Former Minister Jón Baldvin Sentenced in Sexual Harassment Case

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former government minister and diplomat, has received a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment in a sexual harassment case related to an incident that took place at his home in Granada, Spain in 2018, Vísir reports. The Landsréttur Court of Appeals also ordered him to pay all court and appeal costs related to the case. Jón Baldvin’s defense attorney has said that an application will be made to the Supreme Court requesting the right to appeal the judgement.

An acquittal

The sexual harassment charges were first brought against Jón Baldvin in 2019, when Carmen Jóhannsdóttir accused him of having groped her buttocks during a dinner party in Granada the year before.

Resolution on the case was long delayed, however, in part because the Reykjavík District Court repeatedly dismissed it because the incident took place in Spain and was therefore not, the court contended, under its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals overturned this dismissal on technical grounds: over four weeks had passed between the oral presentation of the call to stop the case and the court’s decision to throw the case out. As such, the District Court was forced to reopen the case.

Competing witness testimony also came into play. Carmen’s mother, Laufey Ósk Arnorsdóttir, was also in attendance at the party in 2018 and testified that she witnessed Jón Baldvin groping her daughter. The District Court rejected Laufey’s testimony, saying it did not correspond to Carmen’s version of events. Instead, it accepted the testimony of Jón Baldvin’s wife Bryndís Schram and a neighbor, who corroborated his version of events. The Reykjavík District Court finally ruled on the case in August 2021 and Jón Baldvin was acquitted of the charges.

A conviction

The case was then taken up again by the Court of Appeals, with the District Attorney seeking a suspended sentence of two to three months for Jón Baldvin. Carmen Jóhannsdóttir also sought damages totaling ISK one million [$7,086; €6,725]. Carmen’s claim for damages was rejected, but the Court of Appeals granted the DA’s suspended sentence of two months.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals stated that Carmen’s account of the incident was credible, and was, in fact, supported by that of her mother. It was the Court’s opinion that these testimonies outweighed Jón Baldvin’s denial.

A long history of accusations

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was an MP for the Social Democratic Party, serving as Minister of Finance from 1987 to 1988 and Foreign Affairs Minister from 1988 to 1995. Following his time in parliament, he served as a diplomat, first to the US and Mexico from 1998 to 2002, and then to the Baltics from 2002 to 2005.

He has faced repeated accusations of sexual harassment and impropriety throughout his career, dating all the way back to 1967 when he was a teacher at an elementary school. In 2012, it was revealed that Jón Baldvin had sent his wife’s niece Guðrún Harðardóttir sexually explicit letters starting when she was 14 years old. Jón Baldvin denied that he sexually harassed Guðrún, but apologised for what he called a “lapse of judgement” in initiating the correspondence. Guðrún attempted to press charges against Jón Baldvin, but police dropped the case.

See Also: Former Minister Accused of Sexual Harassment Over 50-Year Period

In 2013, Jón Baldvin was invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Iceland. When objections ensued, the university withdrew the invitation. Jón Baldvin protested the decision and threatened to take legal action, upon which the university agreed to pay him ISK 500,000 [$3,542; €3,361] in compensation and publicly apologised for how they handled the matter.

In 2019, Stundin published interviews with four women, including Carmen Jóhannsdóttir, in which each described incidents of sexual harassment by Jón Baldvin. A Facebook group called #metoo Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was formed around the same time, and at least 12 women used the platform to share accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of the former politician.

In the face of all these incidents, however, Jón Baldvin has maintained his utmost innocence. He called Carmen’s charge “pure fabrication” and stated it was part of “a coordinated attack on my reputation.”

‘It hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it’

Carmen was abroad at the time that the Court of Appeals published its decision, but she spoke to reporters after she’d had some time to process the news. “This is very much a cause for celebration,” she said. “I know it’s not a heavy sentence, but it’s just the fact that he’s been sentenced at all. I didn’t expect it, to be perfectly honest, but I’m really happy about it.”

