The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

TITLE:  NORWAY HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             NORWAY


Norway is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy 
with King Harald V as the Head of State.  It is governed by a 
Prime Minister, Cabinet, and a 165-seat Storting (Parliament) 
which is elected every 4 years and cannot be dissolved.

The police, security forces, and the military scrupulously 
protect human rights.  Civilian authorities effectively control 
these organizations, and investigate thoroughly any allegations 
of human rights violations.

Norway is an advanced industrial state with a mixed economy 
combining private, public, and state ownership.  Personal 
freedoms, such as freedom of association and of speech and the 
right to pursue private interests and to hold private property, 
are protected by the Constitution and respected in practice.

Deeply rooted democratic principles, a strong egalitarian 
tradition, an independent press, and highly developed 
educational and social welfare systems have made Norway a 
notable practitioner of human rights.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
     
There were no reports of such killings.

     b.  Disappearance
     
There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment or punishment on the part of law 
enforcement or armed services personnel.  Generous furlough and 
visitation rights characterize the penal system, which 
emphasizes rehabilitation.  The maximum sentence for any crime 
is 21 years.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Norwegian law provides for arrest warrants, which are used 
except in circumstances such as hot pursuit.  Persons may be 
detained for up to 4 hours without being charged.  A person 
charged with a crime has the right, observed in practice, to 
appear before the judge for arraignment within 24 hours.  If 
charges are sustained at the arraignment, the judge then 
determines whether the detainee should be kept in custody or 
released pending trial.  Bail need not be posted.  A strong 
case must be made to justify detention.  Possible grounds 
include fear of flight, the needs of the investigation, and 
fear that a detainee will commit further crimes.

Any person held in pretrial detention appears before a judge 
every 4 weeks for a determination of the necessity of continued 
detention.  There is no legal limit on the time a prisoner may 
be held before trial; however, lengthy pretrial detention is 
rare.  Preventive detention also exists but is used 
infrequently.  There is no exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right to a fair, public trial is ensured by law and honored 
in practice.  Only in certain cases, including those involving 
state security or private family matters, are trials closed.  
In criminal cases, all Norwegian citizens and aliens are 
entitled to free counsel.  Indigent persons are granted free 
counsel in certain civil cases as well.

Norway has a three-tiered system of district and city courts, 
high courts, and the Supreme Court--all of which deal with both 
criminal and civil cases--as well as special courts, including 
the Labor Disputes Court and the Social Insurance Court.  The 
judiciary is independent of both the legislative and the 
executive branches of the Government and tries military and 
security as well as civil and criminal cases.

Persons refusing both military service and alternative civilian 
service have been held in prison for up to 16 months (a period 
equivalent to military service) without a trial.  Detention is 
based on an administrative rather than a judicial decision, and 
throughout such detention the prisoner receives the salary and 
benefits normally accorded to a military recruit.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The privacy of the family and the person is free from arbitrary 
interference by the Government.  Police may conduct searches of
the home only with court approval and in instances of hot 
pursuit or when they fear evidence is being destroyed.  There 
were no allegations of forced entry into homes in 1994.  In 
most cases, wiretaps are prohibited by law, but they may be 
used in cases involving state security or narcotics offenses 
when officially approved by the court within carefully drawn 
legal guidelines.  Correspondence may be opened only by court 
order in cases involving state security.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press is protected by the Constitution 
and respected in practice.  In addition to restrictions on 
slander and libel, the law forbids racist or sexist remarks in 
print or public speech, and it also prohibits publication of  
sensitive information concerning national defense.

Norway has an active and diversified press, and many papers are 
sustained by government subsidies.  Some newspapers are loosely 
connected to various national political parties.  Norway's 
state broadcasting company is the more prominent of two 
national television networks (the other is private) but the 
Government does not exercise editorial control over programming.

Private local radio stations and one private national radio 
station exist, as do privately owned local and national cable 
television stations.  Foreign television networks are also 
available on cable throughout Norway.  The Film Control Board, 
appointed by the Ministry of Culture, has authority to censor 
or ban any film deemed overly violent, pornographic, or 
blasphemous.  The law on blasphemy, however, has not been 
invoked in over 20 years.  There is no evidence that any films 
have been censored because of political content.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Norwegians exercise these freedoms without restraint.  Permits 
for public demonstrations are granted routinely.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The state church is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, 
which is financially supported by the State, and to which some 
93 percent of the population nominally belongs.  There is a 
constitutional requirement that the King and half of the
Cabinet belong to this church.  The Workers' Protection and 
Working Environment Act permits prospective employers to ask 
applicants for jobs in private or religious schools, or in 
day-care centers, whether they respect Christian beliefs and 
principles.

