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Human Rights Committee examines civil and political rights in Norway

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15 March 2018

Human Rights Committee examines civil and political rights in Norway

GENEVA (15 March 2018) - The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded the consideration of the seventh periodic report of Norway its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
Presenting the report, Sveinung Rotevatn, State Secretary from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway, informed the Committee that a new human rights catalogue had been added to the Constitution in 2014 and that the national human rights institution in full compliance with the Paris Principles had been set up in 2015.  Also in 2015, Norway had adopted a comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, which was enforced through the Equality and Discrimination Tribunal which had the authority to impose coercive fines to ensure compliance or award compensation.  The Mental Care Act had been amended in 2017 to extend the patient’s right to make decisions concerning their own health.  The human rights debate in Norway revolved around the rights of the Sami and the integration of immigrants.  With the participation of the Sami Parliament, the Government was developing a proposal to formalize the consultation procedures in the law, said Mr. Rotevatn and stressed that a general requirement to obtain agreement or a free, prior and informed consent, the “right to veto”, could not be derived from international instruments.  Turning to the question of the integration of immigrants, Mr. Rotevatn said that Norway was starting a comprehensive reform of the integration and inclusion policy to accelerate and improve the results in that area.  A new integration strategy would be launched before the end of 2018, and would focus on the integration of immigrants in everyday life, into work and education, and on liberating immigrant youths from negative social controls.

During the discussion, Committee Experts remarked that Norway was, by many accounts, a world standard in many respects of human rights, however there was still work to be done.  Norway remained a country in which church and state were linked, while the human rights catalogue did not recognize the freedom of religion, raising concern that Christian religion was favoured over others.  An issue that drew particular attention was hate speech and its various manifestations, including on the Internet, and against groups such as Romani, Roma, Muslims, Jews and the Sami.  Experts inquired about the police surveillance in relation to the right to privacy, solitary confinement in places of detention, were concerned about the active ethnic profiling by the police.  People with immigrant backgrounds continued to face discrimination in the housing and the labour markets.  Norway had a reputation for having one of the most restrictive asylum policies in Europe, and recent legal amendments reduced criteria and safeguards for the “safe third country” and “safe country of origin” concepts, thus allowing returns to countries such as Afghanistan or Russia.  Detention of asylum seekers continued, and there was evidence of children being detained for unreasonable amounts of time.  Women continued to suffer violence, particularly Sami women who reported higher incidences of all forms of violence.  Experts inquired about actions to protect the Sami rights to land and resources, to protect their reindeer husbandry and fishing, and ensure their active participation in decision-making including through the Sami Parliament.

Yuji Iwasawa, Committee Chair, in his final remarks, thanked the delegation for the excellent dialogue on a range of issues, from problems of social exclusion to Sami rights to the situation in prisons.

The delegation of Norway consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Children and Equality, Norwegian Directorate of Health, and the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Norway towards the end of its session, which concludes on 6 April 2018.  

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at UN Web TV.


The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 15 March at 3 p.m., to begin the consideration of the third periodic report of Lebanon (CCPR/C/LBN/3).


Report

The Committee is considering the seventh periodic report of Norway (CCPR/C/NOR/7).

Presentation of Report

SVEINUNG ROTEVATN, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway, informed the Committee that a new human rights catalogue had been added to the Constitution in 2014, which until then only contained some human rights provisions but never a comprehensive catalogue of rights.  Essential human rights were now included as well as most of the rights found in the Covenant, and such an amendment clearly strengthened human rights in the Norwegian legal system.  A national human rights institution had been established in July 2015 in full compliance with the Paris Principles.  The Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been integrated into a new institution in January 2017, with a view of strengthening the capacity to monitor the situation of human rights of the Sami; it had already become an important actor in the public debate on human rights issues.  A comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act adopted in 2015 prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, parental leave in connection to birth or adoption, caring for children or close family members, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and age.  The enforcement of the Act had been strengthened, since the Equality and Discrimination Tribunal had the authority to impose coercive fines to ensure compliance or award compensation in cases concerning employment matters.  The Discrimination Ombud would now act as a proactive agent for equal opportunities.

