Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Outlook in Three Typical Democracie
We spoke next with one of the two practicing ombudsman in attendance at the Assembly for human rights who hails from the nation where the concept of a public representative and a founder had it start. Our guest is Judge good stuff Petraeus deputy ombudsman of Sweden and he begins the interview by telling us about the historic background of the position he holds in his homeland. It's a very old institution it's was enforced by the Swedish constitution of eighteen hundred and nine. And it was set up by the in the basic law of the night in order to give the parliamentary representative it to or supervise the officials of the King. At this time the whole idea originate in Sweden. Yes it was it was I think it's an ordinal idea from one of the 60. Can you go any idea where this word ombudsman comes from. To an American it seems like a rather awkward word and difficult to pronounce.
This is if you were Swedish but in the later part man is the same as a man and on that it means representative of percentage of all of the parliament in time went into medicine when Parliament can't intervene itself. Well suppose we could spend a day in your office. And Sweden is in Stockholm this is sort of you know if we could look over your shoulder and observe a typical day's activity for you and your work as a deputy ombudsman what sort of thing would go on with that process with a mail every day of the coming that sudden amount of complaints from different corners of the country. A lot of these complaints are coming from prisoners other people in the in jail who are complaining about how they are treated in different ways. Many of these complaints are never taken serious but something behind it's investigated that other people are complaining for instance. Because the police have
done something to them they don't like or the old man hasn't got his social insurance as he thought he ought to have his social insurance. Yes I saw yesterday as a Social Security maybe a witness have been treated by a judge in the court and he complains about the behavior of the ETS. It's about a year of last field of things that can appear and then the menace of the right to intervene himself so he leads. Daily newspapers and if you found something that's if you find something that is unusual or seems to be something peculiar he can write and ask the authorities to give him a report of what has really happened. How many of these Ombudsman are there going to be there three of them now and they have a special division one of his takes cases on the social insurance on military things and live divided they don't feel that well in them.
You mention the great numbers of complaints that come in citizen appeals is a staff of three sufficient to handle all of these many cases they have of course certain stuff to make the investigation but their decision sold was made off of the cases have been prepared by the arms men themselves. What do you take every case that is submitted to you. Yes according to this division of labor the ombudsman and this part test or take every case and decided to himself and his services are absolutely free. Yes but the question many are going to cross of course. But on the United States as you know Mr. Petron if a citizen felt that he had been abused by a policeman and that there had been a case of what we call police brutality he would probably go to a lawyer and he would probably file
suit against the city in which this alleged offense occurred and carry his case through the courts. Now why would he not do the same thing in Sweden but rather say go to an ombudsman. Yes. Under the Swedish legal system if it is in many cases not possible to fight a suit against a public official. So that's the reason why we have to have some other kind of institutions in order to protect the individuals and then of course just the fact that you can go to a man without any costs There's want to she said of being forced to pay a lawyer it is then a particular benefit to people with scarce funds the poor people. Yes but I would say it's all kind of people coming to the office mindless no no's no special privileges for me. Kind because of the obvious menace having all cases in the same way it doesn't matter who has
stuff who complained and were you telling me a moment ago of Mr betraying that this system has spread throughout Scandinavia. Yes as we disavow the remote corner of the world nobody knows anything about this institution and the first Kountry Aire of adopted that they understand what's Finland though and it's got its independence and I donated and that was only after the second about a war when the neighbor countries Denmark Norway took it over and then it spread to a New Zealand and many other countries Great Britain has abused it last year. Every country has its own form because it must. B it's the needs of the country that decides. Which formation they would have. Well we learned from Dean Cohen that a couple of provinces in Canada have been
and that there is active consideration right now are seeing the newspaper headlines here in Montreal that the system may be adopted nationwide. So what is to you in history I guess is still somewhat of a novelty in various parts of the world. What about the United States. I don't know how much you know about legal problems in the US but we do talk about it at least as an idea for future reference in our country. And I'm wondering if you feel from what you do know about the situation that we could use ombudsman in the United States. Yes probably probably can it depends very much on on there. How many inhabitants you have or maybe a possible in the single state inside the United States in Great Britain France us when the interview's iambus might wasn't possible to give any individual thing the possibility to go to the obvious man. It's only that they had to go to first of their representative in Parliament and only if
he's if he finds out that something behind it you can turn it over to the ombudsman there must be a report that 40 million people a council have the right to come to him and you may face some similar problems in the United States if you look at them on a federal level. Well do you feel that necessity to go to a government official would really in some way undermine the merits of the system. Yes I want if federal official of course but in Great Britain you go to the door they represented him in parliament and he's handling it though he's not part of the government. It's very important I think that there are not any governmental influence should stay between the complainant and the Ombudsman while the Americans do have the custom of writing to their congressman yes whenever they have a complaint. And if we were to adopt an ombudsman in the United States I presume the congressman could then refer interest problem to this representative of the public.
