Each year, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (NIM) focuses on some selected topics and issues that are highlighted in the Annual Report. The recommendations are selected on the basis on NIM’s criteria for prioritization, which are based on NIM’s mandate under the NIM Act.
NIM works with many different human rights issues and makes specific recommendations to the responsible authorities in various contexts. The recommendations presented in the Annual Report to Parliament represent a small selection of issues that raise important human rights questions, to which NIM believes Parliament should pay particular attention. Below follows an English translation of the recommendations for 2022.
The recommendations cover the following five thematic areas:
- Reparation of human rights violation in the Fosen case
- Children and illicit drugs
- Hate speech and incitement
- Prison conditions for prisoners with intellectual disabilities
- Municipalities’ human rights responsibilities
Reparation of human rights violation in the Fosen case
Parliament should request the Government to quickly repair the human rights violation that the Supreme Court has determined in the Fosen case, in line with Norway’s human rights obligations.
In the judgment, the Supreme Court stated that reindeer husbandry is a form of protected cultural practice, while at the same time, a way of making a living. The Court established that the wind power development will have a substantive negative effect on the reindeer herders’ possibility to enjoy their own culture on Fosen. In NIM’s opinion, it is serious that there is still an ongoing human rights violation in the Fosen case. Norway is not only obliged to repair this violation, but also to do this in due time.
Children and illicit drugs
Parliament should request the government to ensure that the prevention and treatment reform in the drug area ensures that children using drugs have access to assistance to protect them from use of illicit drugs, while respecting their rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The reform must be human rights based, and the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration, respecting their rights to privacy, health as well as their opportunity to be heard.
Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires States to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. This includes a duty to prevent the use of illegal drugs among children, and to provide adequate treatment and harm reduction services to children who are harmed by drug use. The Convention requires that such measures must be efficient, in other words, that they are suitable to achieve their purpose. The measures must also be in accordance with other human rights obligations under the Convention, such as the right to health, privacy, the child’s opportunity to be heard and that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. The measures must also be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.
Hate speech and incitement
Parliament should request the government to implement long-term and systematic measures to prevent and combat hate speech and incitement against i.a. Sami, national minorities and other vulnerable groups. NIM proposes the following measures:
- Ensure registration and equal treatment of cases concerning hate speech and incitement in all police districts and further develop statistics and analysis of reported incidents
- Establish a low threshold offer for reporting and registry of hate speech and incitement
- Review section 185 of the Penal Code
- Include indigenous peoples and national minorities in developing new or revising existing plans of action
Hate speech and incitement are societal problems as well as a human rights challenge which can contribute to increased prejudices and hatred in society and have as a result that people hesitate to participate in the public debate. Thus, important voices in the public debates might be lost, and it can have a chilling effect on the willingness to undertake positions of trust and participate in politics. In NIM’s opinion, section 185 of the Penal Code (on hate speech) should be revised to make it more linguistically accessible, to specify the threshold for violation that the Supreme Court has determined to clarify protection of freedom of speech as well as the interests that this provision shall protect.
Prison conditions for prisoners with intellectual disabilities
Parliament should request the Government to report on and propose legislative amendments to the prison conditions that people with intellectual disabilities should have. Rules should be proposed on how people with intellectual disabilities in Norwegian prisons should be screened and how the prison sentence should be adapted for this group.
Studies indicate that approximately ten per cent of inmates in Norwegian prisons have cognitive difficulties and that the correctional services in many cases are not aware of this. Rules and guidelines for what types of prison conditions are suitable, and for mapping functional level, are currently inadequate.
According to article 14 (2) of the CRPD, the authorities must ensure that persons with disabilities who are legally deprived of their liberty are safeguarded through reasonable accommodations. NIM believes that the government should ensure that the choice of institution for incarceration is based on the institution’s ability to meet these persons’ needs.
Municipalities’ human rights responsibilities
Parliament should ask the Government to study how the municipalities’ implementation of human rights can be strengthened, including assessing which management tools are suitable for illustrating the municipalities’ human rights responsibilities in different areas. This may, for example, be competence enhancement, regulatory changes, the addition of resources or organizational measures.
According to Article 92 of the Constitution, municipalities in Norway have an independent responsibility to protect and ensure human rights. The Norwegian Supreme Court has in a judgment from 2022 stated that under Norwegian law, the municipality is, in the same way as the state, bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. This also applies to the other human rights conventions that are incorporated into Norwegian law through the Human Rights Act of 1999.
In Norway, there are several human rights challenges facing the municipalities that are responsible for implementing human rights obligations in areas such as child welfare, care for the elderly and in primary and lower secondary schools. Their proximity to local residents and understanding of local conditions mean that municipalities are in a particularly relevant position with regard to addressing human rights challenges.