Council of Europe censures Norway on racism

Scandinavian country fails to combat internet-based racism or help migrants sufficiently, COE body says

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) experts make their statement in connection with their fifth report on Norway. They compiled it following their visit to Norway in March 2014.

Information was gathered on legislation, hate speech, violence, integration policies, LGBT issues, and other topics. The report analyzes new developments and outstanding issues, it is stated.

The Norwegian Constitution including the right to equality is seen as one positive development.

However, “concerns remain, among others the dissemination of racism on the internet and insufficient assistance to migrants in education and employment,” says ECRI’s Chair, Christian Ahlund, in a statement.

The commission describes itself as a human rights body made up of independent experts who monitor issues of racism and discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, citizenship, color, religion, and language (racial discrimination). It is also a watchdog when it comes to problems of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and intolerance.

A British academic has stated that Norway is particularly bad when it comes to issues of racism and xenophobia.

“Neither the public denial of genocide nor participation in groups that promote racism is punishable by law. Statistics do not provide a clear picture of the extent of hate crimes, racism on the internet is not systematically monitored, and victims of discrimination do not receive sufficient assistance to secure their rights before courts,” ECRI experts state.

“The report says that the commission charged with drawing lessons from Breivik’s attacks did not address the possible influence of public hate speech on his motivation.”

Norway signed Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2003, which provides for a general prohibition of discrimination, but has not ratified it. This is also raised in the ECRI report.

“Studies show that many migrants have experienced discrimination in areas such as recruitment, housing, and health care. Parents with migration backgrounds have limited understanding of Norwegian pedagogy and have difficulties in assisting their children at school. Adult migrants have limited access to free education.”

Along with recommendations, which include adopting Protocol 12, some positive aspects are mentioned. These are that internet hate speech is now a crime under Norwegian legislation, and Oslo police have set up a special hate crime unit, for example.

Read the full report at

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It also appeared in the March 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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