Other denominations operate freely.  A religious community is 
required to register with the Government only if it desires 
state support, which is provided to all registered 
denominations on a proportional basis in accordance with 
membership.  Although the state religion is taught in all 
public schools, children of other faiths are allowed to be 
absent from such classes upon parental request.  If there are 
enough students of the same faith, the school will arrange 
classes in that faith.  Workers belonging to minority 
denominations are allowed leave for religious holidays.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not impede foreign or domestic travel.  The 
right to voluntary repatriation is guaranteed.  Refugees and 
asylum seekers are provided generous benefits, including social 
services, free medical care, and education while awaiting 
decisions on their asylum applications.  A thorny issue in 
Norway has been the Government's treatment of rejected asylum  
seekers from the province of Kosovo in Serbia.  Some were 
involuntarily repatriated; others were expelled to a prior 
country of first asylum; and many who were denied asylum sought 
and found sanctuary in the Norwegian Lutheran churches.

In 1994 the Government began implementing an agreement, 
announced by the Minister of Justice in November 1993, whereby 
it would review the cases of the approximately 2,500 Kosovans 
in Norway whose applications had previously been rejected, 
including some 650 who had taken sanctuary in Lutheran 
churches.  By year's end about 1,500 of these cases had been 
reviewed, and all of these were granted asylum on humanitarian 
grounds except 50 or so who had criminal records or had made 
serious misrepresentations or fraudulent claims.  After 
Norway's November 1993 announcement a separate group of 2,500 
Kosovans, whose asylum requests had been denied by Sweden, 
entered Norway from there; but, with the Swedish Government's 
consent, Norwegian authorities started returning them to 
Sweden, and by the end of 1994 few were still in Norway.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Norway is a multiparty democracy.  Members of the Storting are 
elected on the basis of universal suffrage, and secret 
balloting, for citizens over age 18.  If a government loses a 
vote on a major issue of confidence, it resigns and a new 
government is formed, without resort to dissolution of the 
Parliament and the holding of new elections.  Elections are 
regularly held every 4 years.

Foreigners who have resided in Norway for at least 3 years, and 
are otherwise eligible, have the right to vote in local 
elections only.

In addition to participating freely in the national political 
process, Norwegian Sami (Lapps) elected their own constituent 
assembly, the Sameting, in 1993 for the second time.  Under the 
law establishing the 39-seat body, it is a consultative group 
which meets regularly to deal with "all matters which in (its) 
opinion are of special importance to the Sami people."  In 
practice, the Sameting has been most interested in protecting 
the group's language and cultural rights and in influencing 
decisions on resources and lands where Sami are a majority.

There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on the 
participation of women in government or in the political arena 
generally.  Norway has a female Prime Minister, and a woman 
leads the principal opposition party.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

A number of public and private organizations monitor alleged 
human rights abuses either inside or, more often, outside the 
country.  The Government cooperates with nongovernmental 
investigations of alleged violations of human rights and, in 
recent years, has cooperated with both the European Commission 
of Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees.  Norway is an active participant in international 
human rights organizations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Through a highly developed social welfare system that reflects 
a long tradition of egalitarianism, the Government provides for 
the health, education, retirement, and other needs of its 
people, regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic background, 
physical disability, or political opinion.

     Women

The rights of women are protected under the Equal Rights Law of 
1978 and other regulations.  Under that law, "women and men 
engaged in the same activity shall have equal wages for work of 
equal value."  An Equal Rights Council monitors enforcement of 
the 1978 law, and an Equal Rights Ombudsman processes 
complaints of sexual discrimination.  There were 277 complaints 
in 1993 and 233 in 1994 as of November.

Crimes against women are not widespread.  Police authorities 
believe that increases in reported rapes and wife beatings in 
recent years have been largely due to greater willingness among
women to report these crimes.  The police vigorously 
investigate and prosecute such crimes, and have instituted 
special programs to prevent rape and domestic violence and to 
counsel victims.  Public and private organizations run several 
free shelters which give battered wives an alternative to 
returning to a violent domestic situation.

     Children

The Government is highly committed to the welfare of children, 
reflecting a similarly profound commitment in Norwegian 
society.  An independent Children's Ombudsman Office assures 
the protection of children in law and practice.

