Iceland’s Proposed Legislation Contradicts Code of Ethics, Doctors Say

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

 Doctors in Iceland will be forced to choose between obeying the law or obeying their international code of ethics if the government passes its proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, the chairperson of the Icelandic Medical Association stated in an interview with RÚV. The proposed legislation would grant Icelandic police the authority to force physical examinations on asylum seekers. The legislation was introduced by Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson and has been criticised by human rights organisations in Iceland.

Forced testing, physical examination, and handing over of medical records

“In this 19th article, as it is worded, the police are given very broad powers to force people to undergo various interventions: testing, physical examination, and more. And also to hand over medical records, which are sensitive, confidential information. This completely contradicts doctors’ code of ethics,” Steinunn Þórðardóttir, chair of the Icelandic Medical Association stated.

“The World Medical Association’s Declaration of Geneva [the modern-day Hippocratic Oath] reads as follows: the health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration. We wonder how these two things can go together and actually see it as a complete impossibility. If this becomes law, we are put in the position of having to choose between complying with national law or the international code of ethics for doctors,” Steinunn remarked.

Doctors would need to believe deportation is in patient’s best interest

The Association’s formal comments on the proposed legislation strongly criticise the proposed changes. “If a foreigner that is set to be deported is forced to undergo such examination, it can be assumed the person is opposed to being deported. Individuals in this position tend to have complex issues, often due to post-traumatic stress, and are being deported back to situations where they consider their life and health to be at risk. By issuing the aforementioned certificate, a doctor would need to consider that such deportation from the country would be in the best interest of the person in question, according to the aforementioned code of ethics,” the comments read.

The comments continue: “Respect for the patient and mutual trust are the basis of medical practice. An action such as [forcing physical examination] works against patients’ interests and human rights, and we consider it to be in conflict with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”

Namibia Requests Interpol’s Aid in Extraditing Former Samherji Executives

Namibia’s State Prosecutor has asked Interpol for assistance in the extradition of Aðalsteinn Helgason, Egill Helgi Árnason, and Ingvar Júlíusson in connection with the investigation of the so-called Samherji scandal, RÚV reports. The three men were all executives in companies owned by Icelandic seafood company Samherji in Namibia. They are all asking to be permitted to testify in the case from abroad, but the prosecutor intents to file charges against the men, for which they must appear before a judge in Namibia.

Samherji was the centre of a media investigation made public in 2019, which alleged that the fishing company had bribed Namibian officials to obtain lucrative quotas, while also taking advantage of international loopholes to avoid taxes. Aðalsteinn and Egill Helgi were Samherji’s managing directors in Namibia. The charges against Egill Helgi are in connection with his work for Esja Holding and Mermaria Seafood Namibia. Ingvar was a CFO for Samherji and the charges against him are in connection with his work for Saga Seafood, Esja Investment and Heinaste Investments.

Read More: The Samherji Scandal

Last year, the State Prosecutor requested that the three men be extradited from Iceland, but the request was rejected, as the Icelandic government does not extradite Icelandic citizens. The State Prosecutor says Namibian authorities have more than enough evidence in hand to justify Interpol’s involvement and that the three men have not provided any evidence to the contrary. She says the trio is attempting to destroy all evidence of their involvement in the case.

Churning Onward

Gunnar Birgisson’s journey as an entrepreneur has seen many unexpected detours. As the CEO of Reykjavik Creamery – an American dairy processing plant located in Newville, Pennsylvania – Gunnar’s story spans both continents and conmen, bringing him from Akureyri to Denmark to California in search of a way into the US dairy industry, where he would eventually carve himself a niche specialising in skyr production using ultra-filtration technology – the natural way to optimise the nutritional value of fermented dairy products.

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Orange and Red Weather Alert Across Iceland

weather warning map

Update 12:37 PM: The Icelandic Met Office has upgraded the weather alert to red for three regions: the Reykjavík capital area, Faxaflói, and Southwest Iceland, between 7:00 PM and midnight this evening. 

Gale-force winds carrying snow and rain will hit Iceland this evening and last into tomorrow morning. The Icelandic Met Office has issued an orange weather alert for the entire country, with the storm reaching a peak around 11:00 PM this evening in South and West Iceland and lasting into the early hours of the morning in the country’s north and east regions. Travel is discouraged in most regions.

Winds between 20-30 metres per second are expected across all of Iceland’s inhabited areas tonight, with wind speeds reaching 33 metres per second in the Highland. In the Reykjavík area, heavy rain or snow is expected, and residents are advised to clear their drains in order to prevent water damage, as well as secure all outdoor furniture and belongings. Snow may cause streets to become impassable in the region.

In South Iceland, residents are encouraged to secure outdoor belongings and wind damage is considered a risk. Travel is not advised and disruptions to transport are expected. Travel is also discouraged in West Iceland and the Westfjords, where wind speeds are expected to reach 28 metres per second with snow, sleet, or rain. Similar conditions are expected in North and East Iceland, where the storm will reach its peak somewhat later.

Weather conditions are expected to improve early tomorrow morning, though a yellow weather alert has been issued for the Reykjavík capital area, Southwest Iceland, and the Faxaflói bay area of West Iceland for Tuesday morning.

Readers can monitor road closures on the Road and Coastal Administration’s website.