The government’s decision goes against the advice of numerous Norwegian human rights groups and the demands of its partners in the Liberal Party (Venstre).
“The main reason why the government will not propose Norwegian adherence to the complaint ordinance now is that it is highly uncertain what political consequences the schemes might have for Norway,” Foreign Minister Børge Brende said.
Brende said that human rights are well protected in Norway and that a number of UN conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have been incorporated into Norwegian law and given precedence over other legislation.
Contrary to advice
The Liberals have long demanded that Norway adopt the Optional Protocol to the Convention that allows children to submit complaints, appeals and petitions. This week, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (NIM) also called on the government to do the same.
“We hope the government will propose the ratification of this and two other complaints procedures which Norway has recognized,” NIM director Petter F. Wille told NTB.
The government was originally asked by parliament to present the ratification for approval last year, but in December the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked to delay the legislation until the spring. But it has still not been presented to parliament.
The Optional Protocol has been ratified by 29 countries and signed by 50, including Denmark and Finland.
As far back as September 2014, it raised eyebrows when Norway rejected a recommendation from the UN Human Rights Council to ratify the protocol.
“This is embarrassing and not something Norway can be proud of,” Liberal leader Trine Skei Grande said.
UNICEF, Save the Children and Plan International Norway have all criticized the government for not joining the protocol, which would give Norwegian children the opportunity to complain about rights violations and bring the matter before the UN Children's Committee in Geneva.
The government says its resistance to go along with the Protocol is that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child would not properly balance considerations of what’s best for a child against other important public interests, such as immigration regulations.
“Before we leave the interpretation of key policy issues to international bodies we must be sure that the treatment is proper,” Brende said.
The other two individual complaint mechanisms the Norwegian government is refusing to ratify are related to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.