Indigenous Sami people file suit against Sweden for violating land use rights

Indigenous Sami people file suit against Sweden for violating land use rights

[JURIST] The Swedish Sami Association (SSR) [advocacy website, in Swedish] on Monday brought a lawsuit against the Swedish government [press release, PDF, in Swedish; backgrounder, PDF, in Swedish] claiming that the state is violating the hunting rights [application summary, PDF, in Swedish] of the indigenous Sami people, also known as Lapps. The SSR filed the lawsuit in the Gallivare District Court seeking to resolve a dispute over mountainous land in northern Sweden. Swedish law gives the Sami people the right to herd reindeer, hunt, and fish in the area, but since 2007, all European Union (EU) citizens have been permitted to hunt and fish in the mountains. Chairman of the SSR Per Gustav Idivuoma said:

We have a legal uncertainty. This must be sorted out so that all concerned know what is applicable for the future. … We think we have good chances to win such a process. It would mean that [the government] recognizes the right of the Sami hunting and fishing in the mountains.

The Sami were traditionally reindeer herders. Today there are about 20,000 Sami in northern Sweden, as well as in Russia, Norway, and Finland. In August, the Swedish government told the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that racial discrimination against the Sami continues to be a problem [report summary] in the country. In 2007, the Swedish Sami gained some control over their traditional land [Reuters report] when the Sami parliament [official website, in Swedish], previously just an advisory panel, was given authority over local reindeer herding issues.