The use of coercive measures in the mental health sector was an area of concern both for the Committee and the Government, remarked Mr. Rotevatn, adding that Norway worked hard to improve legislation, reporting, leadership, competence, values and attitudes in this domain.  The 2017 amendment to the Mental Care Act extended the patients’ right to make decisions concerning their own health.  Patients with the capacity to consent could not be hospitalized or treated against their will except in extreme cases.  Under the new Act, patients were entitled to five hours of free legal counsel in connection with complaints concerning examinations and treatments carried out without their consent.  In terms of the implementation of the Act, Norway had invested in increasing health sector’s knowledge on how to reduce involuntary measures.  The Research Council of Norway had awarded a research grant of 15 million kroner to address geographical differences in the use of involuntary measures, and to develop an intervention study on how the municipal health care services could reduce referrals to specialized health care.  The use of police custody cells for pre-trial detention was another issue Norway had addressed.  Detained persons were now transferred to a prison facility within 48 hours as police custody cells were not suitable for a prolonged stay; however, a lack of prison capacity sometimes meant that this regulation was not fully implemented.

The human rights debate in Norway revolved around the rights of the Sami and the integration of immigrants, noted Mr. Rotevatn, and reiterated Norway’s belief in consultation and participation as fundamental principles of the rights of indigenous peoples.  In that vein, consultations between State authorities and the Sami Parliament had been formalized and in place since 2005, with many consultations taking place each year.  The Government was currently working, with the participation of the Sami Parliament, on a proposal to formalize the consultation procedures in the law, to be presented to Parliament this year.  Confirming that the central elements of the Sami policy in Norway revolved around article 27 of the Covenant and the Committee’s interpretation of that article, Mr. Rotevatn stressed the duty of the State to consult indigenous peoples to reach an agreement concerning the rights listed in the said article.  The denial of the right of a community to enjoy its own culture would be incompatible with the Covenant, he said, however a general requirement to obtain agreement or a free, prior and informed consent, the “right to veto”, could not be derived from international instruments.  Turning to the question of the integration of immigrants, Mr. Rotevatn said that Norway was starting a comprehensive reform of the integration and inclusion policy to accelerate and improve the results in that area.  A new integration strategy would be launched before the end of 2018, and it would focus on the integration of immigrants in everyday life, into work and education, and on liberating immigrant youths from negative social controls.  

Questions by Committee Experts

At the beginning of the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts referred to the 2012 constitutional amendment and remarked that Norway remained a country in which church and state were linked, as the Church of Norway remained “the people’s church”.  What was more, the human rights catalogue did not recognize the freedom of religion, so there was a concern over favouring Christian religion over others.

The delegation was asked when the reservations to some articles of the Covenant, particularly in relation to the separation of juvenile offenders from adults, would be lifted.

Experts welcomed the establishment of the new national human rights institution, the efforts to ensure its compliance with the Paris Principles and the its A-status accreditation, as well as its broad mandate to protect human rights under the scope of the Constitution and international law.  They urged Norway to ensure that it had sufficient resources to run properly and independently.

An issue that drew Experts’ particular attention was hate speech and its various manifestations, including on the Internet, and against groups such as Romani, Roma, Muslims, Jews and the Sami.  Registering hate speech statistics would be valuable in helping victims of hate crime and prosecuting those found guilty of perpetuating the acts, Experts stressed and inquired about the measures to build the capacity of the police to address this issue.

Speaking about surveillance and the changes to the Police Act, Experts remarked that police monitoring through satellite and electronic communications systems raised questions about privacy.  There were also concern about ethnic profiling by the police, as section 21 of the Immigration Act authorized the police to stop people assumed to be foreign nationals.

Immigrants faced discrimination in the housing and the labour market, with many finding it difficult to rent property.  Unemployment rates among those with an immigrant background was nearly three times higher than the rest of the population, and discrimination was also reflected in their choices of profession and employment and education levels.    

What was being done to address the gender wage gap?

Experts commended the steps to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including through the adoption of the Legal Gender Amendment Act, and noted that transgender persons continued to experience difficulties in accessing public health care, including gender reassignment surgery and other treatments specific to transgender people.  How were the recommendations by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance in this regard being implemented?

