Established in 1989, the Human Rights House in Oslo celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2009. In new premises, it currently hosts seven organisations, with the eighth at a different address.
Main highlights of 2009
Following the move to new premises in May, all organisations in the House took part in the HRH Network’s annual meeting in Oslo in early June, scheduled to coincide with the high profile event, the Global Forum for Human Rights, which hosted a large number of participants.
Thirteen member organisations of the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights, including four from the Human Rights House in Oslo, contributed to a joint submission to the United Nations Universal Period Review mechanism, in advance of the review of Norway. Staff from some of the contributing organisations advocated different aspects of the submission at the review in Geneva in December.
The NGO Forum also submitted its annual set of issues of particular concern accompanied by recommendations on how Norway should raise them, and what should be demanded.
The new HR House in Oslo was officially opened at a reception in December.
Joint activities of organisations
For the parliamentary elections in September, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee organised a professional observation conducted by observers from the South Caucasus and Central Asian countries, as well as from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Many of the observers came from organisations in the HRHN.
In October, many of the organisations on the House signed the Norwegian Tibet Committee’s appeal to Ban Ki-moon to raise climate issues with the People´s Republic of China, since fundamental rights of Tibetans are violated as a direct consequence of Chinese pollution.
The same month, Health and Human Rights Info Reference Group (HHRI) and Fighting Hunger with Human Rights (FIAN) were among the organisers of the international Blue October Campaign, raising awareness about the right to access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
Likewise, most letters of concern distributed by HRHF on behalf of organisations in the HRHN have been supported by one or more of the other organisations in the Oslo House.
Situation for human rights defenders
In Norway, human rights defenders live and work in freedom and in safety. Some work on domestic issues to do with immigration, minorities’ rights, racism, women’s and children’s rights, or religious, cultural, health and welfare rights, but the majority of Norwegian human rights organisations concentrate their efforts on other parts of the world.
Norwegian immigration practice, with refugees being returned to parts of the world where they face threats, persecution, disappearances and murder, is among the most serious issues.
Norway hosts thousands of migrants who have had their asylum applications rejected, but cannot return to their home countries for whatever reason.
Technically defined as illegal, they have no citizen’s rights. They suffer limited or no access to affordable housing, health, social welfare, education or work.
Norway is also criticised for its treatment of juvenile prisoners, excessive use of incommunicado detention, and deprivation of liberty, frequently in combination with the use of coercion in mental health care and psychiatric institutions.