International and National Law: Greenland had status as colony until 1953


By Mikael Hertig, M. of Sci. Pol.


Photo of Mikal Hertig

Mikael Hertig, M of Sc. Pol

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953. Period.


Sunset light at Qinngorput by Nuuk, Greenland
Photo Mikael Hertig 2017 (c)

It has been claimed (1)  that Greenland should not have been a Danish colony  according to international law  until 1953. It is as wrong as it can be.

Greenland should after this claim according to this have been a ‘Nordic possession’ in the same way as Iceland until 1953. (This means home rule with no Danish interference).

There is consensus among all professional legal experts that Greenland both out past, past and present concepts of international law was a Danish colony until The Danish change of Constitution of 1953. From that time eskimos / greenlanders got the same legal protection and rights of freedom as citizens as Danes. Not before

Any answer to this  question should solely be based on written consitutional and international law, for example, Max Sorensen’s “Constitutional law” (2)

It says here include:
“During previous constitutions had Greenland had legal status as a colony.” … “On the other hand, it was part of the colonial position that a number of the Basic Law provisions did not apply to Greenland” (no representation in the parliament, no vote, no stand as firm residents were not met, if you lived in Greenland, the Constitutional separation of powers principle did not apply to Greenland and the Basic freedoms did not apply in Greenland.)


View over part of Nuuk. February 2017 Mikael Hertig photo (c)

UN’s Charter Article 73:  “Non-self-governing territories”

These terms refer directly to the UN Charter Article 73 on “non-self-governing territories”, ie where the population has no autonomy, but controlled by a foreign country outside its area.

Sørensen argues that the purpose of reformulating the Constitution § 1 was to bring Greenland’s colonial status to an end.

Covenant definitions correspond to the conditions Sørensen mentions. The question is simple: Can Greenland before 1953 be considered a non-self-governing territory? This is the opinion and thought of the overall national and international legal expertise.

One should avoid reading the headline of the covenant chapter and its content to get a different result.

The term ‘colony’  has over time been defined equally –  also in Danish exercise of power in Greenland. But also internationally, this definition has been stable through decades.

A prominent example is the title of the Hague court’s decision of 1933 on whether Northeast Greenland should be Danish or Norwegian. It states:

“signification you terme ‘Greenland’: territoires colonisés ou Greenland tout entier. Fardeau de la preuve. “

(If the entire Greenland hearing along with the colonized areas?)

Even then, the definition of ‘colony’ was settled the question of national law, whether a population control themselves or not. The conclusion from the Hague in 1933 that it is not populated Northeast Greenland together was recognized as part of the Danish colony, Greenland.

According both to international law and in terms of Danish national law: Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953.

What happened herafter is a political discussion outside this dispute.

1: Kjærgaard, Thorkild. Article (danish) in Weekendavisen Februar 24 2017.
2: Sørensen, Max: Statsforfatningsret, Juristforbundets Forlag 1961 (danish)

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