Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

Norway is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with King
Harald V as the titular Head of State. Norway is governed by a Prime Minister,
Cabinet, and a 165-seat Storting (parliament) that is elected every 4 years and cannot
be dissolved.
The police, security forces, and the military are scrupulous in their protection of
human rights. The Government (including the judicial system and the Storting) exercises
firm control over these organizations and investigates 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 leading advocate of human rights.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
Such killings did not occur.
      b. Disappearance.
Secret arrests and detentions did not occur.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment do not
exist in Norway's penal system. Generous furlougn and visitation rights characterize
the 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 a judge for arraignment within
24 hours. If charges are formalized 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 ajudge 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, lengthypretrial 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 secu860
rity 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 penal and civil cases—as well as special
courts, including the Labor Disputes Court and the Social Insurance Court. The judiciary
is independent of both tne legislative and the executive branches of the Government
and tries military and security as well as civil and criminal cases. The
Labor Court mediates industrial relations disputes.
Persons refusing both military service and alternative civilian service may be 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
prisoners held in this manner receive the salary and benefits normally accorded to
military recruits during their period of confinement. Administrative decisions by the
Ministries of Justice and Defense expanded the grounds for conscientious objector
status in 1988.
      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 Norwegian homes in 1992. 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, Norwegian law forbids racist or sexist remarks in print or public speech. It
is forbidden to publish information concerning national defense that could prove
damaging to Norwegian security.
Norway has an active and diversified press, and many pap>ers are sustained by
government subsidies. Some newspapers are loosely connected to various national
political parties. Norway's state broadcasting company is the major one of two national
television broadcasters and retains a monopoly on national radio stations, but
the Government does not exercise editorial control over programming. Private local
radio stations exist, as do privately owned local cable stations. Private and foreign
television networks are also available on cable throughout Norway.
Certain restrictions apply to the showing of films. The Film Control Board has
the authority to censor or ban any film deemed overly violent, pornographic, or blasphemous.
The blasphemy clause in the censorship law, however, has not been used
in the last 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 93 percent of the
population nominally belongs. There is a constitutional reauirement that the King
and half of the Cabinet belong to the state church. The Workers* Protection and
Working Environment Act permits prospective employers to ask job applicants
whether they respect Christian beliefs ana principles when applying (or a job in private,
religious-run schools and day-care centers.
Approximately 4 percent of the population are registered members of 20 other denominations
which operate freely and may proselytize. Foreign clergy are welcome
in Norway. No religious community is required to register with the Got^emment unless
it desires state support, which is provided to all registered denominations on
a proportional basis in accordance with membership.
Altnough 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 religion classes in that
faith. Workers belonging to minority denominations are allowed leave for religious
      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. Norway maintains the right to re861
patriate rejected asylum seekers involuntarily in certain situations. In practice,
nowever, there have been no recent cases in which a person with a valid claim to
fear of persecution has been involuntarily repatriated from Norway.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Norway is a multiparty democracy. Seven parties are represented in the Storting,
and the distribution of seats is based upon proportional representation by district.
The Storting may reject or modify government proposals; if a government loses a
vote on a major issue of confidence, it resigns, and a new government is formed.
The minimum voting age is 18, and voter turnout in the 1989 parliamentary elections
was over 82 percent. Foreigners who have resided in Norway for at least 3
years, and are otherwise eligible, nave the right to vote in local elections only.
In addition to participating freely in the national political process, Norwegian
Sami (Lapp) elected their own constituent assembly, the Sameting, for the first time
in 1989. The 39-seat body is a consultative group which meets regularly to consider
issues of importance to the Sami people. In August 1990, the Sami population of
Norway hosted the annual convention of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples
in Tromso.
There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on the participation of women in
government or in the political arena generally.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations ofHuman 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 Conunission 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, Language, or Social Status
Through a highly developed social welfare system that reflects a lon^ tradition of
egalitarianism, the Government provides for the health, education, retirement, and
other needs of its people, regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic background, or political
Apart from an extremely small Finnish population in the northeastern comer of
the country, the Sami (Lapp) people were Norwa/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 cultural rights of the Sami by providing Sami-language
instruction at schools in Sami-inhabited areas, radio and television programs
broadcast or subtitled in the Sami language, and subsidies for the publication of
newspapers and books oriented toward the Sami (see Section 3).
There is continuing political debate on whether current restrictions on non-Nordic
immigration, in effect since 1975, are racially motivated and whether inmiigrant minority
px)ups such as Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Turks, and Africans are accorded
equal rights by Norwegian authorities. 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.
As a result of a dramatic increase in the number of persons seeking political asylum
in the mid-1980's, the Storting passed a bill in 1988 that would no longer allow
asylum applicants who are not Ibona fide refugees to remain on humanitarian
The law, while limiting the number of those granted asylum, safeguards 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. Although some individual refugee cases have caused
problems, Norway has a well-organized system which includes advance planning,
careful dispersion of refugees throughout Norway, and generous welfare, educational,
and vocational traming programs. Occasional raciafly motivated attacks on
non-European immigrant groups are dealt with firmly by the police and judicial authorities.
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 Omoudsman processes complaints of sexual dis862
crimination. The Government provides liberal maternity leave and time off for either
parent to care for their children.
Crime against women is not widespread. A recent increase in the crime rate has
included crimes against women, although police authorities believe that much of the
increase in reported rapes and incidents of wife beating is due to a greater willingness
among women to report these crimes than has been the case in the past. The
police vigorously investigate and prosecute such crimes and have instituted special
programs for rape and domestic violence prevention and for counseling victims. Public
and private organizations run several free shelters which give battered wives an
alternative to returning to a violent domestic situation after an incident of wife
Section 6. Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Workers have and exercise the right to associate
freely and to strike. The Government, however, 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,
has been 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 action. The Government again invoked
this procedure in 1992 to stop a public workers' strike.
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. The 1992 collective bargaining round between the National Union
Organization (LO) and the Employers Organization (NHO), to set the nationwide legally
binding "basic agreement," required the services of a government wage mediator.
The last-minute resolution of wage negotiations resulted in moderate wage and
benefit increases. There have been no complaints in recent years of antiunion discrimination,
but such complaints would be dealt with through the Labor Court.
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.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Normal working hours are mandated by law
and do not exceed 37.5 hours per week. The law also provides for 25 working days
of paid leave per year (31 for those over age 60). A 28-hour rest period is legally
mandated on the weekend and for holidays. There is ro minimum wage as such in
Norway, 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 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.