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Rights and obligations of citizens in a democracy

Democracy means that all government authority is derived from the people and that the handling of government authority shall be subject to monitoring by the people. The constitution of the Republic of Iceland states that everyone shall be equal before the law and enjoy human rights.

Right to vote

The right to vote is guaranteed by the constitution, and Icelandic citizens gain such rights at the age of 18. The right to vote means that everyone can:

  • vote in municipal elections

  • vote in Althing elections

  • vote in presidential elections

It is the democratic right of every person to participate in the activities of political parties and other non-governmental organisations.

The website of the Althingi (the Icelandic parliament) contains information on how voters can contact elected representatives, what parties they belong to, what issues are being debated and how to submit comments.

Human rights

Important citizen's rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to personal privacy, and property rights, are guaranteed in the Icelandic Constitution and in international human rights conventions that Iceland has ratified.

The public is entitled to access information held by the authorities, on the fulfillment of certain conditions. The authorities are under obligation to respond to requests for data as soon as possible. Refusals may be appealed to the Information Committee.

Strict rules apply, by law, to the treatment of personal information. The Data Protection Authority is responsible for the implementation of the legislation.

Other rights

There are a number of ways of demanding one's rights with respect to the authorities. In many cases, administrative decisions may be appealed to a higher authority. The authorities are under obligation, in accordance with administrative procedures legislation, to indicate appeals options when parties to a case are informed of decisions.

In such cases, a person who considers him/herself to have been subjected to unfairness or injustice by the state, local authorities, or private persons who have, by law, been granted public authority to make decisions on the rights and obligations of others, may submit a complaint to the Althingi Ombudsman.

According to the Constitution, everyone shall, for the determination of his rights and obligations or in the event of a criminal charge against him, be entitled, following a fair trial and within a reasonable time, to the resolution of an independent and impartial court of law. Further information on the activities of the courts may be obtained from the Judicial Council

Those who require the assistance of an attorney to protect their rights may turn to the Icelandic Bar Association.

Further appeal options, acts of law, judgments and court rulings are published on the law-court sources website.


Every person is under obligation to comply with national laws, the legitimate decisions of the courts and the authorities, and to pay legally determined taxes and other public levies.

Moreover, members of the public, in accordance with the Police Act, are under obligation to comply with instructions given by the police, e.g. as regards traffic management or maintaining law and order in public.

If necessary, the police may request the assistance of any adult person to prevent disorder or unrest in public, among other things.