery
of the amount paid from the perpetrator, to the extent this may be
possible. According to the Act mentioned, the State Treasury compensates
the victim for physical injury and for damage to clothing and other
personal effects, including a small amount of cash that the victim
may have carried at the time of the offence. The State Treasury also
compensates non-financial loss and loss of support.
general principles of the law of torts, in particular as evidenced
by sections 13 and 14 of the Damages Act, secure the right of both
spouses and children to claim compensation for loss of support.
where the State is sued for damages on account of action taken by
police cannot be described as infrequent, but torture or other ill-treatment
of persons is very seldom invoked. The most frequent cause of action
is that legal requirements for investigative measures, for example
custody on remand, were not fulfilled, and the courts have to a certain
extent sustained such claims, made on the basis of the provisions
of the CCP previously described. There are also examples of damages
being awarded on the basis of the general principles of the law of
torts on account of unlawful deprivation of liberty in connection
with commitment to hospitals. It may be noted that the right to compensation
on account of unlawful deprivation of liberty, irrespective of whether
or not this relates to criminal investigation, is secured by article
67, paragraph 4, of the Constitution.
138. As regards
claims for damages on account of torture or other ill-treatment at
the hands of persons acting in official capacity, examples can be
found of damages being claimed for physical injury during arrest.
In the past few years, such instances have been extremely rare. A
judgement of the Supreme Court rendered 25 January 1996 awarded a
person damages from a policeman and the State Treasury for financial
and non-financial loss sustained as a result of physical injury during
arrest. The policeman in question had previously been criminally sentenced
on account of the injury caused, in accordance with section 218, paragraph
1, of the GPC, by a judgement of the Supreme Court rendered 14 November
1991. That judgement was described in connection with articles 13
and 14 of the Convention. A judgement of the Supreme Court rendered
18 December 1997 (a civil case) found the State Treasury free of the
claims of a man who claimed to have suffered a rib fracture in police
detention in Reykjavik, where he had been placed for a few hours following
arrest in March 1993, and then released. His complaint of police brutality
and a claim for damages based on the allegation of unlawful treatment
was not proven. However, the Supreme Court concluded in its decision
that the investigation of this allegation by the Reykjavik Commissioner
of Police and the National Investigating Police (a special body which
operated before the National Commissioner of Police was established
in 1997) suffered from serious flaws. It was particularly noted, that
when the man complained about the conduct of the police, approximately
a month after the arrest took place, the Reykjavik Commissioner of
Police conducted the investigation in the case, inter alia
the interrogations of the suspected police officers, instead of referring
the case to the National Investigating Police. The case was later
brought to the National Investigating Police, which did not take any
further action, but submitted the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions
in November the same year. The Director of Public Prosecutions informed
the National Investigating Police in April 1994 that further involvement
was not necessary and closed the case.
139. It should
be noted that the above rules on the right of a person to fair and
reasonable compensation apply equally to all, without regard to, for
example, nationality or refugee status.
or other rehabilitation, both physical and mental, which may be required
following torture, is secured by Icelandic health legislation. As
a general rule patients are not charged for medical treatment when
hospitalized. They are, however, to a certain extent charged for health-care
services provided outside hospitals, including the services of specialized
doctors. In the event of costs incurred by reason of medical services
rendered a person who has suffered torture, a person found guilty
of such an offence would be ordered to pay that cost in addition to
compensation for financial and non-financial loss.
141. In judicial
proceedings, Icelandic legislation does not expressly prohibit the
invocation in evidence of a statement that turns out to have been
obtained by torture. A judge's free evaluation of evidence is the
general rule. Therefore procedural law neither prohibits the introduction
of certain evidence, nor provides for legally prescribed assessment
of proof in certain situations. The judge of a criminal case is, however,
bound by the rule in article 70, paragraph 2, of the Constitution
that everyone charged with criminal conduct shall be presumed innocent
until proved guilty. The burden of proof rests with the prosecution.
In the opinion of the Icelandic Government, Icelandic law concerning
criminal proof ensures that a person cannot be convicted on the basis
of a confession, if it is established that it was obtained by torture,
that the person in question has not validated his confession, and
other evidence does not establish his guilt.
introduction of evidence in court is another principle of Icelandic
criminal procedure, provided for in section 48 of the CCP. A judgement
shall be based on evidence brought forth in court when the case in
question is in progress. This means that police reports, which are
not supported by statements provided in court, have limited evidential
143. If a
person has confessed to the commission of a crime during police interrogation,
and later withdraws his confession in court, the judge will evaluate
whether there are reasonable grounds to assume that his confession
was false. If a defendant maintains that his confession was obtained
by torture and other evidence or facts support that assertion, the
matter would immediately be investigated according to the rules described
above in connection with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention. If
this allegation were confirmed, the policemen in question would be
subject to the criminal provisions of Icelandic law, described above
in connection with article 4. A defendant's confession obtained in
this way would not be used as a basis for imposition of criminal sanctions,
as the judge is likely to conclude that it is false. If other evidence
than the unlawfully obtained confession were introduced and deemed
conclusive as regards the defendant's guilt, he would be found guilty.
