Leiden Law Blog

Against discrimination – of all

Against discrimination – of all

Swedish police forces are under popular siege for not having publicly reported on the immigrant ethnicities of sexual harassers having attacked women during a festival some years ago. “This is just one more furtherance of the populist right, and well-nigh intentionally so!” and so on and so on it is contended. Thus belittling or even hiding the obvious, i.e. the abnormally high rates of crime among refugees and other immigrants from Africa and the Mid-East is said to fuel outright racism against such people from abroad, like: “We really need a much more radical government to tackle this issue, or even to simply oust all these criminal people”.

So far this sounds rather familiar or even politically correct. Still and amidst all public outrage on this, further amplified by sexual crimes against women committed during New Year’s Eve on Cologne’s Bahnhofplatz, a number of basic principles making out any civilized rule of law or civilized society for that matter are more or less conveniently left out of account here.

First, there ought to be no police and/or public prosecution publicity on any suspects of crime unless there is a clear and overriding need for information to the general public, like the succesful removal from public space of dangerous individuals, groups and organizations. Trial ought to be public, the whole rest of criminal procedure ought to be confidential. This is an implication of the praesumptio innocentiae in the first place of course. In the case of sexual harassment there was no need for any publicity of course, possibly apart from informing the public on arrests of suspects concerned, and no more than that.

Second, any official and other publicity ought to respect fundamental rights against discrimination as holding good for all human persons, whatever their provenances and citizenships. An indisputable implication of this is the right not to be criminalized both as a member of an ethnic group and as an ethnic group per se. Thus and at least so in civilized jurisdictions any public utterance like: “Syrians are criminals” or even “Many Syrians are criminals” constitutes a criminal offence in principle. For this reason alone the Swedish police was completely right in abstaining from any publicity regarding provenance, ethnicity etc. of any suspects involved.

Third, even if it were true that immigrants from Africa and the Mid-East are significantly more criminal than Swedes and/or Europeans in general - in as far as such a finding may be scientifically established at all - this would imply nothing whatsoever concerning any individual immigrant. Applying general statistics to individual cases is committing the fallacy of misplaced concreteness: “50% of Syrians are criminals so there is a 50% chance that this Syrian is a criminal”. Or not so of course. And even if there would indeed be an abnormally high percentage of criminals among immigrants, this also leaves totally open the question whether there is any connection between being an immigrant and being a criminal. Or another fallacy is committed: cum hoc ergo propter hoc (“appearing together and thus causally related"). (Immigrant crime may be more adequately explained by homelessness than by ethnicity and so on.)

Fourth and in line with this, under any civilized rule of law individuals have the right to be treated as individuals, certainly so in any criminal procedure. So any suspect and criminal defendant is to be treated according to his own behavior only, subject to relevant legal rules of conduct and subject to reasonable standards of evidence and proof.

So stop discrimination, not just sexual discrimination and worse of women by men, but also equally totally undeserved discrimination of refugees and other immigrants by labeling and worse. The Swedish police was completely right in withholding ethnical and provenance information indeed. Such publicity leads to wanton attacks against immigrants as “criminals by definition” and does nothing to alleviate the immigration tragedy at all.

The real problem of course is that all these immigrants and refugees ought not to be here at all, at least not so in a less imperfect world. They ought to be at home, like all of us have a right to. But then as long as they are here they ought to be treated as human beings, on equal footing with all.


Marc Aaron Goldbach
Posted by Marc Aaron Goldbach on January 11, 2017 at 10:26

The Swedish authority are responsible for the Police behaviour if the incident is true for not reporting any discrimination or harassment during the festival. Due process like thorough invistigation is needed before accusing someone else.

Goldbach Law Group
Long Beach Discrimination Lawyer

hendrik kaptein
Posted by hendrik kaptein on January 26, 2016 at 14:28

Thanks very much Daniella for your thoughtful question: Wilders is after religious and ethnic backgrounds as indicators of crime. This is not even supported by statistical data. Even if it would be so, then still application of any general statistics to individuals comes down to the fallacy of misplaced concreteness indeed. The burden of proof is on Wilders: please show that crime may be curbed by ethnic labelling. An impossible burden it would well seem - and rightly so.

daniella Gidaly
Posted by daniella Gidaly on January 14, 2016 at 15:35

Thanks for elucidating this subject. So what answer would you give mr Wilders if he would answer you that for safety reasons the Dutch public is entitled to knwo what is going on thus also to know whta the background is of somebody who is arrested?

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