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Title: Norway Human Rights Practices, 1995 Author: U.S. Department of State Date: March 1996 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 the right to hold private property, are protected by the Constitution and respected in practice. The Government fully respects the rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of individual abuse. 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 political or other extrajudicial killings. b. Disappearance There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that officials employed them. Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile and the Government observes this prohibition. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary vigorously enforces this right. The present court system consists of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court Appellate Court (committee), Superior Courts, County Courts for criminal cases, Magistrate Courts for civil cases, and Claims Courts. Special courts are the Impeachment Court (made up of Parliamentarians), the Labor Court, Trusteeship Courts, Fishery Courts, and something similar to land ownership severance courts. There are no religious, political, or security courts. All Norwegian courts, which date back to laws passed in the eleventh century, meet internationally accepted standards for fair trials. There were no reports of political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Both the Constitution and law prohibit such practices, government authorities generally respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, and the Government respects this right in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system, combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic freedom. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the Government respects this right in practice. 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 belong. There is a constitutional requirement that the King and one-half of the Cabinet belong to this church. The Workers' Protection and Working Environment Act permits prospective employers to ask job applicants 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 law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. There were no forced expulsions of those having a valid claim to refugee status. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The law provides citizens with the right to change their Government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. There are no restrictions, in law or practice, on the participation of women in government or in the political arena generally. Norway has a female Prime Minister, a female president of Parliament, and women lead two of the six main political parties. Women constitute 65 of the 165 members of parliament (39.4 percent), and chair 5 of 15 standing committees. 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. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are very cooperative and responsive to their views. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status, and the Government enforces this prohibition in practice. Women In 1994, there were 38,689 contacts by women with crisis action centers and 2,979 overnight stays by women at shelters. 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 shelters which give battered wives an alternative to returning to a violent domestic situation. The rights of women are protected under the Equal Rights Law of 1978 and other regulations. According to 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 250 written complaints in 1994 and 500 by telephone. There were 150 written complaints in 1995 as of September. On average, 20 percent of all complaints of sexual discrimination are filed by men. Children The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care. An independent Children's Ombudsman Office assures the protection of children in law and practice. There is no pattern of societal abuse directed against children. There is no difference in the treatment of girls and boys in education or health care services. People With Disabilities There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services. The law mandates access to buildings for people with disabilities, and the Government enforces these provisions in 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 Sami's 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). Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The law provides workers with the right to associate freely and to strike. Strikes increased in 1995 over previous years and were settled through negotiations. The Government has the right, with the approval of the Storting, to invoke compulsory arbitration under certain circumstances. The Government came under increasing criticism in 1995 for resorting to compulsory arbitration too quickly during strikes. In addition, this procedure, which was also 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, which argued that the situations were not a sufficient threat to public health and safety to justify the actions. 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. Children are normally in school up to the age of 16. 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 specified minimum wage, but wages normally fall within a national scale negotiated by labor, employers, and the Government. Average 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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