Denmark: Intercultural courses for judges

A new report on ethnic discrimination recommended intercultural education for the nation's judges and attorneys The nation's judges, lawyers and lay assessors be required to take courses on discrimination and intercultural understanding, a report released Wednesday by the International Commission of Jurists' Danish division recommends. The study, carried out by two leading anthropologists, found clear discrimination 'in only a limited scope'. But it did find evidence that judges had 'decided cultural and social preconceptions about ethnic minorities that in certain situations can affect both the question of guilt and severity of sentencing'. The report also pointed out that a recent Swedish study arrived at basically the same conclusions about that country's legal system. Besides courses for judges and attorneys, ICJ recommended increasing the ethnic diversity of members of the courts, and that a more comprehensive examination of ethnic discrimination in the legal system be undertaken. Maria Ventegodt Liisberg, an ICJ board member, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper that some cultural differences - for example not giving concise answers - can be misinterpreted or viewed negatively by the courts. 'In some cultures it is viewed as being more civilised to provide long explanations or speak in figurative language, whereas ethnic Danes know that you appear more credible when you're concise and specific,' she said. Bent Carlsen, chief justice at the Eastern High Court, refuted the suggestion that any hidden discrimination exists in the courts. 'As a judge you're used to holding yourself above stereotypes and that is something all judges are trained to do. There is precisely the same burden of proof for someone named Brian as for someone named Mohammed. But that said, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be mindful of possible inequities.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

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