Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1989

Norway is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary
democracy with King Olav V, the titular Head of State, having
a largely symbolic role. 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
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 in the world.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Such killings have not occurred.
      b. Disappearance
Secret arrests and detentions have not occurred.
      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
furlough 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 (bail need not be posted) pending trial. 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 a judge
every 4 weeks for a determination of the necessity of
continued detention. There is no legal limit on the length of
time a prisoner may be held before trial; however, lengthy
pretrial detention is rare. Preventive detention also exists
but is used infrequently.
There is no exile. With regard to forced or compulsory labor,
see Section 6.c.
      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 security 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.
The judiciary is independent of both the 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.
In recent years, the legality of imprisoning those refusing
both military service and alternative civilian service has
become a public issue. Persons refusing both kinds of service
have been 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 salary and benefits
normally accorded to military recruits during their period of
confinement. Recent administrative decisions by the Justice
and Defense Ministries have expanded the grounds for
conscientious objector status.
      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 or in instances
of hot pursuit or when they fear evidence is being destroyed.
There were no allegations of extralegal official entry into
Norwegian hemes in 1989. In most cases, wiretaps are
prohibited by law, but they may be used in cases involving
state security or narcotics offenses and when officially
approved by the court pursuant to 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 foibidden to publish
information concerning national defense which could prove
damaging to Norwegian security.
Norway's state broadcasting company maintains a near monopoly
on television broadcasting and nationwide radio programming,
but the Government does not exercise editorial control over
programming. Private local radio stations exist throughout
the country, and licenses have been granted to private groups
to operate local cable stations. A private televisionnetwork, TV Norge, has been on the air for almost 1 year. It
broadcasts in the Olso area and is available on cable
throughout Norway. Norway has an active and diversified
press, and many papers are sustained by government subsidies.
Some newspapers are loosely connected to various national
political parties.
Certain restrictions apply to the showing of films. The
government 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 has,
however, 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.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      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 requirement 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 in certain fields, such as education,
whether they respect Christian beliefs and principles.
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
Government unless 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 religion 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 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.
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 where 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, itresigns, and a new government is formed. The minimum voting
age is 18, and voter turnout in the 19S9 parliamentary
elections was over 82 percent. Foreigners v;ho have resided in
Norway for at least 3 years, and are otherwise eligible, have
the right to vote in local elections only.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmenta] Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Norway cooperates with nongovernmental investigations of
alleged violations of human rights. In recent years, Norway
has cooperated with both the European Commission of Human
Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Norway is itself an active participant in international human
rights organizations. A number of public and private
organizations monitor alleged human rights abuses either
inside or, more often, outside the country.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Through a highly developed social welfare system that reflects
a long 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 opinion.
Apart from an extremely small Finnish population in the
northeastern corner of the country, the Sami (Lapp) people
were Norway's only significant minority group until the influx
of iiTUTiigrants 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
cr subtitled in the Sami language, and subsidies for the
publication of newspapers and books oriented toward the Sami.
Norwegian Samis elected their own constituent assembly, the
Sameting, for the first time in 1989. The 39-seat body is a
consultative group which will meet regularly to consider
issues of importance to the Sami people. Various Sami and
other leaders have raised the possibility that the Sameting
could eventually be transformed into a constitutional
law-making body within certain territorial and functional
There is continuing political debate on whether current
restrictions on non-Nordic immigration, in effect since 1975,
are racially motivated and whether immigrant minority groups
such as Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Turks, and Africans are
treated equally 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.
In recent years, Norway has experienced a dramatic increase in
the number of persons seeking political asylum. As a result,
the Storting passed a bill in 1988 that would no longer allow
asylum applicants who are not bona fide refugees to remain on
humanitarian grounds. The new law (expected to be fully
operational by early 1990) introduces new measures, however,
designed further to safeguard the rights of those asylum
seekers allowed to remain in Norway. With the rise in the
number of asylum seekers, refugee policy has become a
significant political issue; reducing or ending the inflow of
refugees remains the single most visible issue for the
Progress Party, which posted big gains in the 1989
parliamentary elections. At the same time, some human rights
groups and political parties urged the Government to accept
more refugees and expressed concern over the adequacy of the
treatment given those seeking political asylum in Norway.
Although there have been problems in dealing with individual
refugee cases, Norway has a well-organized system which
includes advance planning, careful dispersion of refugees
throughout Norway, and generous welfare, educational, and
vocational training programs. The current backlog of refugee
cases pending judicial processing is expected to ease
significantly as the new procedures mandated by the 1988 law
are implemented fully.
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." A state Equal Rights Council monitors enforcement of
the 1978 law, and an Equal Rights Ombudsman processes
complaints of sexual discrimination. The Government provides
liberal maternity leave and time off for either parent to care
for their children.
Norway has an extremely low crime rate, and, in that sense,
crime against women is not widespread. A recent general
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 of 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 beating.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike. The
Government, however, has the right to invoke compulsory
arbitration under certain circumstances, with the approval of
the Strorting. This procedure, which has been invoked several
times in the 1980 's, particularly in the oil industry, has
been criticized by the expert committees of the International
Labor Organization, which are of the opinion that the
situations were not a sufficient threat to public health and
safety to justify the action.
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 are free of
party and government control. They maintain strong ties with
international bodies, such as the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions. There were several small but no major
strikes in 1989.
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      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
All workers, including government employees and military
personnel, have the right to organize and bargain
collectively. There are no export processing zones, and labor
legislation and practice is uniform throughout Norway.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not exist.
d. Minimum Age of Employment of Children
Children are not permitted to work full time before the age of
15. Minimum age rules are observed in practice.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Ordinary working hours do not exceed 37.5 hours per week, and
25 working days of paid leave are granted per year (31 for
those over 60) . There is no 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 wage, not including extensive social benefits,
is approximately $26,000, which 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. 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. The Directorate of Labor Inspections
ensures effective compliance with labor legislation