Committee Experts recognized the many initiatives to prevent violence against women, such as the 2015 information campaign launched by the police, the ongoing reforms of the police forces and the 2016 Project November initiative.  However, women continued to suffer violence and statistic showed that one in ten women had been raped and half of those who reported rape were under the age of 18.  Sami women reported higher incidences of all forms of violence compared to other women.  Further, it appeared that access to justice for rape victims was difficult: of the cases that did reach the courts, 30 per cent had resulted in an acquittal.  What was being done to reduce the acquittal rate in rape cases and to address violence, including sexual violence against Sami women in particular?

An Expert asked the State party to clarify the reform of the Ombud law, which had moved certain powers to the Tribunal, and to explain how the Ombud could help people before the cases reached the Tribunal.

The delegation was asked to inform about the results of the investigation into the disappearance of 68 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in 2012, as well as disappearance of other 625 children during 2008 to 2015 period.  The number of children disappearing in Norway was alarming, with hundreds reported every year.

Responses by Delegation

In response to questions raised about the separation of the State and the Church, the delegation reiterated that the rights enshrined in article 18 of the Covenant concerning the freedom of religion were fully protected in Norwegian law.  The Parliament considered that article 16 of the Constitution sufficiently guaranteed this right, even if the King had to profess Lutheran religion.  While the article stated that the Church of Norway remained "the church of the people", it also stipulated that all the philosophical and religious communities must benefit indistinctly from the support of the State.  The requirement that more than half of the members of the Government must profess the official religion of the State had been repealed.  
 
On 1 January, 2017, the Church of Norway had become an independent legal entity, therefore the employer's responsibility for the clergy and the national and regional administrations of the Church of Norway had been transferred from the State to the Church.  The State would continue to fund the Church of Norway, but this support now takes the form of a grant instead of a state budget appropriation.

Under the law, surveillance had to comply with the right to privacy.  There were plans to appoint a committee to assess methods available to the police with the respect to the right to privacy.  It was crucial that the legislative standards did not infringe on privacy or human rights, stressed the delegate, noting that this issue was subject of a heated debate in Parliament which was planning a hearing on privacy in the course of the year.

Norway was not ready to lift the reservations to article 10.2.B and 10.3 of the Covenant to keep juveniles separate from adults in prisons, however, in practice it ensured this separation.  The prison units were more than sufficient to accommodate minors, however being placed in a juvenile unit was not always practical.  By placing the child in a prison closer to home they could have better contact with their families.  Larger groups of juveniles were kept separate for logistical reasons, which would explain why some minors would spend a short period of time in ordinary prisons.

The funding of the national human rights institution was under the purview of the Parliament, which did not have the right to instruct it on operational or substantive matters. The Institution had 16 staff spread out over two offices who had expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples and minority groups, and it operated with a budget of 24.5 million Norwegian krona, an increase from 2016.

The Government had launched a comprehensive strategy to combat hate speech to 2020 which included 23 measures designed to counter hostile rhetoric based on gender, ethnicity, religion, belief, disability, sexual orientation, identity or gender expression.  The measures included police oversight, as well as the recording and reporting of offenses.  The strategy had been translated in English and in Sami language to aid its dissemination.  Since 2014, the Government was supporting a campaign entitled "Stop hate speech on the Internet" as part of a Council of Europe youth initiative which aimed to create a national network of youth mobilized against hate speech.  A Nordic conference had been held in Oslo on hate speech, while a website with efforts to combat hate speech directed at young people was available.

In 2017, the police had received 549 reports of hate crimes nationally, however the quality of registering those cases was not yet at a level to draw any concrete conclusions, said a delegate.  175 cases had been registered in 2016 and of those 50 had been violent crimes.  Hate crimes didn’t seem to have one main target in particular; they were committed against many groups from many walks of life.  No cases were dismissed because of a lack of police capacity, there were follow-ups and some cases were closed because of lack of evidence.

Speaking about ethnic profiling, a delegate said that section 21 of the Police Act allowed police to stop people and ask for their identity papers.  Basic police training taught how to deal with different groups in society with respect and tolerance.  Controls of individuals, regardless of their ethnicity, must be done in a proper way and not just because of the colour of their skin.  There had to be something that would give grounds for the controls: time, place and situation.  Norwegian citizens with foreign backgrounds had been stopped as a part of that Act, showing that it was still a work in progress.

