September 24, 2016 Print

When government violates the individual and economic liberties of entrepreneurs in Sweden, the Stockholm-based Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa) fights back by defending the dreams of these entrepreneurs in court. The organization’s Litigating for Liberty project has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award, which will be awarded at Freedom Dinner 2016. The Centre for Justice has won landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights, and has a perfect record — 14 out of 14 victories — before the Swedish Supreme Court. Its victories have required trade unions to be held liable for property damages, set precedent for government liability when it violates rights guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution, protected business owners from double jeopardy prosecutions, and more.

Freedom Dinner

A Nordic individual rights revolution

“Prior to the inception of the Centre for Justice, questions of fundamental rights and economic rights in the Nordic region were mainly seen as matters of general policy and not for the courts and individuals,” said Clarence Crafoord, CEO of the Centre for Justice. “The Centre for Justice has been and is a prime driving force in what could be described as a Nordic individual rights revolution. Enhancing individual liberty and defending the fundamental rights of individuals by combining cutting-edge litigation, strategic research, sophisticated media relations, and a strategic law student program have proven to be both effective and successful.”

The Centre for Justice bolsters its strategic litigation with extensive legal research and sophisticated media relations, ensuring that its clients’ struggles are heard across Sweden and around the world.  The organization’s successful landmark cases before the Swedish Supreme Court and the European Court of Human rights have significantly improved the rights of individuals and small-scale entrepreneurs in Sweden, and set legal precedents that reach and increase the liberty of potentially millions of individuals throughout Europe.

Restoring small business owners’ rights

“In the case of Henrik Gustavsson v. the Swedish Building Worker’s Union (2015), the Swedish Supreme Court held, for the first time, that trade unions can be held liable for financial damages caused by the excessive use of industrial action that violates small business owners’ right to property,” Crafoord said. “Prior to this landmark ruling, trade unions had for decades successfully argued that they enjoyed legal immunity and that they could not be held liable for damages caused by the excessive use of industrial action. This ruling rewrites the basic rules of the Swedish labor market, and levels the playing field in industrial disputes between big trade unions and small business owners.”

This ruling established an effective legal remedy for individuals and small businesses in Sweden against powerful trade unions that destroy property during industrial action. Approximately 702,000 small businesses in Sweden do not have collective bargaining agreements, the Centre for Justice reported, and this ruling is of immediate importance to them.

Now the Swedish government can be held liable

“In the case of Blake Petterson v. the Swedish Government (2014), the Swedish Supreme Court held, for the first time, that the government can be held liable for damages caused by violations of the basic rights protected by the Swedish Constitution,” Crafoord said. “Prior to this case, the government had successfully argued that the basic rights protected by the Swedish Constitution, unlike the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, were not justiciable in Swedish courts.”

The Swedish Constitution protects certain economic rights that are not protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, the Centre for Justice explained, so this landmark ruling has the potential to significantly improve the economic rights of individuals and businesses in Sweden.

“In the case of Lucky Dev v. Sweden (2014), the European Court of Human Rights held, for the first time, that the Swedish system of imposing both criminal and administrative liability for the same alleged offence violates the protection against double jeopardy as stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights,” Crafoord said. “The case concerned a small business owner who, after having been ordered to pay tax surcharges by the Swedish Tax Agency, was subject to criminal proceedings for the same alleged failure to declare income tax. This landmark ruling contributed to a major overhaul of Swedish tax law, leading to the abolition of an unconstitutional system of dual penalties for tax offences that had been on the books for decades.”

Additional successful rulings included Kezban v. The Swedish Government (2013), which held that the government must be held to the same standard of negligence as individuals in cases concerning compensation for damages; and Martin Sundahl v. The Swedish Government (2012), which eliminated the government’s ability to recover its legal fees even from a winning plaintiff, a practice that for decades had deterred individuals from pursuing legitimate claims against the government for violations of their basic rights because of the risk of having to pay the government’s legal fees even if successful.

About the Templeton Freedom Award and the additional 2016 finalists

Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 10 in New York City at the historic Capitale. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists will receive $25,000 prizes. In addition to the Centre for Justice, other nominees for the 2016 Templeton Freedom Award include:

For media inquiries about the 2016 Templeton Freedom Award, contact Daniel Anthony at Daniel.Anthony@AtlasNetwork.org or (202) 449-8441.