In the beginning of the Corona situation, Sweden avoided repressive measures, but this has changed over time. Many are worried that disrespect for fundamental freedoms and rights is becoming the hallmark also of the Swedish government, their authorities and mainstream media.
Yesterday, a demonstration was held in Stockholm for the constitutionally protected right to meet and move freely. Very different views of the demonstration are presented by different media. Those who understand Swedish can, for example, listen to Swedish Radio and “Tusenmannamarschen” on Folkets Radio.
On the main web page of Swedish Radio, they quote a chief of police saying that the protesters were “more persistent and violent than our basic scenario”. The police prouldly declare they will try to indentify the demonstrators. It is interesting and alarming to see how Swedish Radio and the police give a one-sided view, painting a very negative picture of the demonstration while they omit other important information.
Folkets Radio reports about troublemakers, suspected of trying to disturb the demonstration to turn it violent. A couple of freelance journalists also witnessed a brutal assault, in which some masked men attacked returning protesters at a given signal.
Saboteurs destroying demonstrations by turning them violent is acutally a pattern, which has been seen in Sweden before. But not a word about that, or about police violence during the demonstration, from Swedish Radio.
Public service media like Swedish Radio are supposed to be provide impartial information and reflect the world in different perspectives (all links in this post to content in Swedish). The police is supposed to defend democracy. And so on. Are they now all failing?
In Europe, Greek officials and Frontex may be involved in enforced disappearances. Read on The Intercept.
This review is written by former helicopter mechanic and rescue swimmer Sven Ruin (who served on Swedish rescue helicopters 1989-1990, but not in 1994 when Estonia sank):
Stefan Torssell has written an outstanding book. I already knew from before that it was very revealing. After reading the new edition from 2020, I can say it is also very complete and well-written. The new edition has a few extra chapters, which explain what has happened since the first edition was published in 2016. In September 2020, Henrik Evertsson’s documentary “Estonia – fyndet som ändrar allt” confirmed part of what Torssell and others have claimed for a long time: The official explanation of how Estonia sank cannot be true, because the documentary showed proof of a hole 4 metres high and 1.2 metres long on the starboard side. Instead, a more likely explanation is that Estonia collided with a submarine (some links in this post are to content in Swedish). Torssell even names a likely submarine. Perhaps the submarine was in these waters because of the smuggling of military equipment, which we know took place using the passengers on the ferry as a form of human shield.
To call the book “revealing” is actually an understatement. It is totally devastating for many in Sweden, because it exposes the cowardness and criminal behaviour in many parts of society. Torssell has investigated the disaster with the scrutiny, which authorities, most parlamentarians, many journalists and others have failed to do (or worse, many have tried to hide the truth and/or blame someone else). For me personally, it is very strange and sad to in Torssell’s book recognize some names of people I knew. This includes teachers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, where I took a ship-building course around 1994. Did they know that they were holding back the truth about Estonia, or were they so easily misled by others that they acted in good faith? I also recognize the name of a man heading the technical group of the Joint Accident Investigation Commission (JAIC). He worked at the same engineering company as I later did, so I have met him several times, although I worked with other projects. With his military background, I suspect that he was the military’s man in the investigation, with a stronger loyalty to the interests of the military than to the truth.
The sub-title of the book is “Svenska statens haveri”, which can be translated to “Swedish state’s failure”. This book is the story not only about a sinking ship, but even more about a sinking society. However, the issues exposed by Torssell concern not only Sweden. They are unfortunately far more wide-spread. For example, even the United Kingdom has signed the Estonia agreement from 1995, which among other things allows covering the wreck. To cover the wreck and thus perhaps crushing the bodies of the victims must be the opposite of what the agreement was said to do (to protect the wreck as a place for final rest for victims). The agreement between several states was obviously about covering up the truth, including that MI6 had been involved in the smuggling of military equipment on Estonia. Especially when Torssell’s book is now being translated to other languages, I wish there would be more in the book about the international dimensions, because perhaps not everyone understands how some secret government agencies operate together in networks across borders. A bit like international mafia. However, unlike the private mafia, these government agencies apparently have impunity.