It would be a practical way I say. As you well what about the human rights situation otherwise in Sweden I suppose there's no problem of minorities in your country such as we're hearing so much about from some of the other delegates at this assembly for human rights. We have a few lips but they are not complaining very much about human rights that I have a privileged situation in many respects. So the interest for human rights are extreme to say rather weak because most people feel that they have human rights that they want to have and for the three it's no political issue really. Democracy has such deep roots in Sweden. Yes and apparently it is working to all intents and purposes. Are there any particular resolutions or declarations that you as one typical delegate to this assembly would like to see produced by this conference. Yes I was specially interested in the
means in which human rights can be implemented in the international on the international level. We have in Europe a regional system inside the Council of Europe with the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission to which most inhabitants of different European countries can them and send their complaints if there. Can't Succeed that getting the rights inside the country and I think that's a very important thing that human rights can be implemented in that way on a on a international level. If you can't get your grievances treated by your own country what would you say was the name of that international organization again. It's the Council of Europe. Yes just signed them a convention in the night of the 53 of the
timber ratified by most of the West and it will be and countries does that include Spain and Portugal. You know it's been a part of a lot of members of the Council of Europe is only further from the Democratic camp. Are they the only ones that are not in it. Yes it may be interesting to know that their skin they've been conscious have filed a suit against Greece Greece signed before their last events of this convention and now the other countries start using increased because of infringements on human rights. In present they cannot Council have any particular influence in Greece do you think. Yes probably only because I think the only way out for Greece is to leave the council if they don't adopt itself to the general rule of human rights that all other European countries have signed on them.
Fully account of an individual European appeal some grievance directly to the Council of Europe. What I'm going through is government. Yes the US specific conditions. Before going to the European Commission you must first have tried all internal measures. If we can go outside the country and then their grievances must not be too old and on some other and they must be contrary to the rights as they are defined in their convention in the European Convention of Human Rights. Mr. Petron we thank you very much for giving us the realistic impression of the work of the ombudsman. This has been Mr. Good stuff. Petraeus who is deputy ombudsman of Sweden. Now for a striking contrast in the international spectrum of human rights challenges of the future where you turn to the island of Jamaica until relatively recently a British
colony in the West Indies we spoke informally with one of the Assembly for Human Rights most distinguished delegates. They ambassador of Jamaica to the United States. IAR Richardson to open the interview we asked Ambassador Richardson to describe any outstanding current human rights problems. Jamaica is facing today. I think that Jamaica is a particularly fortunate country in many ways. We were of course as you know a British colony. The British system of justice the British parliamentary system the British approach to the rule of law were all imported into Jamaica long ago. How long have you had your independence. We have only been in independence since 1962. But of course Jamaica had been managing its internal affairs since 1944 and that itself was really a reinstatement of a situation which had existed between 1838 and 1865.
So that Jamaica has been in many ways a democratic parliamentary country for a very long time. Our problems in the human rights field tend to be more economic and social than civil and political. All women have had the franchise on an equal basis for a long time there is all the citizens of Jamaica over a certain age whether they can read or write even illiterates have the right to exercise the vote. And it is perhaps true to say that there is no discrimination in practice in any part of the country on grounds of religion or on grounds of race or anything of that kind. Our Jewish the Jewish members of the Jamaican community have been there for over three hundred years there is no religious discrimination. Our main problem is our economic organization and the large number of underprivileged for whom the benefits of our modern life have not yet been made effective.
