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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. (###)
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