Swedish-Eritrean citizen holding a sign that reads “I pay 2% with joy and Pride”
The unrelenting attempt by certain Swedish parliamentarians to criminalize the 2% Eritrea Recovery and Rehabilitation Tax (commonly known as the ‘Diaspora Tax’) has been rejected by the Swedish parliament, Riksdag, once and for all.
The controversy begins when the Justice committee, Justitieutskottet, voted two years ago on two motions tabled by Eritrean-Swed Parliamentarian Arhe Hamednaca (S) (motion 2012/13:Ju340) and by Fredrik Malm (FP) (motion 2013/14:Ju358) that proposes for a complete ban on taxation of Eritrean citizens resident in Sweden by Eritrea claiming that the practice amounted to extortion. They take the lopsided reports of the UN Monitoring Group at face value to back up their claims.
However, according to prosecutor Krister Petersson, there is no crime called a collection of taxes, and the preliminary investigation on a number of the allegations cases has been closed since December 2013 for lack of “substantiated violations.”
Several governments levy various types of taxes on their citizens who reside abroad. So Eritrea’s practices are not outside of established norms as they are governed by explicit and transparent laws.
The 2% tax levied on Eritrean citizens living abroad was inspired by the Eritrean communities in the diaspora during the Eritrean referendum process. It was later enacted by the National Assembly in 1994 under the 2% Tax Form Proclamation No 17/1991 & 67/1995 to encourage Eritreans in the Diaspora to contribute to the rehabilitation of their country that has been devastated by three decades of war for national independence and freedom.
As in any other taxation system, there are certain consequences, clearly stipulated in the law that are applicable in case of unjustified 2% tax evasions but none through extra-judicial means. Some of the explicit administrative measures consist of denial of specific entitlements and services (for example land allocation etc.) to those directly accountable.
The Riksdag decision to reject the motion is, therefore, in conformity with the said policies and normative practices of the Eritrean Government.
As stipulated in the summary of the final decision by the Swedish Riksdag,
“It can be stated that under international law, it is permissible for a State to tax citizens residing abroad. However, it is not permissible for a state to take action without the consent of the territory of another State to recover the fund. If these measures include criminal documents, it must of course be prosecuted and punished. The foregoing means that if the representative of Eritrea in the recovery order acting in a criminal way (eg with unlawful stalking, blackmail or threats) against someone in Sweden should be handled by the judiciary in the context of current legislation. It should be emphasized that for this type of behavior to come to the attention of the authorities normally requires that he affected police reports it. It does not see the need for any new laws to address criminal activity for the specific context of the Eritrean tax collection. The Committee therefore proposes that Parliament rejects motions 2012/13″
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Swedish Riksdag Decision
There are signs that show a slight improvement in the soared relation between Eritrea and Sweden as of late despite no change in their main bone of contention: the arrest of Eritrea-Sweden journalist Dawit Issac on grounds of treason charges. Recently though, Eritrea appointed an ambassador to Sweden for the first time in 9 years and Sweden appointed Germany’s ambassador to Eritrea, Viktor Richter, as its Honorary Consul in Asmara.