When the Jamaicans took over their own country and granted governmental aid their result any discrimination against the white population which formerly may have been in the position of leadership. No I think I can quite honestly say that there has been no such discrimination. In the old days. Political social and even economic precedents was usually associated with a white skin. By and large the white people in Jamaica are not simply visit bars. The majority of them who came from England Scotland Ireland and so on came to stay. They became residents of Jamaica before of Jamaica's independence Naturally we all claimed and held British citizenship for some of us it was a British subject
ship but for most of them there are no Jamaicans there very few of the white people who have chosen to remain aliens in the sense they have now taken in Jamaican nationality. So our problem would be if we identified a tall order to limit some of the advantages which a privileged class have had but not either to get rid of them or to take advantage of them. And once independence came there was no great exodus. There was no great exodus. This is literally correct. Indeed I think it is correct to say that the that the colony and the group of Europeans living in Jamaica is larger today than it was a year or two before independence. Do you think Ambassador Richardson Jamaica's experience which sounds like very desirable and could be generalized and can be surveyed as an example to underdeveloped nations around the world.
In a sense no one of our advantages was we had a lot of time to do things and indeed we took a lot of time to do certain things. Take the extension of the franchise for example there was a time when the voter. Identified his right to vote on the basis of property and property alone. After a time there was added a certain income so that people who are earning salaries could have their vote. Now all of this is long before independence of course. But then the next step was of course to add the mere citizen who is of age and who is able to read and write. And the final step was the citizen who is of age irrespective of his education. Now all of this took place long before independence and was taken in steps beginning with about the second decade of this century. We had our first formal
move towards independence in one thousand forty four. We took the final step in 1962 and in between there were various measures of self government. I think it could be said that by 1957 we were completely self-governing internally. The British were only concerned with our foreign affairs and our defense. We had long learned to look to the leaders of our two political parties and hold them responsible for everything that was done that was good by the government everything that was done with disagreed with and the sort of evolutionary process was not one that is the case in Afghanistan Evidently the modern where it is not no longer prepared to take along over it as we have done and therefore I suspect is no use our tempting to prescribe that sort of procedure for other people. We have a situation such as in Kenya where there is a great exodus of Indians and Pakistanis. This is a kind of situation
which is a particularly difficult one to handle Don't you think. Well this is a situation about which I am not well enough informed to comment on as a good diplomat I prefer not to say anything about it. And as a Richardson you stressed in one of your talks during the assembly one important aspect of the human rights problem around the world which is freedom of religion. And this seems to interest you perhaps more than some other facets of the subject. And I wonder if you would go into that for a minute or two. My particular interest in this stems from the. Same term in the Commission on Human Rights about which I spoke earlier during my whole three years on the commission the commission was engaged at some stage in elaborating in working out this particular convention. And naturally I'm committed to it. I'm quite convinced that we have arrived at something which is useful and in the Assembly I was simply
expressing the hope that the members of the assembly would remain force the determination of the United Nations members to bring such a convention into being. It's a remarkable interesting instrument because it has been worked out in organs on which all of the various faiths were represented including the non Fitz the agnostics and the atheists are actually there and they agreed together on the language in which we should express the obligation on the part of governments of this world to leave people free to believe what they like and to worship as they like. Well I wonder if you could give us some particular examples of where religious discrimination is a problem today. Well. There are some religions which require for their practice for their practice certain or opportunities certain freedom on the part of the right here and
to refrain from work on certain days and so on. Or to obtain certain articles which are used in his temples or his places of worship. I understand that there are some countries in the world in which this state says we can't go to the trouble of providing that sort of thing for you. And it's not possible. So they say for the adherents of the religion to obtain these things unless he unless the state helps him to do it. Now I understand that there are far from Muslims for example it is desirable as a practice of their religion that they should travel that they should visit Mecca for example and some time in their lives. Well there are some states in which the freedom to move about in this fashion is not guaranteed to a citizen just because he happens to be a Muslim. We are hoping that such things will be will be provided. It's probably not best to call names or to identify countries I think it may be more useful if I simply
indicate to you. Now there are some countries in which the the a particular faith or a particular branch of the Christian religion is recognized as the official religion. That is it is the religion of the state. I should put it that way. Question then arises. Are the people who are the representatives of that religion to be allowed to use this state power to give themselves and that their they are heroes of their religion preferences and advantages which are not guaranteed to the others. It may be thought that that's probably no harm why shouldn't it be done. But the line between a mere preference and the discrimination against other religions is a very thin one. And we have had to try and find the language in which to make it clear that although we are not attempting to be to suggest that no religion should be recognised as a state religion the act of doing so should not be permitted to become discriminatory against others.
