Royal Order controversy

Berlingske denied access to correspondence between Foreign Ministry and Amalienborg

HM Queen Margrethe honours Bahrain's King Khalafi, just weeks before he ordered a violent crackdown on demonstrators Fold sammen
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Foto: Keld Navntoft

Parliament's Ombudsman has criticised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for withholding information concerning HM Queen Margrethe's decision to bestow a prestigious Royal Order on King Khalifa of Bahrain.

In a surprising ruling, Ombudsman Hans Gammeltoft Hansen found that the Ministry breached the freedom of information law by denying Berlingske access to correspondence with the Queen's advisors. Paradoxically, experts now believe that the public rebuke of the Ministry could lead to even less public accountability.

"It will probably encourage the Foreign Ministry to communicate verbally with the royal court on any issue regarding potential recipients of royal orders abroad in the future," said media para-legal Oluf Jørgensen of the Danish School of Media and Journalism.

Queen Margrethe came under fire last year for bestowing the Royal Order of the Dannebrog, Denmark’s second highest order, on the King during a state visit to Bahrain just two weeks before he ordered a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in the capital of Manam during the Arab Spring uprising. The Danish government subsequently disclaimed any responsibility for honouring the dictator and Prime Minister at the time, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, said it had nothing to do with Danish foreign policy making. Berlingske's request for more information was denied by the Foreign Ministry on the basis that the Queen was acting on behalf of the state and therefore correspondence had to remain confidential.

When questioned about the controversy during a press conference to mark her 40th jubilee last week, the Queen said it 'happened last year' and was an 'outdated story'.

Since King Khalifa accepted the royal order, 55 civilians have been killed in Bahrain, over 1,000 injured, and 3,000 placed in arrest. According to Bahrain's Centre for Human Rights, an additional 1,866 have been tortured, including a Danish citizen, Abdulhadi ak-Khawaja, who's daughter is also facing a lengthy prison sentence.