University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Norway, U.N. Doc. A/48/44, paras. 63-87 (1993).


Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture


63. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Norway (CAT/C/17/Add.1) at its 122nd and 123rd meetings, on 11 November 1992 (see CAT/C/SR.122 and 123).

64. In introducing the report, the representative of the State party indicated that the investigations of 368 alleged cases of large-scale police brutality in the city of Bergen, which had been discussed in May 1989 during the consideration by the Committee of the initial report of Norway, had resulted in only one charge; the investigation of more than 100 cases of alleged false accusations had resulted in 15 charges and 11 convictions, none of which had been appealed. No further information had been received concerning police brutality in Bergen.

65. Members of the Committee commended the Norwegian Government on the quality of its report, which had been submitted with punctuality and could serve as a model for the reports to be submitted by other States. They also noted with satisfaction Norway's support for the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the principle of preventive country visits, as contained in the draft optional protocol to the Convention which was under elaboration in a working group of the Commission on Human Rights.

66. Generally, members of the Committee felt that some clarification was necessary with regard to the incorporation of the Convention in domestic law and the implementation in practice of its provisions. They noted that Norway had a dualistic relationship between domestic law and international law, but it was not clear which legal provision took precedence and whether the Convention had actually been incorporated into domestic legislation. From the information provided, it appeared that the Convention was not a formal part of domestic law but that Norwegian courts were able to refer to international treaties in applying domestic law. Members of the Committee observed, in this connection, that the fact that Norwegian legislation did not contain a definition of torture automatically gave rise to problems with regard to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. They therefore expressed the hope that the Norwegian authorities would reconsider their position that the term "torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" did not need to be incorporated into the country's legislation. In this regard, they wished to know what progress had been made by the Norwegian expert committee, which had been mentioned during the consideration of Norway's initial report, whose mandate was to make proposals on the way in which the major international human rights instruments could be incorporated into Norwegian legislation.

67. With regard to article 2 of the Convention, further information was requested on the authority deciding in Norway about deprivation of liberty and on the lawful period during which a person might be held in custody without being brought before a court.

68. With reference to article 3 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested information on how the 1988 Immigration Act actually worked and asked, in particular, whether foreigners, especially refugees, could be denied entry to Norway by the border police and turned back and what recourse procedure was available to them. Clarification was also sought about the indication in the report that extradition could also take place outside bilateral or multilateral agreements.

69. In connection with article 4 of the Convention, it was recalled that each State party should ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law and clarification was requested on the extent to which Norway was complying with that requirement and how it dealt with the question of mental torture.

70. Referring to article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to have some clarification on whether Norway had a system of universal jurisdiction for persons who committed torture and whether it allowed convicted persons, subject to certain conditions, to serve their sentence in their home countries, as provided for by the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

71. Clarification was also requested on specific legal measures taken by Norway to implement fully articles 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Convention.

72. In connection with article 10 of the Convention, members of the Committee recalled that training programmes were necessary not only for doctors, but also for other health personnel at all levels who had a key role to play in combating torture. It was also asked whether law faculties offered special courses which dealt with torture as a global phenomenon and approached it from the standpoint of international and domestic legislation.

73. Turning to article 11 of the Convention, members of the Committee congratulated Norway on its rules and practices with regard to the custody of persons in detention and the treatment of prisoners and requested further information on the provisions contained in the Prosecution Instructions.

74. In connection with article 12 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked for additional information on the nature of the cases referred to the "special investigative bodies" which were independent of the police and the prosecuting authority. They also asked how the special investigative bodies were set up, by whom, what their prerogatives were, why they were needed and what the role of the public prosecutors was. Members of the Committee noted that only 20 cases relating to the use of force by the police had been subjected to special investigation in Norway during the period 1988-1990 and asked for additional information in that regard. They wished to know, in particular, whether there were districts where such incidents were more common than elsewhere and whether foreigners were involved to any significant extent. With regard to the investigation of alleged police brutality in Bergen in May 1989, which had resulted in the indictment of 15 persons for having made false accusations against the police, members of the Committee wished to know whether it had been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the persons prosecuted had intended to discredit members of the police force and what penalties had been imposed on those found guilty. Clarification was also requested on the position of the Norwegian authorities with regard to the views of Amnesty International in this matter.