What Torssell found and wrote about is so shocking and filthy, that the book has hardly been reviewed or mentioned by any major media outlet in Sweden. However, I strongly believe we all need to read this book, because if we don’t know what is broken in our society, we can probably not repair it.
Despite that Torssell’s book is so complete, it is of course not possible to include everything related to Estonia. One of the things he doesn’t explain much is the situation with the Swedish rescue helicopters around that time. Many people died because rescue helicopters arrived so late to the disaster site. There were many reasons for this. One could be that take-off was delayed for some helicopter. Where I did my military service, we were normally prepared to take off within 5 minutes from an alarm when the military was flying, but during evenings, nights and weekends when there could be civilian emergencies, we instead typically had “samvetsberedskap”. That meant we in the crew were not on duty, but the coordination centre could anyway try to contact the crew leader and ask us to fly. That way, it could take longer than 15 minutes (a number Torssell mentions) from an alarm to gather the crew and get reday to take off. Sometimes, it would not even be possible to fly because of this. During my active time as a rescue swimmer, I wrote a formal improvement proposal regarding this, but I think the Air Force just made it disappear. (But for another proposal regarding the medical equipment onboard, which I wrote together with a colleague, we actually received some money.) After my military service I got the opportunity to discuss the situation with two members of Swedish parliament, which resulted in Motion 1991/92:Fö202, but that did not lead to any improvement at the time, a couple of years before Estonia sank. Also, I know that winch problems on Boeing Vertol 107 (Kawasaki) helicopters were known to the Air Force already in 1989, but they were apparently not corrected in 1994.
I could unfortunately not find any information in the book about the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), which was most likely involved in the Estonia tragedy together with their international partners. MUST keeps a low public profile, but we should not underestimate the damage they are suspected to have done, which could also include other events (for example, I have personally met a military source who said that MUST was involved regarding the murder of Olof Palme, but that is a different story).
A disappointment with the book is found on one of the last pages, where Torssell writes (my translation):
What must remain state affairs and state secrets in relation to foreign powers, let these confidential secrets be preserved. That is why we have governments.
In those last sentences, it sounds like Torssell has after all these years given up, and accepted that governments and their authorities lie to their people to keep secrets. I certainly hope this is not the case, but that Torssell will continue his search for and reporting of truth. Because it is the heart of the matter, that these state affairs and state secrets were most likely the root cause that killed over 800 people that stormy night and prevented relatives and survivors to be treated with respect. And we have governments to serve the people, not to serve secret services. If we don’t reveal the dirty state secrets, I’m afraid our society will continue to sink, because truth and legal certainty are necessary for our society to improve.
Be aware that the cover-up of what really happened regarding Estonia continues. For example, Swedish Radio has after Evertsson’s documentary emphasized that the damage/hole was previously unknown. I have asked Swedish Radio how they could say it was “unknown”, but received no reply. I think some have known about the hole, but tried to keep it a secret. That Swedish Radio and others frequently refer to authorities regarding Estonia also arouses suspicion, especially since Torssell and other have revealed so much horrible that Swedish authorities have done regarding Estonia.
The recent revelations, including an attempt to confiscate Evertsson’s material and to accuse the film-makers in court (but not others who may have dived on Estonia), have confirmed another part of what Torssell has declared: That the special agreement/law regarding Estonia is actually there to stop the rule of law, not to protect the victims.
I think it is time for many more, including major media outlets in Sweden, to give Torssell credit for his work on Estonia.
Why should not governments entities be treated the same way as the rest of us?
The saying goes that if a frog is put into a pan of water and the heat is gradually raised, it will never react to the rising threat and die as a result.
This fable will likely resonate with those observing the state of democracy in the UK today.
