Alternative report to the un human Rights Committee regarding Norway’s sixth Periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights December 2010



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ICCPR Article 9


ICCPR Art.

Subject

S Report para

Keyword

9

Pre-trial detention


122-139

Relevance to ICCPR Article 7

There is no maximum time for pre-trial detention or custody pending trial. There are examples of cases where the time spent in custody is almost 4 years.

The Government has chosen to consider pre-trial detention and police custody under Article 9 but we believe these issues should be considered in relation to Article 7 as well, as the most critical detention conditions tend to be inhuman.



ICCPR Art.

Subject

State Report para.

Keyword

7 (9)

Pre-trial detention


122-139

Duration / Conditions / Frequence

The Ministry of Justice has given a new regulation on pre-trial detention in police cell: An arrested person shall have ordinary prison accommodation available within 48 hours, unless this is practically impossible. It came into force 1 July 2006.

The Norwegian Correctional Service has made statistics showing that many arrested persons are held in police cells for much longer than 48 hours. In 2009 there were 1710 such cases. It is the experience of practising defence lawyers that the arrested persons are seldom transferred to an ordinary prison before they are brought before a judge, even if the time limit of 48 hours has been exceeded.

Several police- and prison officers have confirmed to Norwegian lawyers that they have been instructed that they do not have to start to work on transferring arrested persons from police cells to ordinary prisons before there is a detention decision by the court. Since the time limit for bringing the case before the court is 72 hours, these instructions are one of the reasons that the 48 hours limit are not followed.

 The conditions in the police cells are not satisfactory for the arrested persons to prepare for the meeting with the judge. The arrested persons are in solitary confinement. They have no furniture and in practice no access to shower, clean clothes, or tobacco.  They are usually worried about the situation, and have sleep problems because the light is often on all night and day.

The longest stays in police arrest are in Oslo Central arrest. In 2010 there have been persons held there for 10 days. The regulations concerning the police arrest are violated both with respect to the maximum time for stay as well as regarding the conditions for the detainees. According to the regulations, the detainees should have one hour daily in open air, and the possibility to have a shower and clean clothes, but the regulations are seldom followed. Many detainees are therefore isolated and locked in the cells without any furniture for several days without the possibility to wash themselves or their clothes. This is contrary to UN`s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners of 13 May 1977 para 13, 17 and 21 which the Government according to the Committee` s General Comments No. 21 (GC 21) para 5 should have addressed

Norwegian regulations also give the detainees the right to obtain required medicine and to consult with qualified health personnel. This right is important since the detainees often are held more than a week in police arrest. But in practice it is up to the prison officers to decide whether consultation with health personnel is necessary. We would like to point out that prison officers are not competent to make such decisions.

There are no rational reasons why the police arrest for sober detainees should not have available cells equipped with a chair, table, bed, radio and TV, especially when they have to spend many days there. Many defence lawyers report that their clients feel that this is done to “soften” them to give statements with a content that corresponds to the wishes of the police. Some detainees have given false statements in order to be transferred from the police arrest to an ordinary prison. Although this situation is not the authorities expressed intention, it may nonetheless be the effect.

 In order to avoid such pressure felt by the detainees and thereby false statements, it should not be allowed to interrogate detainees until they do have ordinary prison conditions. Long stays in police cells may impair the detainees` capacity of rational thinking. Interrogating under such circumstances may therefore be contrary to principle 21 para 2 of Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment of 1988, which the Government according to GC 21 para 5 should have addressed.

 Solitary confinement, and the non-availability of furniture, free air and shower for many days in Oslo central arrest are in practise restrictions not decided by the courts, which are not strictly required for the purposes mentioned in Principle 36, para 2. The Government should have addressed this in the report (GC 21), but has failed to do so.

In 2009 there were about 51.917 cases of detention in police arrest, of which 2.056 concerned children less than 18 years of age and 49 less than 15 years of age. The abovementioned conditions in the police cells have of course a much worser effect on children than on grown-ups, and the risk for irreparable damages is so high that children should never be put in such police cells.

 The Government has in its report (para 139) underlined that it is important that the civil society should be part of the control mechanism for detention facilities. The Norwegian Bar Association and the Association of Defence Lawyers have proposed that lawyers or law students should be allowed to stay in the central police arrest in Oslo to supervise and report the practise of the regulation of the police arrest. Oslo Police District has refused to allow this.



Recommendations to Norway:

  • The use of the current police cells should be put to an end. The cells should be rebuild and have the same standards as normal prison cells. Those who are arrested should go directly to prison, and not spend time in a police cell.

  • The use of police cells should be regulated in the Criminal Procedure Act.

  • The distribution of the leaflet on the rights of arrested should be obligated by the criminal procedure act. When receiving the leaflet, the detainee should sign a statement attesting that they have been informed of their rights in a language which they understand.

  • Supervision in the central police arrest in Oslo by independent observers should be allowed.

  • Joint and detailed statistics on the use of police cells should be provided.

  • Children should not be put in police cells. Regulations for the police when arresting children should be drawn up.



ICCPR Art.

Subject

State Report para.

Keyword

7 (9)
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