“It’s been a long process and of course, there’s already been one ruling on it. But I have to say that I’m really happy about this. I’m happy about this victory—not just for me, but also for everyone who’s been subjected to abuse at the hands of Jón Baldvin.”

“Hopefully, this will set a precedent for other judges and lawyers,” continued Carmen. “And also just for people who haven’t had the desire or ability to claim their rights—that it’s worth it, even if it’s hard. I’ll absolutely admit that it hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it.”

Sex Ed to Be Reviewed By Experts

Reykjavík school

The Icelandic government has appointed a task force of 13 experts to review the country’s sexual education curriculum. The group will turn in a timeline of suggested measures and their projected cost by the end of February and complete its review in full by May 2021. The measures are meant to improve sexual education and violence prevention education in primary and secondary schools.

As part of its work, the expert panel will carry out a survey on sex education in order to collect impressions from teachers, school administrators, and students. The panel will then decide whether changes need to be implemented to the sexual education curriculum, and also teacher training, the role of specialised staff such as school nurses and counsellors, in order to improve the quality of education. The recent parliamentary resolutions on prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment among children and youth will be a source of reference for the panel’s work.

The task force is chaired by activist and lecturer Sólborg Guðbrandsdóttir, who has been working to raise awareness of online harassment and gender-based harassment since 2016, primarily through her Instagram account Fávitar (Idiots). Sólborg recently published a book of the same name, featuring real sexual health and relationship questions she has received from Icelandic youth and her answers to them. The book reached seventh place on Iceland’s bestseller list in November.

One Third of Parliamentarians Report Being Victims of Bullying

Over one third of MPs who responded to a recent survey said they had been subject to bullying during their time in parliament. The survey on bullying and sexual and gender-based harassment of MPs and parliamentary staff was conducted last January and February by the University of Iceland’s Social Science Research Institute. Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur J. Sigfússon called the results of the survey “shocking” and stated they should be taken seriously.

Bullying in Parliament

When asked whether they had been bullied at some point during their time in parliament, 80% of respondents who answered the question stated they had not. Bullying was more common among MPs than parliamentary staff: 35.7% of MPs stated they had been bullied at work or in connection to their job. The proportion was 15% among parliamentary staff and 6.3% among party staff. There was no measurable difference in proportion between genders. More than one third of those who had been subject to bullying stated they had experienced it within in the past six months.

Most Sexual Harassment Goes Unreported

Around 16% of respondents stated they had experienced sexual harassment in connection with their job, 12.5% of those within the last six months. The vast majority (87.5%) said they had been harassed by a man while 12.5% of harassers were reported to be women. Only 12.5% of those who had been sexually harassed said they had reported the incident.

In total 18.4% of respondents stated they had experienced gender-based harassment at some point during their time at parliament. As with bullying, a larger proportion of MPs had experienced gender-based harassment (31.8%) than parliamentary or party staff. Women were more likely to have experienced gender-based harassment than men (25% to 10.4%) and 74% of perpetrators were reported to be men.

Alþingi’s Speakers’ Committee decided to form an Equality Committee last January that will now discuss how to follow up on the survey’s findings.

Review Legislation on Sexual Privacy

Judge's gavel

A new report is critical of the Icelandic justice system’s treatment of survivors of digital sexual violence, Fréttablaðið reports. The report states that survivors do not receive enough support and even experience victim-shaming from police representatives. Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir will begin a review of legislation and law enforcement in connection with the protection of individuals’ sexual privacy.

Legislation needs updating

“In light of societal and technological changes, the Icelandic General Penal Code is not fit for purpose to ensure efficient protection of sexual privacy,” states the report’s summary. It was commissioned by the government and written by lawyer María Rún Bjarnadóttir. The author chose to use the term sexual privacy (kynferðisleg friðhelgi), rather than “digital sexual violence,” as it is a broader term, and thus extends to more kinds of behaviour, in addition to framing technology in a neutral way.