following a judgement of the lower instance which has not been subject
to appeal, or following a Supreme Court judgement, a complaint is
received to the effect that a confession was obtained by torture,
the procedure can be resumed if the conditions provided for in section
184 of the CCP are fulfilled. This can be done at the request of a
convicted person in the following situations:
If new evidence has
been discovered, which can be assumed to have had a significant
influence for the outcome of the case if it had been submitted
in court before the judgement was rendered (paragraph 1);
If it can be assumed
that the judge, prosecutor, investigator or other persons committed
criminal acts in the purpose of bringing about the conclusion
arrived at for example by faked testimony, forged documents or
wilfully wrong statements given by witnesses or others, and that
this has resulted in an incorrect judicial resolution (paragraph
145. A convicted
person has, in one instance, requested resumption of criminal procedure
under this provision. He asserted that his confession to police of
having committed certain crimes, which he later confirmed in court,
had been obtained by unlawful ill-treatment. This involved one of
the largest and most serious criminal cases prosecuted in Iceland
in recent times, where six persons were charged of various offences,
including two instances of homicide. A judgement of the Supreme Court
of 22 February 1980 convicted the man who later requested resumption
of the procedure, of grave physical assault against two persons, leading
to their deaths. At the time the case was prosecuted in the lower
instance in 1977, and before the Supreme Court in 1980, the suspect
had withdrawn his confessions. He maintained that the investigators
and prison wardens had obtained them by subjecting him to unlawful
treatment, leading him in his provision of certain statements, coordinating
his statements to the statements of other defendants, and resorting
to other inappropriate and unlawful investigative methods. These assertions
provided an occasion for a special investigation of alleged brutal
treatment of the defendant during his imprisonment on remand. With
a view to the conclusions of that investigation the Supreme Court
held, in its judgement of 22 February 1980, that his confession could
not be seen to have been obtained by unlawful methods on the part
of the investigators. The defendant was found guilty on the basis
of his confession and other evidence.
man requested in 1994 that the procedure be resumed, in particular
on the grounds that new evidence had become available which could
be assumed to have been of high importance for the outcome of the
case if it had been introduced before adjudication. The Supreme Court
decided, on 15 July 1997, to reject his petition, as the conditions
set in section 184, paragraph 1, of the CCP had not been fulfilled.
This conclusion was mainly based on the consideration that most of
the information brought forth in support of his petition had been
in the hands of the Supreme Court when its judgement was rendered
on 22 February 1980, and had then been taken into account. The Court
mentioned in its decision that in its time the Supreme Court had held
that the investigation of the case suffered from certain serious faults,
which however had not been deemed to justify annulment or acquittal.
The faults in question had, however, probably led to a slightly more
advantageous outcome for the defendants in the Supreme Court, as compared
to the conclusion in the lower instance.
Supreme Court, in its decision of 15 July 1997, accepted that the
convicted person had been subjected to unlawful treatment during his
remand, in particular during a period of two months. According to
the judgement of the Supreme Court of 22 February 1980 this had to
a certain extent been known, but further information was brought forth
in this context. This fact was considered to be the only one that
could come into consideration as a justification for resumed procedure.
It related to periods of the remand imprisonment, on the one hand
some months after he had provided statements where he had confessed
to having had a part in the disappearance of one of the victims, and
on the other hand many months before he confessed to his part in the
disappearance of the other victim. It was deemed that the harsh treatment
afforded him had in part been meant as disciplinary sanctions in consequence
of failure to observe the rules applying to his remand imprisonment.
Even though the facts supported to some extent his earlier accusations
of harsh treatment in remand custody, the court held that no new information
had been submitted which was likely to have changed the conclusion
arrived at by the Supreme Court in its judgement of 22 February 1980.
Supreme Court's decision not to grant the petition for resumption
of the procedure provided an occasion for extensive debate in society,
where the discussion and the media coverage given this criminal case
in the late 1970s was recollected. The legislation on criminal procedure
then in effect was clearly deficient in various respects, not least
as regards the rights of accused persons. During the 20 years which
have passed since then, important and radical changes and amendments
have been introduced by the enactment of the new Code of Criminal
Procedure, which significantly improves the legal status of accused
persons. In addition, detailed rules have been issued on police interrogations
and the treatment of remanded persons. These were outlined above,
in particular in connection with article 11 of the Convention.
149. In connection
with articles 10–13 of the Convention, measures taken against
torture within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention, and measures
designed to protect people against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment, were described simultaneously. A reference is made
to that discussion, which need not be repeated here.
criminal statutes and rules on protection against misuse of public
authority are not limited to torture within the meaning of article
1. The criminal liability of a public official or other person acting
in official capacity, in particular under sections 131, 132 and 134
of the GPC, consequently extends to any acts on their part involving
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This can be inferred
from the wording of these provisions, as they mention, for example,
"unlawful methods" employed in order to obtain evidential statements
(section 131); that "correct procedures" are not employed in the handling
of a case (section 132), or "misuse of position" on the part of a
public servant in order to compel a person to carry out an act (section
134). Thus, Icelandic criminal law provides for a right to complain
of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to the relevant
investigation authority, as in case of torture.
above rules on compensation, for example for non-financial loss in
the absence of physical injury, apply equally to cases not involving
torture within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention. If criminal
liability is not invoked with respect to a public servant on account
of a conduct on his part involving cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment, such conduct also calls for disciplinary measures under
the rules governing his engagement. A public servant can thus be formally
warned or admonished, which precedes termination of employment, if
he is found to have repeated such an act.