75. With regard to article 14 of the Convention, members of the Committee noted that Norwegian legislation provided for financial compensation only, and in a limited amount, to victims of violence and that compensation was not granted for injury of a non-economic nature. They observed that those provisions did not meet all the requirements for compensation of victims of torture established by the Convention.

76. In connection with article 15 of the Convention, clarification was requested on whether testimonies obtained unlawfully could be admitted as evidence.

77. In his reply, the representative of the State party provided detailed information about the dualistic system in force in his country, according to which a special act was required before an international instrument became applicable in Norway. He also informed the Committee about different legal approaches recently developed by Norwegian jurists with regard to the application of international human rights instruments in domestic law. The Committee set up in 1989 to study this question had not yet submitted its report. It appeared, however, that it would propose that a number of human rights instruments should be incorporated into Norwegian law and that a high rank should be given to them in the hierarchy of legal provisions. The representative also pointed out that some provisions of the Penal Code were fully applicable to the acts referred to in article 1 of the Convention.

78. In connection with article 2 of the Convention, the representative indicated that, according to section 183 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a detained person must be brought before a judge on the day following his arrest.

79. Referring to article 3 of the Convention, the representative stated that the case of any foreigner requesting asylum at the border or invoking certain rules of humanitarian protection was referred to the Director of the Immigration Services; in any event, an asylum-seeker would not be turned back at the border. A residence permit could also be issued for humanitarian reasons. In addition, Norway had a list of countries to which foreign nationals must not be sent back. Extradition could be granted to countries with which Norway had not concluded treaties but, in such cases, it was subject to specific requirements and a final decision by the Minister for Justice.

80. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the representative pointed out that Norwegian law made no distinction between moral and physical harm.

81. Turning to article 5 of the Convention, the representative stated that, in general, Norway implemented the principle of universal jurisdiction which was applicable to acts of torture committed abroad by Norwegian nationals, as well as to acts committed abroad by foreigners. If a person who had committed an act of torture was in danger of ill-treatment or the death penalty if he was extradited, he would be tried in Norway. The Minister for Justice had recommended that the Parliament should ratify the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

82. In connection with article 10 of the Convention, the representative mentioned that the Norwegian authorities had established a fruitful dialogue with the Norwegian Medical Association, which was particularly interested in medical ethics and torture. No special instruction on torture was provided in law faculties but, in human rights courses, considerable attention was paid to United Nations conventions.

83. Referring to article 12 of the Convention, the representative explained that the investigative body set up in connection with the alleged police brutality in the city of Bergen was responsible for investigating acts committed by members of the police or prosecution bodies in the exercise of their functions. It conducted the investigation, while the public prosecutor was responsible for bringing charges. It was presided over by a judge and has been set up to ensure that abuses by the police were investigated impartially and independently of the various police forces. Once the investigation had been completed, justice followed its normal course. He also stated that there were no statistics on foreigners who might have been subjected to police brutality or on the conduct of the police in urban as opposed to rural areas and that sufficient evidence against 11 of the 15 persons charged with false accusations against the police in Bergen had been established by the jury. The views of Amnesty International in this matter had been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

84. With regard to article 14 of the Convention, the representative explained in detail the compensation procedures available in Norway, which consisted of various mechanisms for both economic and non-economic losses. Claims for compensation could be linked with a criminal action and the amount of compensation was determined by the courts. The system for compensation by the State came into play when the offender was insolvent. The State was held responsible for unlawful injury caused by its agents and, in case of acts of torture committed by public officials, the amount of compensation would not be limited to NKr 150,000.

85. Referring to article 15 of the Convention, the representative stressed that no testimony obtained unlawfully was admissible, although there was no specific legislation on the matter.

Conclusions and recommendations

86. The Committee expressed the view that the second periodic report of Norway, which had been submitted punctually, showed what progress had been made in the implementation of the Convention in Norway since the Committee had dealt with the initial report in April 1989. Apart from a few points which had been cleared up during the discussion, the Committee felt that the only problem was the relationship between international law and, in particular, the Convention against Torture and Norwegian domestic law.

87. The Committee recommended that Norway should include a definition of torture in its domestic law and that it should explicitly characterize torture as a crime; that would make it possible to solve problems relating to universal jurisdiction. Another solution, equally acceptable, would be to make the Convention part of Norwegian domestic law.


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