As a part of a national strategy, all citizens were given tools to access the housing market and there had to be a decent rental supply to ensure proper housing.  Norway aimed, by 2020, to increase the rental capacity by ten per cent.  Immigrants were allocated housing six months after having obtained their residence permit.  Some 95,000 people had used Government’s housing allowance in 2017 but it was not known how many were of immigrant background.  While discrimination was prohibited including on grounds of skin colour, language, religion, or origin, discriminatory mechanisms were present in the housing market.  A rent disputes tribunal had been set up and there was a website with information for immigrants that explained how to file complaints, how to receive help and how to access an interpreter to resolve issues.  A website, “New in Norway”, explained tenant rights and supplied refugees and those with minority backgrounds information about how to rent property.

Norway was working on removing obstacles for immigrants to enter the labour market, and was focusing on integration in work and education.  In order to facilitate the integration by supporting language learning, a programme had been put in place to train teachers of Norwegian as a foreign language, which had the budget of about three million kroner, while another six million would be devoted to the organization of language examinations.  Additional 120 million kroner were allocated to a programme of job offers and training for refugees with a foreign university degree.  The job opportunity programme contained actions for women, subsidies for schools that offered education to young immigrants, and the support to municipalities to offer a fourth year in the introduction program if needed.

As far as multiple and intersecting discrimination was concerned, the delegation stressed that it was prohibited under the law and that the Equality and Discrimination Tribunal had the authority to award compensation for discrimination in a workplace.

The gender wage gap had reduced but the challenges concerning equal pay were still being discussed by the authorities and its social partners.  In 2016, the average salary of women working full-time was 87.6 per cent of that of men.  

Transgender people had the same rights to healthcare as all other Norwegians.  Gay men had a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and higher records of substance abuse and psychological disorders.  Educational material was distributed to raise awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.  Health services should be provided without discrimination, however issues remained which launched a re-evaluation of the system in favour of transgender individuals.

Violence against women, including rape, was heavily underreported.  The delegation noted that 10.5 per cent of women reported the case themselves to police and 80.2 per cent of victims felt shame, to which societal attitudes toward rape contributed.  Victims’ fear of reprisal cold be another reason which explained underreporting.  Twelve support centres had been established to support and assist victims of violence and their families, including victims of rape.  The “Good Guy” campaign goal was to prevent rape and a new web portal had been created to explain the rights and promote assistance to victims of rape.  Other measures included better preparation and education of police forces.  There were plans to revise the definition of rape in the penal code.  A total of 1,904 rape cases had been reported to police in 2015; the police had investigated 1,392 cases, made charges in 393 cases of which 180 ended in convictions.

Concerning domestic violence in the Sami communities, many victims experienced barriers that prevented them from seeking help.  They faced cultural and linguistic barriers in accessing the support services, as well as the police.  The fact that Sami women were typically viewed as strong might prevent them from seeking help.  A research program yielded results of the extent and causes of domestic violence against the Sami women.  The Shelter Act provided shelter services to both women, men and children including in the traditional Sami areas.  In addition, there was at least one support centre in each county and a family counselling service, to provide help to families and children that experienced violence.  The Government was looking into the reports that a Sami shelter was not delivering adequate services for the Sami population.

The Ministry of Justice was considering a new plan to follow up on the previous legislation concerning domestic violence.  As the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) had been ratified, it would be an important tool in preparing a new action plan.

The Ombud had the right to bring cases to the Tribunal and on the behalf of the victim, and could also bring cases to ordinary courts, as stated in the Dispute Act.

The delegation recognized that the issue of disappeared asylum seeking children was a complex and challenging one, and recognized that their disappearance from asylum centres was alarming.  The Government improved the guidelines on how to deal with such disappearances and how the reception centres should act in cases of potential human trafficking, and it also increased funding to the centres to strengthen the staff capacity.  The police often had little information about the missing person, but each and every case was thoroughly looked at.

Questions by Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts took note with concern of the 2017 report by the Parliamentary Ombudsperson on the situation of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in prisons, including at Ila Prison, and raised issues of their isolation and lack of access to health services, which could amount to cruel treatment.  What system was in place to ensure that persons with disabilities were properly diagnosed and received proper health care in prison?