And would you like to see some resolution come out of this assembly dealing with what I am hoping that some resolution will come out of this assembly not merely dealing generally with freedom of religion but actually proposing to the United Nations that it get on with the with the. With the bringing into being with the approval or endorsement of bringing into being all of that convention on religious intolerance on another topic Ambassador Richardson I believe I recall that you made some reference during the discussion on the floor to the interrelationship between economic needs and human rights and correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that you favored considering human rights without getting into particularly the problem of economic reconstruction No that's not how I would put it. Actually the human rights as now defined not only in the Universal Declaration which is responsible for bringing us here but for as
now defined in the two covenants which the United Nations has now endorsed and put to members. Distinguishes between those human rights which are civil and political and those human rights which are economic and social. And it is a mere truism to say that they are interdependent. What I wish to point out yesterday on This was the drift of my comment is that we know the crucial importance of economic and social rights to individuals. We know that it is hardly possible to enjoy any of the civil and political rights unless a certain minimum of economic and social justice is provided for the citizen. But let us not get confused between the two categories of rights especially. Let us not confuse them in our measures for trying to secure them. There are institutions working very effectively in the field whose main job is to see that people enjoy their economic and social rights. I
have the right to work internationally so and so forth. That's the International Labor Organization you Nesco as you know the Scientific and Cultural Organization concerned with education. Well let us not duplicate too much. Their work let's help to identify the problem that's had to call attention to the importance of their work. But don't let's try to go over that ground. There is enough of work to be done in the area of guaranteeing civil and political rights and let us pay special attention to that especially in this assembly. Do you think there is any trouble in defining the phrase Human Rights in its broadest sense it would include almost all the problems mankind when it that was actually the gesture of a certain common man that we had better be careful we recognize these human rights but let's not go on Compass the whole range of of social and human problems. Ambassador Richardson final question for you.
It's often said even by some of the observers here that one can talk a great deal about human rights and one can draft resolutions particularly in a non-official body such as this one. But that would be most difficult to gain any real tangible results. How do you feel about that. If I had felt that way about it I wouldn't be here. I think I am a busy man and I believe I have quite a lot to do I have other responsibilities on my government agreed that I should come to something of this kind because I personally was convinced that it had a real purpose in the first place one of the main purposes of gathering at this time is to make sure that our conclusions are available by the time the intergovernmental conference on human rights convenes in terror around next month. That's one. And then I am assuming that our conclusions here are going to be made available to all of the governments that are members of the UN and certain others will be available to all the
non-governmental organizations that are represented here as observers. And of course we'll also go to other places that we haven't even thought of now and we expect these conclusions arrived at by this body of I don't like the word experts but people who have been working in the field for a good number of years who know the problems and are concerned with it and who can we hope make specific recommendations will influence public opinion. And it is really the growth and the enlightenment of public opinion on which our whole hope for improving the condition of protection of human rights now depends. Well that's the most constructive thought for us to conclude on your own participation here at the conference I'm sure has been much appreciated by all of the delegates. Thank you so much Ambassador Richardson ambassador to the United States from Jamaica. Thank you. This has been another program in the series report from Montreal.
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- Chicago: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Outlook in Three Typical Democracie,” 1968-11-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4j0b0s6t.
- MLA: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Outlook in Three Typical Democracie.” 1968-11-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4j0b0s6t>.
- APA: Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Outlook in Three Typical Democracie. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4j0b0s6t