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Freedom to Insult Foreign Heads of State Debated in Parliament

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Freedom to Insult Foreign Heads of State Debated in Parliament

Alþingi, Iceland's parliament

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Four MPs have proposed abolishing an Icelandic law against insulting foreign heads of state, RÚV reports. Left-Green Movement MP Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir and three other MPs from the party have put forth a bill proposing the abolishment Article 95 of the Icelandic Criminal Code which bans individuals from publicly insulting or dishonouring foreign nations, heads of state, or national symbols such as flags.

Article 95 proposes harsh penalties for those who break it, including prison sentences of up to six years for “serious” violations. The same penalties apply to individuals who insult or dishonour representatives of foreign nations in Iceland, threaten foreign ambassadors, or threaten diplomatic missions of a foreign state, as well as break into or damage an embassy.

It is the third time a bill has been put forth in the Icelandic parliament proposing the article be struck down. MPs behind the bill consider the article unnecessary, as other existing legal provisions protect embassies. They point out the law has only been applied in a few cases in Iceland, which have “not been to the credit of country and nation. Thus the writer Þórbergur Þórðarson was convicted for calling Adolf Hitler a bloodhound and poet Steinn Steinarr for dishonouring the German Nazi Party’s swastika flag,” the bill’s introduction reads.

Sturla Sigurjónsson, Permanent Secretary of State at the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs disagrees that Article 95 is superfluous. In a report on the bill written on behalf of the ministry, he states the law upholds Iceland’s international obligations, resting on an agreement commonly known as the Vienna Convention. The ministry also warns abolishing the law could lead to less protection for Icelandic diplomats abroad.

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