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Sweden

1 The State duty to protect human rights [page 10-11]

Swedish legislation to protect human rights

“Disputes concerning the relationship between employer and employee are often resolved in the Labour Court, which is a specialised court for examining labour law disputes. The Labour Disputes (Judicial Procedure) Act (1974:371) contains certain special regulations on labour law disputes.”

Criminal law provisions to protect human rights

Sweden has a number of criminal law provisions for the protection of human rights regardless of the context in which an offence is committed, including in the business context. Through these criminal provisions Sweden also fulfils its international commitments in relevant respects. Examples include:

  • Protection of life and health, through criminal liability for crimes such as murder, assault, manslaughter and work environment crimes (Chapter 3, Swedish Penal Code).
  • Protection of liberty and peace, through criminal liability for human trafficking, including for the purpose of exploiting a person’s labour, and other provisions protecting against coercion or deprivation of liberty. Provisions also exist to protect against harassment, intrusive photography, breach of postal or telecommunication secrecy, unlawful interception and breach of data security (Chapter 4, Penal Code).
  • Protection of property, against corruption, etc., through criminal liability for offences such as theft, robbery, fraud, extortion, receiving stolen goods, bribery, dishonesty to creditors and infliction of damage (Chapter 8–12, Penal Code). • Provisions on crimes involving public danger also protect the above-mentioned interests through criminal liability for acts such as arson (Chapter 13, Penal Code).
  • Criminalisation of international crime also provides for protection of life, health and property. The Act on criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (2014:406) entered into force on 1 July 2014.
  • Criminal liability under the Act on Criminal Responsibility for the Financing of Particularly Serious Crimes in Some Cases (2002:444), the Act on Criminal Responsibility for Terrorist Offences (2003:148) and the Act on Criminal Responsibility for Public Provocation, Recruitment and Training concerning Terrorist Offences and other Particularly Serious Crimes (2010:299) also provides protection in this context.
  • Under Swedish law, jurisdiction is extensive and Swedish courts are therefore often able to adjudicate in cases concerning offences committed abroad. Normally, for this to occur, the perpetrator would need to have some ties to Sweden and the offence would need to be subject to criminal liability under the law of the place where it was committed. However, such restrictions do not apply to the most serious crimes, i.e. certain specified crimes such as crimes under the Act on criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and, in general, all crimes with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for four years, for example, exceptionally gross assault (Chapter 2, Penal Code).
  • Corporate fines entail liability for companies, among others. Although only natural persons can be convicted of a crime, corporate fines may be imposed on a business operator (e.g. a legal entity) for crimes committed in the exercise of business activities. (Chapter 36, Penal Code).

3 Access to remedy [page 15]

Legal remedies provided by the State

“According to the UN Guiding Principles, States have an obligation to provide effective remedies when a company has committed human rights abuses. These include both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms. The legal remedies available in the Swedish legal system are in line with the international human rights conventions that Sweden has acceded to. There are three types of courts in Sweden:

  • the general courts, consisting of district courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court,
  • the administrative courts, i.e. administrative courts, administrative courts of appeal and the Supreme Administrative Court, and
  • the specialised courts, such as the Labour Court and the Market Court, which settle disputes in specialised areas.

The Government and the Swedish National Courts Administration take continuous action to ensure that the courts’ activities are conducted effectively and to a high standard, and that backlogs and turnaround times are kept to a reasonable level. Efforts in recent years have aimed, for example, to develop appropriate rules of procedure, a sustainable judicial system and more efficient working methods. …

The Office of the Equality Ombudsman is a government agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the Discrimination Act. The Ombudsman is to try in the first instance to induce those to whom the Act applies to comply with it voluntarily. However, the Ombudsman may also bring a court action on behalf of an individual who consents to this. Those who violate the Discrimination Act may be found liable to pay compensation for discrimination to the person discriminated against.”

Annex: Measures taken [page 21]

Regulations and legislation

  • “The Inquiry on protection of workers who blow the whistle on various unsatisfactory conditions, irregularities or offences submitted its report on 20 May 2014 (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:31). The Inquiry proposes a new labour law act strengthening the protection provided to whistleblowers. Under the act, workers who have suffered reprisals for whistleblowing will be entitled to damages. The Inquiry’s proposals have been circulated for comment.
  • With a view to improving the protection provided to workers, amendments have been proposed to the Work Environment Act and the Working Hours Act. Under these amendments, financial penalties would largely replace penal sanctions to create a more effective sanctions system.
  • In 2014, the Government Bill ‘Measures to manage major criminal cases and the cancellation of main hearings’ (Govt Bill 2013/14:170) was passed by the Riksdag. The bill proposed to give the parties greater influence and participation in proceedings so that accusations of criminal offences can be heard within a reasonable time, maintaining high standards.
  • The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights point out that the costs of bringing claims are sometimes a barrier to having a case heard. Even after statutory amendment (1987:452), the fees charged by Swedish courts are low by European standards.”

Annex: Measures planned [page 27]

Regulations and legislation

  • “An inquiry has been tasked with producing data on the practical, organisational and economic implications that is needed to form a position on how proposals for major changes in the handling of criminal cases should be implemented. The inquiry has reported in The criminal justice process – an impact assessment (Ministry Publications Series 2015:4), which has been circulated for comment.
  • An inquiry has presented further proposals for modern, effective and legally certain administrative proceedings. The continued development of administrative proceedings and specialisation for tax cases (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:76) was presented in December 2014 and has been circulated for comment.
  • An inquiry has reviewed remuneration for public counsels, injured party counsels and legal aid counsels, along with expenses for evidence, parties, interpreters and guardians ad litem. It has also reviewed income ceilings and legal aid fees. The final report, The price of justice (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:86), has been circulated for comment.”
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