Norway

Making A Difference: Norway’s NPM

Have you ever wondered if NPMs are making a difference in practice? For many of us interested or otherwise engaged in torture prevention the above conundrum is a recurrent question. After all, if the sum total of any preventive work is at best negligible, or even worse, why waste the time and effort?

In its newly published 2018 Annual Report the Norwegian NPM takes a fresh look at this fundamentally important question, devoting a full chapter to gauging impact. Most positively, in four of its past five Annual Reports the NPM has retrospectively cast its eye over the year of activities to document effected change.

Even though Canada and Norway are quite different national contexts, not least in terms of size of geography and population, Norway’s industrious NPM has nonetheless advanced some illuminating insights into how one NPM is making a difference on the ground through its preventive work.

making a difference

As noted in these pages just a few months ago, Norway ratified the OPCAT in 2013 and designated the Parliamentary Ombudsman as the NPM. The NPM has been operating since 2014 and consists of an independent department within the Parliamentary Ombudsman, comprising a team of multi-disciplinary staff. Detailed information about the structure and operation of Norway’s NPM can be found in the 2018 Annual Report.

The Norwegian NPM has described in detail how it is making a difference in practice in chapter 5 of the 2018 report. In these pages it has sketched out the all-important process of follow-up to monitoring visits, as follows:

“After each visit, the NPM publishes a report describing its findings and making recommendations for preventing torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. Much of the preventive work begins after the reports have been published.

We ask all places we visit to provide written feedback on how the recommendations have been followed up within three months of the visit report being available.

The feedback we received throughout the year indicates that the institutions generally followed up the recommendations in a thorough manner. The majority of places have implemented numerous measures that play an important role in reducing the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment …

Certain recommendations require limited effort to follow up, while others are more challenging. This means that the NPM’s follow-up can sometimes continue over a long period, and at other times be concluded relatively quickly.” (49)

The report highlights the measured impact of the Norwegian NPM’s activities vis-a-vis specific thematic areas. These include the following:

  • Documenting the use of force in detention;
  • Preventing the use of coercive measures;
  • Ensuring the right to information can be exercised in practice;
  • Facilitating the participation of detainees in decisions which impact on them;
  • Improving the material conditions of detention;
  • Enhancing injury reporting procedures;
  • And minimizing resort to solitary confinement, isolation and segregation.

It bears noting that in 2018 a sizeable number of these gains were made in child welfare, health care and immigration detention settings. In one instance a child welfare facility was even temporarily closed due to allegations of abusive use of force.

Making a difference

As in Canada, resort to solitary confinement, isolation and segregation by different detaining authorities, including in prisons and health care settings, has been a significant cause for concern for the Norwegian NPM. In late 2018 the NPM also published a separate thematic report on the use of segregation in mental health care institutions, a summary of which is available in English.

In conclusion, the 2018 Annual Report of the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman offers Canadian (and other) readers a very welcome insight into how decisive change can be effected in a range of detention settings and, it should be stressed, over a relatively short period of time. For those persons on the receiving end of such change, the positive impact ought not to be underestimated.


Visit the English version of the Norwegian NPM’s website.

Listen to an interview with the Norwegian NPM Director, Helga Fastrup Ervik, and learn more about the activities of her institution.

Read the current and past Annual Reports of the Norwegian NPM.

Read the summary of the December 2018 report, Segregation in mental health care institutions – risk of inhuman treatment.

Posted by mp in Health care, Norway, NPMs, Places of detention, Prisons, Psychiatric detention, Solitary confinement

Norway’s NPM: Some More Useful Lessons for Canada

In her cutting-edge series of human rights and criminal justice interviews the Irish broadcaster and writer, Jane Mulcahy, has posted a new Law & Justice Soundcloud interview with the Head of Norway’s NPM.

In this fascinating recent conversation with Helga Fastrup Ervik, Jane Mulcahy broaches a range of different OPCAT-related topics. Canadian human rights experts and lay-persons alike will find some interesting insights in this revealing exchange, including into the operation of Norway’s NPM in practice and the related challenges it faces.

Norway's NPM

Jane Mulcahy Interview with NPM Head, Helga Fastrup Ervik (copyright of Jane Mulcahy).

The Norwegian NPM representative also tackles the the question head on why countries like Canada and Ireland should ratify the OPCAT (at 10 minutes 30 seconds onwards).

In the interview Helga Fastrup Ervik makes it clear that, contrary to popular belief, all is not 100% well in her country’s prison estate. As in Canada, resort to isolation of prisoners and limited out-of-cell activity are common challenges found within the system.

Norway's NPMNorway ratified the OPCAT in June 2013 and designated the Parliamentary Ombudsman as the NPM the same month. The NPM has been operating since 2014 and consists of an independent department within the Parliamentary Ombudsman, comprising a team of seven multi-disciplinary staff. Detailed information about the structure and operation of Norway’s NPM can be found on its website in English.

A good snapshot of the scope activities of the activities of the Norwegian NPM can also be obtained by delving into the institution’s 2017 Annual Report (please click on the adjacent image to access this report) or its different news items.

Equally as interesting past OPCAT-focused interviews conducted by Jane Mulcahy are also available on-line, including with the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention Chair, Malcolm Evans, and Australian OPCAT expert, Steven Caruana.

Posted by mp