Prolonged solitary confinement of detainees could also amount to a violation of a prohibition of cruel treatment, an Expert remarked, and asked the delegation to explain the legal provision allowing a complete exclusion of prisoners.  What measures and safeguards were in place to guarantee fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty?  Legal aid was dependent on the means of the person, but it failed to consider the circumstances of applicants and the actual cost of the legal services sought – were there plans to amend the Legal Aid Act and so remove barriers to access to justice?

With regards to juvenile justice, Experts recognized the steps Norway had taken to address the special needs of juveniles in prisons, and noted with concern the situation of 34 children who in 2016 had been held for longer than 24 hours without a court hearing, despite the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act which required that a minor be presented to the court as soon as possible.

It was a matter of concern that Norway continued to detain asylum seekers, stressing that detention must be lawful, necessary and proportional, and must not be imposed on grounds of administrative expediency.  Recent legal amendments had allowed detention of a person whose asylum request was not likely to be granted, or if the application was unfounded.  There was evidence of children being detained for unreasonable amounts of time.

Norway had a reputation for having one of the most restrictive asylum policies in Europe.  The recent amendments to the Immigration Act introduced an expedited admissibility procedure with reduced criteria and safeguards for the “safe third country” and “safe country of origin” concepts, thus allowing returns to countries such as Afghanistan or Russia.  Did that mean that safeguards were watered down and people were more at danger now to be victims of violations than before?
 
There was a systemic policy to separate Roma children from their mothers and place them in foster care, even at birth; Roma children represented half of all non-immigrant children in foster care.  How were those children reintegrated within their families and how was their culture preserved while they were in foster care, asked an Expert?

The provisions which rules the process of acquiring nationality for people born in Norway had been changed, not by an act of Parliament but by an instruction, which raised concern about safeguards against statelessness.

The delegation was asked to inform on actions to protect the Sami rights to land and resources, and protect their reindeer husbandry and fishing, as well as to eliminate discrimination against the Sami peoples.  Were the Sami people consulted in decision-making matters and there were allegations that the mandate of the Sami parliament was restricted to the role of an advisory board, could the delegation comment?

Responses by Delegation

A delegate addressed questions raised on the incarceration of persons with mental health issues, and reiterated the commitment of the Government to strengthening the mental health services available for prisoners, especially as a study had found that the percentage of people with mental health problems in the population was much higher in prisons than outside.  One of the recommendations was to let the specialized health personnel work inside the prisons, and that was how mental health services had been organized in many prisons.  Thirteen prisons had substance use treatment centres.  There were no hospital wards in the prisons, in cases where a bed was needed, prisoners would be transported to hospitals.  Prisoners with mental health issues were reintegrated into prisons too soon after treatment in hospitals, which was an issue that needed to be addressed.  Ila Prison had a larger portion of prisoners with mental health issues and so they were allocated additional budget of ten million kroner to employ an extra psychologist and specialized prison staff to handle prisoners with mental health problems.

Isolation of prisoners was increasingly being replaced by more meaningful activities, while measures to compensate for the adverse effects of isolation for short periods of time had also been put in place.  The full exclusion could not be considered solitary confinement as defined by international law, as inmates could still participate in educational or physical activities. The total number of exclusions in 2016 was 3,697 and 4,550 in 2017.  There were no maximum limits as to the length of time a prisoner could be placed in exclusion.  The exclusion of minors could only be enforced if less extreme measures had been tried and failed.  In those instances, exclusion could be used as a last resort, but with the constant surveillance of the child and their best interests first and foremost.

There were security wings at Trandem prison where inmates were sent not as a punishment but to “calm down” and receive better follow up; the number of prisoners sent to the wing had increased in 2017 due to an increase in the prison population those with criminal and violent backgrounds.  Less than ten children a year were placed in the Trandem security wing; those transferred there included juveniles qualified as self-harmers but who were not eligible for a transfer to a health institution.

The Criminal Procedure Act allowed defendants access to a legal counsel at any stage of their judicial hearings, and they had to be notified of this right at the time of the arrest.  A legal counsel was appointed automatically to all detainees who were to remain in detention for longer than 24 hours.

