Last week, the Icelandic government received an announcement from the human rights representative of the United Nations stating that case nr. 1306/2004 against the Icelandic government had been dropped.
Archive photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The reason is that the Icelandic government has to a certain extent reacted in a satisfactory manner to the committee’s suggestions, as stated in a joint press release from the Icelandic Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Fisheries.
On September 15, 2003, Erlingur Sveinn Haraldsson and Örn Snævar Sveinsson requested that the UN Human Rights Committee investigate, on the basis of the protocol on the international treaty on civic and political rights, whether the Icelandic government had violated the 26th article of the treaty, which stipulates that everyone is equal before the law and is to be protected by the law without discrimination.
Erlingur and Örn stated that they were legally obligated to pay so that a group of VIPs could practice their profession of choice whereas they themselves had to buy or rent fishing quota to be able to catch and sell fish for a living.
They wanted to share the right of fishing quota owners to practice their profession of choice without having to overcome hindrances benefitting quota owners.
The committee discussed their case in October 2007, concluding that the Icelandic state was to pay damages to the claimants and review the fisheries control system.
In June 2008 the Icelandic government explained their position on the matter. The Minister of Fisheries at the time, Einar K. Guðfinnsson, stated that Icelandic authorities neither considered themselves able to compensate the claimants nor carry out immediate changes to the fishing quota system.
In February 2009 current Minister of Fisheries Steingrímur J. Sigfússon iterated on the government’s behalf that a decision had been made to strengthen the articles on human rights in the Constitution of Iceland and guarantee that the natural resources of the ocean be in joint ownership of the entire nation, otherwise agreeing with the former statement.