Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen Steps Down

Sigríður Andersen.

Pictured above: Sigríður Andersen leaving the press conference today.

Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen announced minutes ago that she will step down as Minister of Justice until the matter pertaining to the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal has been resolved. She revealed this turn of events at a press conference in the Ministry of Justice minutes ago.

Sigríður belives her presence will be a disturbance during the handling of the matter, which revolves around her appointment of judges to the Icelandic Court of Appeal. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the appointment was in violation of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights which ensures individuals’ right to a fair trial.

Sigríður expressed her belief the ECHR’s decision would be appealed to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Sigríður stated the decision was her own. Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir has stated that the pair spoke together yesterday. Katrín confirmed the decision was made by Sigríður, but that she supports it, and feels that Sigríður is shouldering responsibility for the matter by stepping down.

At this point in time, no decision has been made regarding who will step in for Sigríður as Minister of Justice.

Strike Expected to Interrupt Bus System

The planned strike operations of unions VR and Efling will affect the Strætó bus system in the capital area. Strætó released a statement today on the matter.

The interruptions and delays will take place in the week of March 23-29, as bus drivers will stop their buses for five minutes daily. Public transport users should expect a significant interruption to the bus system if negotiations do not conclude with a contract before that time. The strike will also affect driving services for disabled individuals as well as bus routes outside the capital area.

Capital area interruptions

The planned strike operations will affect the following routes in the capital area: 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 28, 35, and 36. The drivers on these routes drive on behalf of Kynnisferðir and are therefore part of Efling union.

Some interruptions will be experienced in the following routes: 11, 13, 22, 23, 31, 33, 34, 43, and 44. A part of the drivers, on these routes, drive on behalf of Hagvagnar and some of them are Efling members. Strætó has announced that these routes will experience some delays, but only on single trips rather than all of the routes at once.

The strikes will not affect the following routes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 18.

Driving for disabled individuals

Around a quarter of the 90 drivers who drive disabled individuals, on behalf of Strætó, so Strætó expects significant interruptions to those services.

The following routes outside the capital area will be affected: 

South Iceland: 51, 52, 72, 73, 75

West – and North Iceland: 57

Reykjanes peninsula: 55

Changing Lanes, Part 3: The Future of Urban Planning in Reykjavík

housing Reykjavík

At the beginning of the 20th century, only 8,221 called the northernmost capital city in the world home. That number now stands at 217,711 people, and Reykjavík’s population has grown by 37% since 1998. Unlike many of its European counterparts, you’d be hard-pressed to find rows of houses built earlier than the 19th century. The […]

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Protesting Asylum Seekers Invited to Meet with Government

Asylum seeker protest Reykjavík

Asylum seekers who have been protesting in Reykjavík in recent weeks have been invited to meet with representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, Vísir reports. The meeting, scheduled today at 3.00pm, will be hosted by the Icelandic Red Cross.

Elínborg Harpa Öndunardóttir, an activist and member of No Borders Iceland, told Vísir that a diverse group of asylum seekers would discuss their demands at the event. She added that emphasis will be placed on ensuring some 50 asylum seekers who have been part of the ongoing protest receive substantial review of their cases.

The protesting group has published a list of five demands, including substantial review of all asylum applications, equal access to healthcare, and the closing down of Ásbrú refugee camp in Keflavík.

Police arrested two protesters and used pepper spray on others yesterday evening in Austurvöllur square. In a statement on their Facebook page, Reykjavík Police have stated the pepper spray was seen as the mildest response to deescalate a conflict that had arisen. Asylum seekers assert their protest has been peaceful and had called for no such measures. The protest is ongoing.

Minister of Justice Will Not Resign Over Court of Human Rights Decision

Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen.

Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen sees no reason to resign over the European Court of Human Rights verdict. The court ruled that Iceland violated Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights when Sigríður Andersen appointed judges to the recently established Court of Appeals. The article is meant to ensure individuals’ right to a fair trial.

Minister Sigríður has said the ruling is both unexpected and without precedent. She stated she sees the court’s verdict as a somewhat split opinion. “There are contrasting views which were put forth in the opinions of the majority and the minority. So we’re inspecting the ruling now. It’s quite clear that it can have repercussions all over Europe,” Sigríður stated.

A team from the Ministry of Justice as well as the State Attorney is now investigating the ruling and is considering appealing the decision to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, according to Sigríður. The decisions to appeal must be made within three months.

Sigríður said it’s not a surprise that folks have demanded her resignation. When asked if the verdict should lead her to resignation, “No, I don’t believe the verdict gives cause for that. I remind people and reiterate that the stance of Icelandic courts regarding the legitimacy of the appointments is quite clear. And all three levels of government played a part in the appointment, which was confirmed to be legitimate by the Supreme Court of Iceland,” the Minister stated.

She believes the verdict has no direct legal effect in Iceland. None the less, the Court of Appeal has decided to postpone all cases which were to be handled by the four judges which were affected by the appointment. The cases will be postponed by a week.

Iceland’s Court of Appeals (Landsréttur) was established on January 1, 2018, as a new mid-tier court between district courts and the Supreme Court of Iceland. Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen received heavy criticism from opposition MPs for failing to follow the recommendations of a selection committee in her nominations of judges to the new court. In March 2018, opposition MPs put forth a motion of no-confidence against the minister, which was voted down with 33 votes to 29, with one MP abstaining. Read more of Iceland Review’s coverage yesterday.

Update: The Minister has announced that she will step aside while the matter is being resolved. Read more here.