Copenhagen activists risk arrest for future crimes
New Danish law permits pre-emptive arrest and detention for up to 40 days of protestors
In a move that environmental activists and civil libertarians are describing as "deeply worrying", the Danish parliament yesterday passed legislation that gives police the power of 'pre-emptive arrest' ahead of the UN climate talks which begin in Copenhagen on December 7. The new measures will allow officers to arrest and detain anyone for up to 12 hours who they believe is liable to break the law in the near future.
With thousands of activists due in Denmark over the next few days to rally outside the summit, it is fairly obvious who the law is intended for. The law will also apply to any foreigner arrested under it, and Danish police will have a further power to jail protestors for up to 40 days if they are charged with hindering the police. The law also allows for fines of up to 5,000kr (€670) to be levied on transgressors.
The laws, which were initially proposed on October 18, have been rushed on to the statute book amid fears that the 30,000 protestors expected in the Danish capital could overwhelm police. Already the country has had to borrow helicopters and police cars from Sweden and Germany in preparation.
Chief inspector Per Larsen said: "We want this summit and its associated events to be a celebration and not the occasion to destroy our city, as claimed by some small extremist groups. We will be supple enough, but there will be limits." A police press release issued in August warned that "gatherings that may disturb the public order must not take place".
The new laws have been condemned for being anti-democratic. Tannie Nyboe of Climate Justice Action in Denmark, said: "These laws are a big restraint in people's freedom of speech and it will increase the police repression for anyone coming to Copenhagen to protest. Denmark normally boasts of how open and democratic a country we are. With this law we can't boast about this anymore."
Nyboe continued: "It will increase the repression of any protester or activist coming to Copenhagen. This law creates an image of anyone concerned about climate change being a criminal, which will of course also influence the general treatment of any activist who comes into contact with the police or other authorities."
Kevin Smith, one of the participants in Climate Justice Action, an umbrella group for organisations protesting against climate change, told The First Post: "Climate activists from the UK travelling to Copenhagen have been detained under anti-terrorist legislation, and now the Danish government have ushered in all these new repressive laws in time for the COP.
"It's testament to the extent of the growing movement of people around the world who are going to be articulating their opposition to the corrupt and ineffective means of carbon trading and offsetting being promoted under Kyoto that the authorities feel the need to be clamping down like this." ·
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