In this acceptance speech for an award given to him by the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, the author vows to continue his fight against Norway’s punitive and unfair child-protection programme.
Dear Ruby Harrold-Claesson [Chairperson of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights], ladies and gentleman.
Thank you, very much!
I’m deeply honoured to receive this award. It is a great acknowledgment, and a real “kick” at the Norwegian government. And they need it!
This is an award I want to share with all the people I’ve met in the last 11-12 years, who have fought against human rights violations in Norway. I am one of many thousands in Norway, and also from other countries, who have said that “enough is enough”!
We have come a long way since we began. With me today, I have some great people from Norway. Some of them have already won against Norway in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). For instance, in December 2013 Norway was found guilty by the ECHR of violating the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Dag Vilnes and Ors. [Also known as the “North Sea divers cases”. This was a group of cases in which the Norwegian government was found guilty of violating the rights of deep-sea divers who were sent to dangerous depths undersea, almost twice the depth considered safe today, when Norwegian oil was first discovered. Norway owes its current prosperity in great measure to these pioneer divers.] The same with Albert Johnsen [another pioneer diver].
In the case of Bjørn Sagvolden [a retired Navy man who was involved in training for deep-sea diving and suffered a near fatal accident owing to safety lapses that he claims were ignored by his superiors], he managed to have his case communicated all the way to the Chamber in the ECHR. Even though he did not win in the end, he has contributed greatly to strengthen the rights of those who have been exposed to forced sale of private properties in Norway.
The case of the Ensby family is one of the most serious child welfare cases presented before the ECHR. And I am confident that they will win their case [this is a case where a baby was taken at birth and forcibly adopted (i.e. adopted without the parents’ consent) based on a diagnosis of slight mental disability in the mother, which she denies. The grandparents were also refused care of the baby].
Rune Fardal [a Norwegian who runs a television channel called “Family Channel—Focus on Family and Human Rights in Norway”] is doing a tremendous job, travelling around Norway to record and document some of the many human rights violations going on.
A few weeks from now Norway has to meet before the Grand Chamber of the ECHR in Strasbourg in the Lobben case [another case of forced adoption of a baby where removal was justified based on contested “social-emotional” development tests carried out on the infant and claims that the mother’s activism on social media against the unjustified removal of her baby was harmful for it]. I consider this to be the most important case against Norway in recent history.A judgment in the case was given on 30 November last year in the Chamber, where we lost with four against three votes. The judges supporting us came from Ireland, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. The judges voting against us were from Austria, Germany, France. And the fourth, and as it turned out deciding vote, came from Norway!
It turned out that the Norwegian judge, Erik Møse, played a double role. While he was the Norwegian judge at the ECHR, he was also employed as a judge in the Supreme Court in Norway!
The Council of Europe, which is responsible for the judges, was not aware of his double role.
Erik Møse’s term as judge in the ECHR was originally till September 2020, but he quit in the summer of 2018. And as we are speaking, Norway is without a judge in the ECHR and Norway will have to send an ad- hoc judge for the hearing of the Lobben case.
But I would like to “thank” Erik Møse who has made the public aware that judges sit on many sides of the table.
The Lobben case also reveals that some other countries are like Norway in wanting to maintain the status quo so far as wrongful removals of children by child protection authorities are concerned, such as the United Kingdom and Denmark, who support Norway.
But other countries, especially those from Eastern Europe, support us. These countries support protection of family life and are much stronger in support of families than Norway and the UK.
I am hopeful about the hearing in the Lobben case before the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.
Especially since Norway was convicted in the ECHR for violating Article 8 [protection of private and family life] of the European Convention of Human Rights on 6 September this year [in the case of Jansen v. Norway which involved a Norwegian Roma mother whose child had been taken into care and with whom she had been denied contact]. The decision was unanimous.
In order to fight these human rights crimes in Norway, I believe in openness—public awareness and discussion. And I feel privileged to travel around the world, to address human rights crimes going on in my own country of Norway.
It is inspiring to see how prominent lawyers, like Ruby Harrold-Claesson, at the age of 70, and Siv Westereberg, at the age of 86, are still keeping up the fightfor human rights in Nordic countries. So if you want to stay young, keep on fighting for human rights!
The road to victory is still long. Our opponents have all the resources in the world. And it is hard to convince the Norwegian population that the job we are doing is worth dying for.
I have worked on human rights issues for a very long time. And there has been a major development since I graduated from law school, back in the fall of 1999. I remember when I decided to specialise in human rights law, my fellow students in Norway would laugh at me.
They said: “Why focus on human rights when we have the best laws in the world already?” When I started practicing human rights as a lawyer, I was constantly faced with skepticism and arrogance from the establishment. Then I met with the North Sea divers in the beginning of 2006. The divers obviously lost in Norway, as Norwegian judges consider human rights to be nonsense. But they eventually won against Norway in the European Court of Human Rights in 2013.
After the divers’ case, I was introduced to several child welfare cases and I easily recognised a pattern in how these cases were being handled within the Norwegian judiciary: With no respect for human rights at all!
We have heard about the system here in Sweden, and the Norwegian system is quite similar, but it is much worse in Norway. Look at the budgets and the number of children being put into public care in Norway. We are talking about public budgets of roughly 3 billion euros per year!
A French lawyer told me that more money is spent on child protection services in Norway than in France. And France has a population 12 times bigger than Norway.
I realise, very well, that there are many people in Norway who want to preserve the system the way it is. Obviously, because it is lucrative for them. As the Swedish politician [Eva Solberg, who had spoken at the conference earlier] just said: “This is big business.”
Let me take an example. A few years ago, I met with the local child-welfare agency in a small community in the northern part of Norway. Six social workers attended the meeting, where one would have been enough.
A neighbour of mine from a while back made €110,000 per year for hosting one foster child.
Thanks to social media and thanks to people like you who are here today, the battle moves forward.
In 2015-16, the European Parliament started to show an interest in Norway. During a conference in Brussels in 2015, hosted by the European Parliament, the Bulgarian Parliamentary Member said to the Norwegian representative: “You are so full of [expletive deleted]!”
Norway has managed to keep the human rights fraud going for a long time. Until recently, it was almost impossible to have Norway judged in the ECHR in child welfare cases, as the court believed that Norway was doing things right.
Now the secret is out. This time is what I consider to be the Fall of Success. The BBC has been in Norway and made a documentary on its dysfunctional child protection services called Norway’s Hidden Scandal. The Brazilian media has been here and reported back home. The Lobben case will be presented before the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.
Earlier, the Bodnariu case was able to mobilise international support [this was a case where five children of a mixed Romanian-Norwegian family were taken for alleged “Christian indoctrination” and mild slapping; the children were returned after widespread international protests].
In June this year the Council of Europe adopted a resolution against Norway by 43 to two votes [the resolution demanded transparency, restraint and proportionality in child removals by social services based on a motion that was highly critical of Norway’s child welfare services].
So we have succeeded in many ways, but we still have a long way to go.
It is a tough fight. That is why it is important to find people who support you and are willing to fight with you. Ladies and gentlemen, please keep on protesting against this regime and keep fighting with all you have for human rights in Norway.
Marius Reikeras is a human rights advocate from Norway
This article is published in collaboration with www.saveyourchildren.in, lawyer Suranya Aiyar’s website critiquing the role of governments and NGOs in child policy