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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The present legal aid scheme leaves a large portion of the population without a possibility to invoke most of the human rights under the Covenant despite the fact that Norway has undertaken to ensure effective protection.

Apart from a few prioritized areas of law, such as penal law where individuals receive free legal aid regardless of their income, legal aid is only given to those with very low income. The provision which enables the authorities to grant legal aid at their discretion is seldom used. Possible human rights violation is not among the prioritized areas for legal aid. Neither is economic fraud and identity fraud, crimes which are prevalent in Norway, but where the police often reject investigation of cases.

The income limit is set very low and includes all social security and other public support, even if social security payments are not calculated to include expenses for legal aid. Many are therefore denied legal aid, even if they have no other reasonable recourse to paying such expenses.

 Any income limit should be linked to the person’s own ability to pay for the legal aid in question. Wealth (i.e. partial or whole ownership of own housing) should be irrelevant. The housing policy of Norway has to a very large extent focused on having as many as possible owning their own apartment or house. Being a house owner is therefore not an apt indicator of whether it is reasonable to provide legal aid. Lastly, the assessment of ability to pay should be different as to whether the application concerns legal advice or legal proceedings.



Recommendations to Norway:

-         The assessment of need of aid for legal advice and legal proceedings should cover the real expenses and be based on the economic ability of the individuals’ most recent monthly income.

-         The prioritized subject matters for legal aid should include any case involving a potential violation of a human right in a convention to which Norway is a party; or at the very least it must include cases that affect individuals’ ability to function and participate in society, in particular areas where the police offer little or no protection such as economic fraud, and identity fraud.

ICCPR Art.

Subject

State report para.

Keyword

2

Legal Aid


10

The Asylum Procedure

Persons seeking asylum are provided information and guidance by a non-governmental organization, the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers, in the first instance. If rejected, applicants are provided legal assistance by a lawyer in the administrative appeals stage. At this point, applicants have the right to receive five hours of legal aid in this process and if needed, the lawyer may apply for funding for five more hours, but such additional funding is often difficult to get.

Legal aid is seldom given to asylum seekers who want to take their cases to court. The cost of this makes it almost impossible for most asylum seekers to get their cases assessed by a court.



Recommendations to Norway:

  • Improve the possibilities of getting additional funding in the administrative appeals stage of the Asylum procedure.




  • Enhance the possibilities for asylum seekers to get legal aid for court cases, especially for cases involving issues of principle that may form precedence for future cases.



ICCPR Art.

Subject

State report para.

Keyword

2

Protection of the victim


11-12

Protection beyond legal interests

The measures undertaken to strengthen protection of victims outlined in the State report are very welcome. In our view, however, these initiatives are too narrowly focused on rights that may affect the outcome of the trial of the accused, such as free legal aid and procedural rights in relation to the criminal case. Few or none of the initiatives are actually focused on protecting the victim.

Initiatives that would protect the victim include giving clearly delineated right to safe housing to ex-spouses and children; protect children from unattended care with a violent parent; clear criteria for how and when identity and whereabouts may be protected and concealed; and clear and well functioning plans for curtailing group-threats from large family units. The protection scheme must provide solutions for how the victim may assume a new identity with his or her children. There should also be in place a trans-national cooperation in cases where Norway proves too small to protect the victim in question. The victim must in such cases have a right to take all social security benefits abroad, as if she or he still resided in Norway.

Today victims may not count on any such protection. To the extent such protection exists, it exists as a matter of established practice decided by negotiation with authorities. The system for how to approach the authorities and the criteria for applying protective measures are not transparent. Informal information indicates that very few women, perhaps as few as three or four, were given a new identity in 2009. The need for new identity among female victims must be assumed to be much greater, as Norway recognise domestic abuse as a real problem.  

The creation of a nationwide network of Children’s Houses is a needed and welcome initiative. Still a more low-threshold support system for suffering children is lacking, in particular Norway does still not have a 24 hour free telephone or internet help line paid by the authorities where children may easily access needed support to protect them from ongoing abuse.



Recommendations to Norway:

Establish a legally defined protection scheme for victims to improve the actual protection and make protective measures more regulated and predictable. The protection scheme should:

  • establish a clearly delineated right to safe housing to ex-spouses and children in the law;

  • establish a legal right of children not to be subjected to unattended care of an allegedly violent parent;

  • establish clear legal criteria for how and when identity and whereabouts may be protected and concealed;

  • establish clear and well functioning plans for curtailing group-threats from large family units.

  • provide solutions for how the victim may assume new identity with his or her children.

  • include a trans-national cooperation in cases where protection is difficult within the borders of Norway, including the right of the victim to transfer his or her social security payments abroad as if she or he still resided in Norway and regardless of membership in the National Insurance Scheme (“Folketrygden”).



ICCPR Art.

Subject

S Report para

Keyword

2
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