     Indigenous People

Apart from a tiny Finnish population in the northeast, the Sami 
constituted Norway's only significant minority group until the 
influx of immigrants during the 1970's.  In recent years, the 
Government has taken steps to protect the Samis' cultural 
rights by providing Sami-language instruction at schools in 
their areas, radio and television programs broadcast or 
subtitled in Sami, and subsidies for newspapers and books 
oriented toward the Sami (see Section 3).

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is continuing political debate on whether current 
restrictions on non-Nordic immigration, in effect since 1975, 
are racially motivated and whether immigrant minority groups 
such as Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Turks, and Africans are 
accorded equal rights by Norwegian authorities.  Eligibility 
for citizenship is based on residency.  The Government provides 
legal protection for the rights of all minorities and has taken 
active measures to help these groups adjust to Norwegian 
society, including free Norwegian-language instruction for any 
foreign resident and funding of nongovernmental organizations 
such as the Antiracism Center.

The Storting in 1988 significantly revised the immigration law 
in order, among other things, to make the processing of refugee 
and asylum cases more consistent with the provisions of the 
U.N. Convention on Refugees.  The current law provides that 
asylum may no longer be granted solely on humanitarian grounds 
to those applicants who had been determined not to have a 
well-grounded fear of persecution.  The law, while limiting the 
number of those granted asylum, continues to safeguard the 
rights of those asylum seekers allowed to remain in Norway.  
Refugee policy continues to be a significant political issue; 
some groups call for reducing the inflow of refugees and 
others--human rights groups and political parties--urge the 
Government to accept more refugees.

Some asylum cases have caused problems, but Norway has a 
well-organized system which includes advance planning, careful 
dispersion of refugees throughout the populace, and generous 
welfare, educational, and vocational training programs.

     People with Disabilities

The physically disabled are fully integrated into society, and 
are protected from discrimination in employment, education, and
the provision of any state service.  Accessibility is mandatory 
in new construction.  In existing buildings accessibility is 
mandatory if the building is refitted for new uses.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The law provides workers the right to associate freely and to 
strike.  Strikes in 1994 were few, brief, and settled through 
negotiations.  The Government has the right, with the approval 
of the Storting, to invoke compulsory arbitration under certain 
circumstances.  This procedure, which was invoked several times 
in the 1980's, particularly in the oil industry, was criticized 
repeatedly by the Committee of Experts of the International 
Labor Organization (ILO), which argued that the situations were 
not a sufficient threat to public health and safety to justify 
the actions.  At year's end the ILO had before it a case in 
which the Seamen's Union and offshore workers accused the 
Government of ordering compulsory arbitration without the 
required justification.

With membership totaling about 60 percent of the work force, 
unions play an important role in political and economic life, 
and are consulted by the Government on important economic and 
social problems.  Although the largest trade union federation 
is associated with the labor party, all unions and labor 
federations are free of party and government control.  Unions 
are free to form federations and to affiliate internationally.  
They maintain strong ties with such international bodies as the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

All workers, including government employees and military 
personnel, exercise the right to organize and bargain 
collectively.  Collective bargaining is widespread, with most 
wage earners covered by negotiated settlements, either directly 
or through understandings which extend the contract terms to 
workers outside of the main labor federation and the employers' 
bargaining group.  Any complaint of antiunion discrimination  
would be dealt with by the Labor Court, but there have been 
none in recent years.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not exist.  The 
Directorate of Labor Inspections ensures compliance.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children aged 13 to 18 may be employed part-time in light work 
that will not adversely affect their health, development, or 
schooling.  Minimum-age rules are observed in practice and 
enforced by the Directorate of Labor Inspections.  Nine years 
of education is compulsory in Norway.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Normal working hours are mandated by law and limited to 37 1/2 
hours per week.  The law also provides for 25 working days of 
paid leave per year (31 days for those over age 60).  A 28-hour 
rest period is legally mandated on weekends and holidays.  
There is no minimum wage as such, but wages normally fall 
within a national wage scale negotiated by labor, employers, 
and the Government.  The average annual per capita income, not 
including extensive social benefits, is adequate to provide a 
worker and family a decent living.

Under the Workers' Protection and Working Environment Act of 
1977, all employed persons are assured safe and physically 
acceptable working conditions.  Specific standards are set by 
the Directorate of Labor Inspections in consultation with 
nongovernmental experts.  According to the Act, working 
environment committees composed of management, workers, and 
health personnel must be established in all enterprises with 50 
or more workers, and safety delegates must be elected in all 
organizations.  Workers enjoy strong rights to remove 
themselves from situations which endanger their health.  The 
Directorate of Labor Inspections ensures effective compliance 
with labor legislation and standards.

(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.