The demise of Sweden’s anti-torture brand – new publication

Why are international human rights treaty bodies increasingly criticizing Sweden’s efforts to counteract torture? In a recently published book chapter, my co-author Axel Tengwall and I analyze contestation over Sweden’s anti-torture policies, as it has evolved in the periodic reviews by the UN Committee agains Torture and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

The chapter is part of a volume critically investigating Nordic criminal justice as a global role model, excellently edited by Mikkel Jarle Christensen, Kjersti Lohne and Magnus Hörnqvist. The whole book is published open access.

Schaffer, J. K., & Tengwall, A. (2022). From model to problem: The demise of Sweden’s anti-torture brand. In M. J. Christensen, K. Lohne, & M. Hörnqvist (Eds.), Nordic Criminal Justice in a Global Context (pp. 146–165). Routledge.

Here’s some sort of abstract (generated by Routledge):

This chapter analyzes the evolving contestation over Sweden’s anti-torture policies in the periodic reviews by two key monitoring bodies: the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). It accounts for how Sweden gained its reputation of being a pioneer in combating torture through domestic and foreign policy activism from the 1960s to the 1980s. Next, the chapter introduces the analytical framework for identifying discursive struggles in human rights treaty body reviews of Sweden. It analyzes reviews by the CAT and the CPT, respectively, and state party reports and responses, from the 1990s through the 2010s. When the Committee against Torture reviewed Sweden for the first time in 1989, its Concluding Observations (COs) represented the peak manifestation of the international discourse of Swedish exceptionalism.

The book chapter forms a sequel of sorts to a study Malcolm Langford, Aled Fisher, Frida Pareus and I published some years ago, where we analysed how the CAT’s critique of the Denmark, Norway and Sweden compares to its scrutiny of four other West European states:

Langford, Malcolm, Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Johan Karlsson Schaffer, and Frida Pareus. ‘The View from Elsewhere: Scandinavian Penal Practices and International Critique’. In Scandinavian Penal History, Culture and Prison Practice, edited by Peter Scharff Smith and Thomas Ugelvik, 451–79. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017.

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