Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Left greens want to decriminalize the insulting of foreign heads of state

By Staff

  • Alþingi, the Parliament of Iceland Parliament has not set a date for the debate of the new bill. Photo/Fréttablaðið

Four MPs from the Left Green Movement, which heads the majority coalition in parliament, have put forward a bill to decriminalize the insulting of foreign heads of state, the flags or national emblems of foreign states. A particularly "egregious" public insult or belittlement carries a punishment of up to six years in prison. The law also criminalizes any verbal or other forms of insults, slander or disparagement of the representatives of foreign states in Iceland. 

The anachronistic law has come under fire from foreign observers. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe argues that the law is in violation of the freedom of speech.

Read more: Iceland's anachronistic law banning insults of foreign heads of state comes under fire

Several people have been sentenced based on the law, and several more arrested for its violation. The most famous cases involved authors who were arrested and sentenced for insulting Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. More recently a protestor was arrested for insulting the Russian Federation while protesting against the treatment by Russian authorities of the Activist Punk Rock band Pussy Riot in 2012. This case was dropped after the authorities had dragged the prosecution for five years. 

This is the third time a similar bill is put forward in the Icelandic parliament. Previous bills to abolish the law have languished in committee and never made it to a floor vote. Last year the Left Greens put forward a similar bill. 

Read more: Left-greens want to make it legal to insult foreign heads of state

The authors of the bill argue that it is important for Iceland to abolish anachronistic laws which limit the freedom of expression at a time when the freedom of speech is under attack around the world.

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