Underage Manslaughter Suspects in Custody at Youth Rehab Centre

The three underage suspects in a manslaughter case that occurred last week are in custody at the youth rehab centre Stuðlar, Vísir reports. The fourth suspect in the case is 18 and is currently in custody at Hólmsheiði Prison. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson of the Icelandic police’s central investigative department told RÚV the case investigation is proceeding well. The case has sparked concern among experts of increased violent behaviour among Icelandic youth as well as xenophobia towards the immigrant community.

The four teenagers are all of Icelandic origin and are suspected of manslaughter in the stabbing and death of a 27-year-old Polish man in Hafnarfjörður last week. According to RÚV’s sources, one of the suspects recorded the attack on their phone. Police are investigating whether the video is being shared.

Underage suspects placed in isolation

The four suspects were at first placed in isolation for the interest of the investigation, with one of the underage suspects initially housed at Hólmsheiði Prison, a facility for adults. That suspect has since been moved to Stuðlar youth rehab centre where the other two underage suspects are being held. It is unusual to keep suspects under the age of 18 in isolation, but the decision to do so was made in the interest of the investigation. The suspects were provided with therapy and consultation and efforts were made to reduce the negative impact of the isolation. The custody ruling on the four suspects runs out on Thursday. At least one of the four has appealed the detention to the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur).

Violent behaviour more normalised among youth

The case has shocked the local community, with some experts concerned about growing xenophobia as well as increased violence among youth in Iceland.

Criminologist Helgi Gunnlaugsson says the belief that carrying and using weapons is normal has gained a foothold among certain groups of youth in Iceland. Young people often don’t seem to understand the dangers and consequences of using weapons, according to Helgi, who says a concerted effort is needed to address the problem.

Helgi told Vísir that a certain polarisation is taking place. While society in general has less tolerance for violence of any kind, “At the same time, among young people, especially men, often on the margins, it seems to be happening that this idea arises that it’s simply natural and justifiable to carry various kinds of weapons. And not only carry these weapons, but also even use them if some sort of conflict or disagreement comes up.”

“Many people need to participate in this, to uproot this use of weapons and the ideology behind it. It is in essence not just one party, law enforcement, that can do it,” Helgi says. “Rather school authorities, families, after-school centres, and more, must also come together to make us, and especially young people, aware of what is at stake.”

Manslaughter Case Raises Concerns Among Immigrant Community

Experts in multiculturalism and members of Iceland’s largest immigrant community fear the implications of a case involving the stabbing and death of a Polish man. The four suspects are all Icelandic teenagers and are currently in custody.

Around midnight on April 20, law enforcement was tipped off to a confrontation between the four suspects and the victim in the parking lot of Fjarðarkaup grocery store in Hafnarfjörður, a town in the Reykjavík capital area. Police arrived shortly after to find the victim, who was transported to the emergency room with several stab wounds. He was pronounced dead shortly after. The victim was a Polish man 27 years of age. The four suspects are Icelandic youth, three male and one female. The oldest suspect is 18 and the other three are under 18 years of age. Police have not identified any connection between the suspects and the victim.

Community in shock

The Polish community is Iceland’s largest immigrant community, making up around 40% of all immigrants in the country. “I think everyone, not just the Polish community, is in shock, because this is very difficult,” Martyna Ylfa Suzko, a Polish-Icelandic interpreter, told RÚV. Martyna has lived in Iceland for 18 years and considers herself as much Icelandic as Polish. She believes the incident could cause conflict between Polish and Icelandic people in Iceland by encouraging people to think in terms of “us” versus “them.”

Inadequate language interpreting services

In an interview with Heimildin, the mother of the victim stated it had been difficult to receive information about the case. “All communication goes through an interpreter and it’s a new interpreter every time.” Martyna says she is familiar with such issues in the Iceland. “This is not OK at all and as I always say, receiving good and certified quality interpreting services is simply a human right, especially in a situation like this. There isn’t enough professionalism yet. […] That’s something that can recreate the trauma for this person. Interpreting is not just putting something into Google translate and translating word for word.”

Xenophobia on social media

The manslaughter case sparked much discussion on social media, with many Icelanders assuming that the suspects were foreigners before their nationality was made public. Many Icelanders posted xenophobic comments on social media in response to the case, for example encouraging immigrants in Iceland to “go back home.” Jasmina Vajzovic Crnac, the director of International Issues at the City of Reykjavík’s Welfare Department, says this rhetoric has often been seen in comment sections on Icelandic media before and called it a dangerous development.

Stranded Ship Will Be Towed to Hólmavík

Pollution fence around Wilson Skaw

The cargo ship Wilson Skaw, which stranded in Húnaflói Bay on April 18, will be towed to Hólmavík for temporary repairs and then to the shipyard in Akureyri, North Iceland, RÚV reports. Before the ship can be towed, however, Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Freyja will be used to move 2,000 tonnes of salt, part of the ship’s cargo, to ensure the ship is better balanced.

Wilson Skaw stranded off Iceland’s north coast last week carrying 2,000 tonnes of salt and 195 tonnes of oil. Most of the oil has already been pumped off the ship to prevent possible environmental damage. The 113-metre ship was refloated on April 21. Due to damage, authorities considered it unsafe to tow the ship directly to Akureyri for repairs.

The ship’s crew has remained on board since the stranding and it has been deemed safe for it to do so.

12,000 Guests Visit New Centre for Icelandic Studies

Edda Centre for Icelandic Studies

The inauguration of the University of Iceland’s new Centre for Icelandic Studies last Thursday proved to be well-attended, with 12,000 guests stopping by to visit the state-of-the-art building that will soon house Iceland’s most valuable Medieval manuscripts. To celebrate its completion, the new centre hosted an open house on April 20 last week, the First Day of Summer.

At the inauguration, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Alfreðsdóttir revealed the name of the new Centre: Edda. The name references both the Prose and Poetic Edda, seminal works in the study of Old Norse poetry and is also a woman’s name in modern Icelandic. The name was chosen from some 1,500 submissions. Lilja explained that the winning name is both uniquely Icelandic and internationally known, referencing the centre’s function while also complementing other building names on the University of Iceland campus.

Edda Centre for Icelandic Studies
Golli. Edda, the new Centre for Icelandic Studies.

The University of Iceland’s Árni Magnússon Institute is in the process of moving its operations into the new centre, which will house the institute’s collection of Medieval Icelandic manuscripts as well as featuring specially-designed rooms for conservation, research, and exhibition of the artefacts. A library, café, lecture halls, and classrooms will also be part of the facilities.

Edda Centre for Icelandic Studies
Golli. Edda, the new Centre for Icelandic Studies.

The Icelandic Parliament originally decided to finance the building of the centre in 2005, but the construction faced several delays, most recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.