European parliament committee urges Swedes to rethink

                                    Special report: the European parliament

                                    Jon Henley

                                    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
                                    how badly".

                                    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
                                    government's approach.

                                    "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.