Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Sweden: Country Police’s Roma Database Deemed Illegal

(Nov. 19, 2013) The Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection (ISN) has found the compilation of a digital database of individuals with Roma background to be illegal. (Press Release, ISN, Nämnden kritiserar polismyndigheten i Skånes behandling av personuppgifter i uppgiftssamlingen “Kringresande” [Commission Criticizes the Skåne County Police for Its Use of Personal Information in the Database “Travelers”], Säkerhets-Och Integritetsskyddsnämndenwebsite (Nov. 15, 2013.) The Skåne County Police in Southern Sweden has come under heavy criticism for maintaining a database concerning “Travelers,” which mainly covers individuals with, or associated with persons of, Romani background, although the database itself does not mention ethnicity. (SIN: Polisens Romska register är olagliga [SIN: Police’s Roma Database Is Illegal], DAGENS JURIDIK (Nov. 18, 2013).)

The database was first discovered in September of this year by Niklas Orrenius of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. (Över tusen barn med i olaglig kartläggning [More Than a Thousand Children in Illegal Mapping], DAGENS NYHETER (Sept. 23, 2013).) The database has been in use from 2012 and has 4,741 entries, including ones on children and deceased individuals. The information appears to have been collected for years prior to 2012. (<?Id.)

The database has now been investigated by the ISN, which determined that the creation of the database lacked a legally recognized purpose. The Skåne County Police previously justified the implementation of the database by stating that it was used in an attempt to curb criminal activity within a criminal network and to document the links and family ties among individuals suspected of crime within that network. (Polisen Tänker Behålla Registret [Police Plan to Keep the Database], DAGENS NYHETER (Nov. 1, 2013).)

The police further claimed that the database was not the result of ethnic profiling, but motivated by a wish to track possible links to organized crime. The ISN accepted that the reason behind the creation of the database was the criminal activity of certain individuals and therefore found that the purpose for establishing the database was not the individuals’ Roma ethnicity alone. (Press Release, supra.)

As a result of the database being declared illegal, the state is expected to be subject to claims for damages from individuals listed in the database. (Sweden Faces Bumper Pay Out for Roma Register, THE LOCAL (Nov. 16, 2013).)

Prepared by Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Contractor, under the supervision of Edith Palmer, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II.