The document points out that “although reports of violations have increased year to year since the 2015 legislation, the number of cases that have advanced through the justice system have decreased.” The report calls for harsher sentencing of digital sexual violence, training for representatives within the justice system, and more protection of survivors and their sexual privacy.

No anonymity for survivors

Unlike other forms of sexual violence, digital sexual violence is not defined as a sexual offence within the Icelandic justice system. This leads to significant differences in how such cases are handled. For one, while sexual offenders are automatically charged, reporting digital sexual violence to police does not lead to charges unless the survivor consents. Furthermore, survivors of digital sexual offences do not have the right to remain anonymous either in the handling of such cases nor in court rulings, as do survivors of violations that are defined as sexual offences. Survivors therefore fear that pressing charges or going to court will lead to further distribution of pictures or videos – or unwanted attention.

The Icelandic government discussed the report at a meeting last Friday. A notice from the government states that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs will consider the report’s proposed changes and review the relevant legislation.

Bishop Expresses Regret Over Minister’s Moral Infractions

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

The Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has met with the five women who accused rev. Ólafur Jóhannsson of sexual harassment and reported him to the Church of Iceland Complaints Board. The bishop and two suffragan bishops have released a statement expressing regret that the incidents took place, calling the minister’s infractions unacceptable while stressing that they believed the women’s stories.

The bishop sent Ólafur on leave in the summer of 2017 after the women’s accusations against him, which included picking them up, kissing them and hugging, and licking their ears, were reported to the Complaints board. The board’s ruling was appealed and the appellatory committee found that Ólafur had morally violated two of the women but denied that the violations were sexual. The Church has been criticised before for handling matters of sexual harassment internally instead of directing accusations to the police. All of the women were in contact with the minister through their work or volunteering for the church.

In a statement from the church, the Bishop of Iceland and the Suffragan Bishops of Skálholt and Hólar, Sólveig Lára Guðmundsdóttir and Kristján Björnsson, regret that the infractions committed by the parish minister, rev. Ólafur Jóhannsson happened and declare the fact that the women had to suffer his moral infractions for years, painful. They also state that they believe the women’s stories and are pained by the fact that the women had to go through the “trial by fire of defending their own boundaries and morality through official complaints and other public means.” Finally, they state their hope that the changes to the way sexual harassment cases are handled within the church will lead to better and more efficient ways to protect victims of sexual and disciplinary violations.

The bishop suspended rev. Ólafur in December of 2018 but a committee on the rights and duties of government employees found that his suspension wasn’t legitimate. Despite his intention to resume his duties, that never happened as his office as Parish Minister in Grensás Parish was abolished and Grensás and Bústaðasókn parishes combined into one.

Reykjavík’s Ninth Annual SlutWalk

Reykjavík’s ninth annual Drusluganga, or SlutWalk, will take place on Saturday, mbl.is reports.

The main goal of the march, is to “create a platform for solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and return the shame to where it belongs, with the perpetrator,” write organisers, as well as to bring an end to rape culture. The Reykjavík SlutWalk has grown continually since it began in July 2011, and last year, 20,000 people took part. The protest was founded in Toronto, Canada and took place in April 2011 after a police officer suggested that if women didn’t want to be assaulted, they “should avoid dressing like sluts.”

Participants made signs and sold walk-related merchandise at Loft Hostel on Thursday; organiser Sigrún Bragadóttir also held a ‘craftivism’ workshop. “Craftivism is when crafting is used as a motivating force, as activism—to compel changes in the world and promote a better world,” she explained.

Saturday’s SlutWalk will start at Hallgrímskirkja at 2.00pm and end at Austurvöllur Square.