There was no means testing of legal aid in criminal cases.  In civil cases which were not subject to means testing, legal aid was provided with no charge, while those who received means tested legal aid had to pay a share of the fees associated with the aid. Parliament had requested a revision of the legal aid system to ensure it was fair and establish whether it should be expanded; the request was being followed up by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

Concerns had been raised with the Ombud about prisoner confidentiality.  Two out of three doctors Trandem prison spoke Arabic, and interpreters were often used during health consultations.  If those services were not available, staff or family members could be used as interpreters but only at the request of the patient.  

The national preventative mechanism against torture had visited Bergen police quarters in 2016; as a result, a procedure had been changed to ensure that intoxicated persons were received in a different and more thorough way.  

Detention of a child could only be used as a last case scenario and for the shortest time possible.  After an arrest, the child had to be presented in court within 24 hours.  The maximum detention time for children was set at six days.  Child welfare officers were contacted immediately after a child had been brought to the police quarters.  

The detention of asylum-seeking children and families was being used in the context of deportation, where there was signification risk of absconding.  The Government had presented a bill to Parliament that proposed more specific regulations of unaccompanied minors in those instances.  

The Government had apologized to the Romani population for the discrimination suffered in the past.  The Romani People Assimilation and Resistance Report had been delivered in June 2015 and had been subject to a public hearing with over 200 submissions presented.  Consultation with the Romani was difficult as many were not involved in non-governmental organizations.  It had been decided to review the collective compensation system, which was unsatisfactory.

The Norwegian Child Welfare Act applied to all children in the country regardless of country of origin, ethnic or religious background.  Placing a child in care was always a measure of last resort.  A care order could be issued if the child was subject to neglect, violence or abuse and it must be in the best interest of the child.  Parents had legal rights in care order cases and were entitled to legal aid and due process.  They could also appeal decisions to the district courts.  A competency development strategy for child welfare service offered further protections with emphasis on national minorities and indigenous peoples. New amendments to strengthen legal safeguards for children and their families had also been put in place.
 
With respect to Roma children in foster care, the delegation stressed that placement with relatives or family of the community of origin was preferred.  Once a year, parents could request a return of the child to the family, which involved asking the child's opinion.  At the same time, parents could ask for help with parenting.  According to the Council of Europe, Norway was one of the countries with the fewest minors placed in institutions.  

The requirements for citizenship for stateless children born in Norway would be clarified in the Nationality Act.  Youths with no residency permit could to start their application for citizenship between the ages of 18 and 21, but the Government was still working on those proposals.  Stateless persons had no right to a residency permit unless for humanitarian purposes.  Norway had no regulations for procedures concerning stateless persons, as it did not consider them necessary for the present.

As for the Sami indigenous minority, the delegation indicated that one in four men and one in three Sami women claimed to be discriminated against.  For a decade now, Norway was trying to combat prejudices against the indigenous population, but it was a long-term effort.  Several subjects taught at school concerned the Sami civilization, while in areas with a high concentration of Sami, kindergartens and school education was being provided in the local language.  Unfortunately, there was a shortage of Sami-speaking teachers.  A white paper on the sustainability of reindeer husbandry had been presented to Parliament last year.  The opinion of the Sami Parliament and the Association of Sami Reindeer Breeders of Norway had been sought concerning measures likely to have a direct impact on the interests of the indigenous population.  A new budget scheme for the Sami Parliament was to be created and there was a consensus that the white paper would improve the dialogue on Sami politics.

Norway, Sweden and Finland had concluded the negotiations on the Nordic Sami Convention which aimed to enable the Sami people to preserve, practice and develop their culture with the least possible disruption of national borders.  The Nordic countries had approved the draft text of the Convention in January 2017 which would put in place a common legal framework for the three countries, but it could not be ratified before the Sami Parliaments of the concerned countries endorsed it.

A Truth Commission has been set up to examine Norway's assimilationist policy towards the Sami, while the Sami statistics were available and published in Norwegian and in the North Sami language.

Closing Remarks

YUJI IWASAWA, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation for their participation and detailed responses to the Expert’s questions, and noted the key questions of interest which ranged from the problems of social exclusion to Sami rights to the situation in prisons.
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