Norwegian authorities care very little about children’s rights

Olav Terje Bergo, former editor-in-chief and CEO at Bergensavisen (BA), highlights the fact that most human rights lawyers in Norway care very little about children’s rights, and that Norway’s defensive response to the crushing defeats at the European Court of Human Rights, will mean that children and their parents will continue to have their rights violated, and their legal security ignored. Olav Terje Bergo writes:

Adele Matheson Mestad and Anniken Barstad Waaler from NIM, Norway’s Institute for Human Rights, refer to the article ‘The complex child welfare debate’ in Rett24 on 20 February 2020. Mestad and Waaler write about the verdicts against the Norwegian state in child protection cases in the European Court of Human Rights as if Norway has a well-functioning, honourable and competent child protection system, where there are admittedly quality differences and too many employees that are poorly educated. This is not how children and their parents experience their meetings with child welfare.

It is true that they [child welfare employees] lack competence and education in child welfare. They lack a lot of other things too: Honesty, integrity, common sense and respect for children and families.

The child welfare’s dysfunctional culture survives because those who are there to intervene when there’s an abuse of power, or to correct dishonesty and discard misinterpretations, generally do not do so. This criticism is directed at the parliament, the municipal councils, the government, the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, the Norwegian health care authorities, the county committees, the police and the courts.

There are on average, five care takeovers each workday. That’s probably ten times more than needed. The county councils should reject nine out of ten demands from the child welfare service to take children into care, not just one in ten. For decades, the media and several investigations have reported fraud and failure, abuse and misuse of power against children in the care of the child welfare system. The county supervisors report on fraud, neglect, misrepresentations and unacceptable conditions for children under the child welfare system. The state’s eleven children’s houses have stated in a joint letter to the government that the child welfare services often cover up violence against children. Often.

Still, strong public criticism aimed at the child protection’s treatment of children is likely to merely scratch the child welfare’s precarious but false facade. Behind this facade, it is much worse than the public will ever be able to imagine.

The glimpses of public insight into the child welfare power abuse towards children should have prompted county boards and courts to treat the child welfare system with a sharp critical eye, not with an uncritical, almost biased attitude.

The many cases from Norway accepted for consideration at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg are just the tip of an iceberg of human rights violations. When in some cases, the Norwegian state is not convicted of human rights violations, it does not mean an exoneration of the rest of the decisions made in those cases. Most of that chain of decisions would have not been considered by the court, nor would it be based on factual evidence.

It’s good that the Supreme Court has dealt openly with several child welfare cases, as the result of the many losses for Norway’s use of the law in the Human Rights Court. But, the main impression of the courts, the government and the parliamentary majority’s reaction to child welfare judgements against the state is an embarrassing defence to continue to violate children’s rights.

A broad spectrum rebellion is needed against the state and municipalities‘ treatment of children, not money laundering, diversions and trivialisation. The only Norwegian human rights lawyer at the barricade to protect children and children’s legal security is Gro Hillestad Thune. It is a shame that not all human rights lawyers stand with Thune, all of them, on the very front line, fighting for children and children’s legal security.