European parliament committee urges Swedes to rethink
Special report: the European parliament
Thursday June 21, 2001
In a case that could have important implications for the EU's
planned common asylum policy, a European parliament
committee yesterday criticised Sweden's treatment of a US
national who has been refused asylum on the grounds that he
comes from a so-called "safe" country.
The parliament's committee on citizens' rights and freedoms,
justice and home affairs threw its weight behind a growing
international campaign by suggesting that Stockholm should
re-examine the asylum application of Ritt Goldstein, who fled to
Sweden in July 1997 after suffering what he claims was police
brutality in the US.
In an opinion drafted by the British MEP Baroness Sarah
Ludford, the committee called on the Swedish government to
look again at whether its immigration authority had acted
according to "the safeguards of the EU and United Nations High
Commission on Refugees and its own national law, and to
ensure that the application for asylum of Richard Goldstein is
re-examined in accordance with these safeguards".
Mr Goldstein, 48, was a justice of the peace and successful
businessman when, in 1995, he became involved in a campaign
to reform the US police force by making its members more
Mr Goldstein claimed he immediately became the target of
vicious reprisals which the US authorities and justice system
were powerless either to prevent or redress. His home and office
were ransacked, the tyres and steering mechanism on his car
were tampered with and he was repeatedly sprayed with pepper
spray. He was attacked so often, he said, that "it was no longer
a question of whether I would be beaten up, but how often and
Mr Goldstein, who has been living in hiding in Sweden for nearly
four years, said yesterday. "All I want is the chance to live
normally. The committee has raised a shout that it will be
difficult for the Swedish government to ignore."
The case, the only one of its kind in the world to involve a US
citizen, has caused uproar in Sweden, raising doubts about
existing concepts of political asylum and pitting human rights
groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
against a government that has so farrebutted all criticism of the
immigration authorities' ruling.
MEPs from Britain and other countries have spoken out in
support of Mr Goldstein, pointing out that his case raises
serious questions about the EU's proposed common asylum
policy and that definitions of terms such as "safe third countries"
must be redefined.
In its rejection of his asylum application and appeal, the
Swedish immigration board said Mr Goldstein's case was
"manifestly unfounded" because the US is "an internationally
recognised democracy" with "a functioning legal system" that
did not allow the persecution of its citizens. Spokesmen from
five Swedish political parties have also criticised their
"Under the Geneva Convention, every person has the right to an
individual review of their asylum application," said Marianne
Andersson of the Liberal Centre party.