Norway in the crosshairs of the Human Rights Committee
The United Nations Human Rights Committee engaged on 24 and 25 October a dialogue with the Norwegian government on questions related to the implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the country. Discussions were enriched by the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights that submitted a report and its replies to the List of Issues to the Committee.
Saturday, 05 November 2011, by HRHF
The NGO Forum’s report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee raised special concerns over a large variety of issues such as the rights to be brought promptly before a judge upon arrest, duration and conditions of police arrest, involuntary deprivation of liberty and use of force in psychiatry, protection of refugees, implementation of the Istanbul-protocol, ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and transfer of responsibility of care for unaccompanied asylum seekers in the 15-18 years old range to the Child Welfare Services. Moreover, in their Reply to the List of Issues, NGOs expressed concern over the use of coercion and restraint in mental health care, the increased use of pre-trial detention and solitary pre-trial detention, and the excessive length and conditions of detention of juveniles, amongst others.
In the course of the dialogue, NGO Forum articulated its wish for Norway’s government to reveal its strategy to reduce the length and incidence of pre-trial detention of juveniles. Furthermore, the NGO Forum asked about the steps taken to provide full access of the defence to all evidence in a case and whether the state party considered effective remedies for any alleged violation of the Covenant. With regards to the care for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, NGO Forum enquired about the methods used by Norway to assess the consideration of non-discrimination and expressed concern by the lack of progress to include minor asylum seekers in the child welfare system. In addition, NGO Forum underlined the need to enhance Dublin II regulation guarantees in recipient countries.
In the Committee’s concluding observations, recommendations took most of the concerns raised by the NGO Forum into account. Additional considerations of the Committee mention the need for Norway’s government to review its free legal scheme to provide for free legal assistance in any case where the interests of justice so requires, and call to take all necessary measures to effectively combat all forms of violence against women, particularly sexual violence. Furthermore, the Committee expresses to be concerned at reports of excessive use of coercive force on psychiatric patients and of poor mechanisms of the Control Commissions in monitoring mental health care institutions. Moreover, while welcoming the efforts by the State party to establish separate juvenile detention units, the Committee is concerned that Norway maintains a reservation to article 10(2)(b) and (3) of the Covenant and that Juveniles are not segregated from adult prisoners.
It is worth mentioning though that despite the insistence of the NGO Forum the Human Rights Committee failed to inquire the State in its concluding observation about existent guarantees to avoid “refoulement” to Schengen Member States that could amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or where vulnerable persons would be subject to lack of access to basic services. NGOs must thus remain vigilant in the follow up of this particular matter, as well as closely monitor implementation of the above recommendations.
Follow-up of the review
In its concluding observations, the Human Rights Committee requests Norway to provide, within one year, relevant information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations made on the national human rights institution (paragraph 5 of the observations), on excessive use of coercive force on psychiatric patients and on the monitoring mental health care institutions (paragraph 10), and on the length and conditions of pre-trial detention of juveniles (paragraph 12).
"The Committee identifies around three or four recommendations on the basis of their particular seriousness and possibility of implementation within a one-year period. These recommendations are clearly identified in a paragraph at the end of the concluding observations. Thus, the States parties have one year to provide information on the measures taken to give effect to these follow-up recommendations." (more information)
At each session of the Committee, a member of the Committee appointed as follow-up Rapporteur presents an updated follow-up progress report with new information and progress made since the previous session of the Committee. The follow-up information submitted by States parties, the information received from other sources, and the Rapporteur’s letters to States parties, can be found below under each session.
Watch the review of Norway:
Norwegian NGO Forum:
The Norwegian NGO Forum is a coalition of Norwegian non-governmental organizations including the following NGOs which participated to the coalition reporting to the UN Human Rights Committee: