Australian Nara Walker delivered a petition with over 43,000 signatures in her support to the Speaker of the Icelandic Parliament this afternoon, along with a letter urging MPs to do more to protect victims of domestic violence in Iceland. Nara was convicted by the Icelandic courts for violence against her ex-husband, who had been abusing her for years. She has now sued the Icelandic state before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for their handling of her case.
Faults in Icelandic justice system
The 43,000 signatures, printed in three thick volumes, were formally accepted by Guðjón Brjánsson, first substitute Speaker of Parliament, along with Nara’s letter. “I believe my case reflects severe faults in the Icelandic justice system in cases of violence against women and domestic abuse,” the letter reads. “I bring forward this petition and call on the lawmakers to set an example that domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and gender-based violence is unacceptable in Iceland.”
Lack of investigation
The case’s complaints to the ECHR touch on violations of Nara’s rights by the Icelandic state pertaining to Articles 3, 6, 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Among the main complaints in her case is that Nara did not enjoy legal protection as a victim of domestic violence. Because of a lack of investigation into the case’s background, her assertion of self-defence was dismissed. Nara’s case asserts that her rights were not properly introduced to her, and that she was presumed guilty rather than innocent until proven guilty. It also adds that she has been subjected to demeaning treatment by being denied medical help for her injuries.
By being treated as noted above, the case asserts that Nara was discriminated against by the Icelandic state. This discrimination is evident in the sentence she received as a foreign woman, which is heavier than in similar cases before the Icelandic courts. Iceland Review has previously reported on the obstacles foreign women face within the Icelandic justice system, specifically when it comes to divorce and custody proceedings.
Charged for assault by her abuser
Nara was convicted for assault for biting off a piece of her then-husband’s tongue. Icelandic courts considered this as an isolated incident, disregarding that Nara’s ex-husband had been abusing her for years. “This [history of abuse] was neither investigated nor taken into account in any way by the District Court,” Nara’s application to the ECHR states. It adds that the Icelandic court “examined this act in an isolated manner, as if it had happened in a vacuum and had not been a desperate response from a victim of recurrent abuse who was getting a tongue forced into her mouth by her abuser while he held her down and impeded her from leaving the premises.” The application goes on to state “The ex-husband had no other injuries whereas the Applicant’s injuries were consistent with being pushed, pulled, held, and beaten.”