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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. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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