Twenty-three Women Publish Allegations Against Former Politician

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson

Icelandic diplomat and former chairman of the Icelandic Social Democratic Party, Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, has recently come under scrutiny for sexual misconduct, Morgunblaðið reports. Twenty-three women have now published a blog site detailing the allegations, with the earliest dating back to the year 1962.

This is not the first time women have come forward accusing Jón Baldvin of harassment. In 2012 Hannibalsson made headlines when Guðrún Harðardóttir, the niece of Jón’s wife, published a number of letters he sent her when she was between the ages of 14 and 17, many of whom are sexual in nature. Earlier this month, Stundin reported additional accounts of sexual misconduct and Jón’s daughter, Aldís Schram, has also been in the media, detailing her fraught relationship with her father in the wake of his alleged harassment of her former classmates.

This morning, 23 women, including the ones who had come forward earlier, published their stories online. The stories range from alleged harassment to sexual coercion and the accusers include Jón Baldvin’s sister-in-law, daughter and former students.

Jón Baldvin was active in politics in Iceland between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties, serving as Minister of Finance and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs He then went on to serve as diplomat in the United States and Mexico, and later in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Jón has denied the accusations but admits having sent letters to his wife’s niece, with one of them turning overtly sexual as he wrote under the influence of alcohol at an airport when a flight was delayed.

Many of Jón’s accusers have pressed charges, with the police eventually dropping their investigation due to lack of evidence.

Former Minister Accused of Sexual Harassment Over 50-Year Period

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson

At least twelve women have come forward with accounts of sexual harassment by former minister and diplomat Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson. Stundin reported first. The oldest accounts occurred in the 60s while the most recent is from last year. In 2012, it was revealed that Jón Baldvin had sent his wife’s niece sexually explicit letters starting when she was 14 years old.

Sent niece explicit letters

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was an MP for the Social Democratic Party (Alþýðuflokkurinn), serving as Minister of Finance from 1987 to 1988 and Foreign Affairs Minister from 1988 to 1995. Following his time in parliament, he served as a diplomat from 1998 to 2006. In 2012, Guðrún Harðardóttir, a niece of Jón Baldvin’s wife, revealed he had sent her sexually explicit and erotic letters between 1998 and 2001, when she was 14-17 years old. Jón Baldvin denied that he had sexually harassed Guðrún, but apologised for what he called a “lapse of judgement” in initiating the correspondence. Guðrún attempted to press charges against Jón Baldvin for sexual harassment, but police dropped the case.

In 2013, Jón Baldvin was invited to the University of Iceland as a guest lecturer. When objections ensued, the university withdrew the invitation. Jón Baldvin protested the decision and threatened to take legal action, upon which the university agreed to pay him ISK 500,000 ($4,100/€3,600) in compensation and publicly apologised for how they handled the matter.

Women share accounts in Facebook group

On Saturday, Stundin published an interview with four women who describe accounts of sexual harassment by Jón Baldvin. The earliest of the accounts occurred in 1967, when Jón Baldvin was a teacher at Hagaskóli elementary school. The victims of his alleged harassment would have been around 13-14 years old. Carmen Jóhannsdóttir asserts Jón Baldvin sexually assaulted her just last year in June, when he started stroking her behind at the home he shares with his wife Bryndís Schram in Spain. Guðrún Harðardóttir recounts Jón Baldvin attempting to kiss her when she was a teenager and repeatedly appearing in her bedroom at night. Other women have described similar visits.

In a Facebook group called #metoo Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, at least 12 women have shared accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of the former politician. The group is reported to have around 300 members, though many identify as witnesses or supporters of the victims.

Jón Baldvin responds

When asked by reporters about Carmen’s account, Jón Baldvin called it “totally absurd and untrue.” When further interrogated about the accounts from Hagaskóli he stated “That’s an ancient matter and I have nothing to say about that. I won’t respond to it.” Jón Baldvin’s wife Bryndís has expressed supported for her husband. Jón Baldvin has stated that he intends to respond to the accusations in his own time.