Some of the problems highlighted by HRW are:
The government’s disdain for parliament is also evident in its handling of the pandemic. The government has used decrees and fast-track laws in ways that cut parliament out of the law-making process and make it harder for MPs to scrutinise how the laws that affect our lives are being used.
The ways in which the UK government has undermined the country’s independent legal system is long and growing. It wants to water down the power of British courts to review government decisions. Both the prime minister and home secretary have pilloried the legal profession, dismissing human rights lawyers as “activists”, “lefties” and “do-gooders” merely for doing their jobs
However, there are democratic problems not only with Boris Johnson’s conservative government. For example, Spelthorne Borough Council has recently lost half of its Labour Party councillors, who resigned in protest at the party’s direction. One of them says: “We were elected by voters who support the policies in Labour’s manifesto and we cannot in good conscience remain in the party when these policies are not being honoured.” Also, remember the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, which included threat of mutiny from the military (similar to what happened to Olof Palme before he was murdered in 1986).
And can you really say that a country is democratic if it strives to decriminalize torture and allow authorities to kidnap and murder? Hear what Yanis Varoufakis says about the UK justice system and the treatment of Julian Assange. We can not pretend any longer that this is a real democracy.
The ongoing pandemic is used not only as a bad excuse for reducing democracy, for example by cancelling referendums. It is also used as an excuse to give up privacy. We have now seen an example of how this can be abused. Read on BBC about how the government of Singapore cheated their people in a programme called TraceTogether. Note that the new legislation that is now proposed, does NOT return to the original purpose of TraceTogether. To be able to use the system against serious crime like terrorism sounds fair, but remember how the accusation of terrorism has been misused before and still is. Singapore works closely with the USA regarding surveillance, where whistleblowers can be equated with terrorists and a questionable concept of a war on “domestic terrorism” is under way. One result is eroding public trust, which can for examle make future health responses more difficult.
In several western countries, we are witnessing a rapid decline of democracy.
From the USA, increased censorship of the president and many others is reported. Twitter now motivates this by how messages can be interpreted. Just like after the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago, overreactions to the events can be more destructive than the events themselves. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls on the platforms to be more transparent and consistent in how they apply their rules, but seems to miss that government agencies are involved with the tech giants and ordinary people have no say in such decisions. Anyone who has been censored on by the tech giants knows how difficult and meaningless it is to try to contact them. Even the president appears to have no control of some government agencies. Whatever we think of Donald Trump, we need to realize that it is certainly not democracy if an invisible government together with huge corporations are imposing censorship to undermine their president, who said he would “drain the swamp”. In Wilhelm Agrell’s article in Swedish from 2017, with the translated title “Against the deep state, no one can win”, he writes that:
No one can control the guards anymore. If anyone ever could.
What Donald Trump has challenged are thus not clowns in Langley or easily drained small puddles on the edge of the Washington swamp, but the deep state in its most developed and expanded form. In such a power struggle, in the long run there is only one possible winner…
Another example is Sweden, which now has a new pandemic law, strongly criticized for giving the government dictatorial powers. There is a risk that such temporary laws can be extended and abused.
Before our eyes, the confidence in institutions which should uphold the rule of international law is falling apart.
Craig Murray has read the report that closes down the investigation of British war crimes in Iraq. He calls the International Criminal Court (ICC) “simply indefensible” and comes to the conclusion:
Unfortunately, the decision of the ICC to close down its investigation into War Crimes committed by the British in Iraq is the last straw for me in continuing to harbour any hope that the ICC will ever be anything more than an instrument of victors’ justice.
One of the many comments on his blog says:
A whitewash is worse than no wash at all. The ICC is diplomatically lying through its teeth, which undermines any credibility it might try to claim in the future. It has demonstrated itself to be fraudulent. It would have been far better for its credibility to release a simple statement saying “Under threat, physical or otherwise, the ICC has decided not to pursue investigation of the UK’s failed war crimes prosecutions. We refer you to the MoD and the British Prime Minister’s office.”