Human Rights Complaint: Norway The first part of this complaint will provide background information on the current situation of drug users in Norway, the second part will deal with our right to peaceful assembly.
Criminalization of drug users in Norway In 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that countries decriminalize drug use and personal possession of drugs. It was also recommended that children are no longer punished for drug use. UNAIDS and the WHO went further, and asked for a ban on forced treatment and coerced urine/drug controls.
Norway has not reformed its’ sentencing in regards to drugs, and are overselling their “alternatives to punishment” as a humane and progressive drug policy, while in reality drug policy reformers and grassroots activists strongly disagree. Instead of following UN recommendations, our government has implemented drug courts and coerced urine controls against minors, under threat of imprisonment or a criminal record should one fail controls.
This has pressured young people to use harder and more dangerous synthetic drugs, and also the least resourceful tend to drop out. Urine controls are performed while a stranger, often of the opposite sex, is watching. We have received emails from young people who believe this is a breach of their intimacy and privacy, and deeply traumatizing.
According to a report from 2015, there are several judicial and ethical problems with the system. Health personnel have complained that in reality, young people are not given a real choice, and a culture of reporting peers to the police has taken hold.
Meanwhile, most adults are still subject to the same criminal sanctions as they always have been. There has been no change. Some, convicted of serious drug crimes, are given the choice to enter a drug court, but are still subject to urine controls, and have to return to prison if they repeatedly fail. Only about one third, the most resourceful, complete the programs.
The right to peaceful assembly In 1999, NORML Norway arranged the first demonstration for the decriminalization of cannabis in Norway, in Slottsparken: “Marihuanamarsjen.” The protest has taken place every year since. In 2000, the police violently attacked participants in the peaceful demonstration, hitting many protestors and making them bleed.
The TV images from this caused a backlash, and in the following years the police tolerated the peaceful protest, even if adults used cannabis during the protest.
However, the police have tried to prevent the annual protest in several ways. In 2001, they tried to make the whole protest illegal, and were untruthful in that they refrained from providing information on the fact that it was possible to complain the decision. A well known criminologist, the late Nils Christie, who was scheduled to receive a free speech price two days later, was one of the people who was booked to speak during the peaceful protest. Beause of media pressure and NORML Norway not giving up, the protest was allowed at the last minute.
The police then proceeded to, every year, try to ignore our applications for permission for the demonstration. They also tried to be untruthful about the need for different permissions, to make the process difficult. They have threatened mass arrests and tried to scare us by saying we are responsible for everything wrong that might happen. Also, they have tried to hide the protest by diverting it to a less visible area between high buildings in a less frequented area of the city center, instead of letting us protest where we would like to.
NORML Norway and the police have had a verbal agreement that minors who use cannabis will be expelled. We do not want minors who use drugs in the protest. However, they have said adults who are sober can bring their children to the peaceful protest.
While mostly leaving the main crowd alone, police in plain clothes or uniforms usually arrest or expel people in smaller groups who walk away from the crowd, for example, to buy food, or when they are leaving. Or who stay behind when the crowd marches through the city.
They have arrested and searched those who arrange the protest, and in Trondheim, they took him to court (he won). They also film protestors and take photographs.
This year, they arrested a well known researcher and drug policy reform activist, Teri Krebs, who was found to be sober after a quick drug test. They temporarily took her children, even if her drug test was clean. Then, they sent police to search her and her husband’s home, where they found 0,8 grams of psilocybin mushrooms (a very small amount) and arrested Pål Ørjan Johansen, another activist. They brought him to the police station and interrogated him for hours about his political activities. He also tested clean.
Later, it was revealed that the police officer in charge of overseeing the demonstration was a former leader of the Anti-Drug Police Association. It was also this officer who personally arrested Johansen and interrogated him.
The Anti-Drug Police Association is a private interest organization that is opposed to drug decriminalizion, and putting the officer in charge of overseeing a demonstration is not correct, as he has a conflict-of-interest.
We also believe how the peaceful protest has been handled during the years it has taken place constitutes a form of harassment. In Canada and Seattle, similar peaceful protests (Hempfest and protests arranged by Cannabis Culture) are left alone, and no harm is done. Although cannabis use by adults does take place, it has not been a problem. Contrary to alcohol, cannabis usually makes people less aggressive.
Furthermore, the police have stated in a report that one of their goals is to work against legalization of cannabis – a political goal the police arguably shouldn’t pursue.