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Iceland

General Information

Admission to the OSCE: 25 June 1973

Policing overview: The Icelandic name for the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police is “Ríkislögreglustjórinn”. He acts on behalf of the Ministry of Justice in police affairs, and on behalf of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, vis-à-vis Keflavík International Airport, which is also part of a military base.


National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police

1. Functions and missions
2. Structure and organization

1. Functions and missions
The Office of the National Commissioner of Police began operations in July 1997, when a new Police Act took effect, replacing the Police Force Act of 1972 and the State Criminal Investigation Police Act of 1976. Concurrently, the State Criminal Investigation Police was abolished and most of its functions transferred to the district and national police commissioners, producing a fundamental change in the senior police command structure.

Under the 1997 Police Act, the National Commissioner’s office administers police affairs on behalf of the Minister of Justice. Similarly, it administers the functions of the Keflavík Airport Police on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Its role is to perform administrative functions related to law enforcement, such as providing general instructions to regional police commissioners and making proposals for policing rationalization, co-ordination, development and safety. In charge of the police force, it runs any police operations that call for centralization or co-ordination among various bodies. The office also is responsible for international police relations.
Certain investigation departments are directly under the office of the National Commissioner who has the authority to prosecute cases involving economic offences, treason and related offences.

The main functions of the office are to:

  • pass on, and bring to the attention of police commissioners, the commands and decisions of the supreme representatives of the state that affect the activities of the police in any way;
  • promote and monitor compliance with these decisions in the work of the police;
  • provide the Minister of Justice with information related to the police to facilitate decision making;
  • make proposals to the Minister of Justice regarding general instructions on police activities; 
  • handle international contacts in the field of law enforcement;
  • provide assistance and support to police commissioners;
  • maintain a register of offences reported to the police, with all the necessary information on individual cases, a police diary with information on matters referred to the police and how they are dealt with, a register of arrested persons and other registers necessary in the interests of law enforcement in order to avert imminent danger or combat crime (the Minister of Justice sets further rules concerning these registers); and
  • exercise supreme control of civil defence measures on behalf of the Minister of Justice following consultations with the Civil Defence Council.  

2. Structure and organization
For policing purposes, Iceland is divided into 25 districts corresponding to the administrative districts. The District Commissioners are also Commissioners of Police, the exception being Reykjavík where there is a separate Police Commissioner.

Commissioners are responsible for the daily administration of the police in their districts and all police functions there. They also direct searches for missing persons, along with land-based rescue and salvage operations.

The various district Chiefs of Police in Iceland are responsible for law enforcement in their areas, they carry out investigative work regarding criminal offences and exercise powers of prosecution. Police officers exercise the power of their office in all parts of the country, regardless of district boundaries. Their working districts are those in which they are appointed, but exemptions are made, for example, when necessary to complete a project or investigation that extends into another district or necessitates travel through another district.

District Commissioners represent the Government at the local level, one in each district. Accordingly, these officials serve as Regional Commissioners of Police, among other administrative tasks, such as serving as Chiefs of Customs, responsible for the collection of various fees for the State, execution of judgements and various matters in the field of Family Law and the Legal Competence Act.

In Reykjavík, however, which is by far the largest district, these functions are divided between three institutions: the Reykjavík Commissioner of Police, the Reykjavík Commissioner of Customs and the Magistrate of Reykjavík.

For more information, please see "The Office of the National Commissioner of Police - An Introduction", available on the website of the National Police.

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Criminal Justice System

1. General information
2. Prosecution

1. General information
The court system is divided into two groups: the district courts and the Supreme Court. The eight district courts are independent and located one in each district. The Supreme Court, the highest court in Iceland, was established by law in 1919 and also serves as a Court of Appeals. It consists of nine judges, three to five of whom are assigned to each case, and up to seven in very serious or important cases. For more information, see: "The Iceland Police and the Judicial System" available on the website of the National Police.

2. Prosecution
The Director of Public Prosecutions oversees all police investigations and monitors their progress to ensure that legally prescribed sanctions are applied against persons who have committed crimes, and to supervise the exercise of prosecution authority by Commissioners of Police, including the National Commissioner. The Director prosecutes the more serious offences against the Criminal Code, including offences committed in official capacity and all cases that are tried before the Supreme Court. In lesser cases, prosecution is in the hands of the Police Commissioners.

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Links

Police - Iceland  Police - Iceland http://www.logreglan.is/
Official website of the Icelandic Police

Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs - Iceland  Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs - Iceland http://eng.domsmalaraduneyti.is/
Official website of the Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Iceland  Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Iceland http://www.mfa.is/
Official website of the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs

OSCE/ ODIHR Legislationline - Iceland  OSCE/ ODIHR Legislationline - Iceland http://www.legislationline.org/topics/country/24/topic/12
Legislationline is a gratis internet-based legislative database published and maintained by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Last Updated: 17 January 2007

Also see: Norway, Ireland, United Kingdom