Question to Helga Fastrup Ervik from the floor.

Public consultation meeting on the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture and Ill-treatment

On 24 April 2014, the Parliamentary Ombudsman arranged a public consultation meeting on the NPM. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information on the terms of reference and principles on which the work of the NPM would be based, and to invite responses from a broad range of organisations and institutions.

The meeting was attended by more than 100 representatives of human rights organisations, organisations for users and family members, government ombudspersons, academic institutions, professional groups, supervisory authorities and administrative agencies.

Parliamentary Ombudsman Arne Fliflet opened the meeting and presented the background for the establishment of the new visiting body to places of detention. The head of the NPM, Helga Fastrup Ervik, and Senior Adviser Knut Evensen then presented information about the terms of reference and the progress of the work.

The meeting was then opened for questions and comments from the floor.

The meeting was then opened for questions and comments from the floor.The response was good, and there were a large number of questions and recommendations.

Several of the organisations were concerned about the psychiatric field. They pointed out that there is too much use of coercion in Norwegian psychiatry, although there are large variations between regions and institutions, and it was suggested that the NPM should examine this issue. The importance of openness concerning the NPM’s findings, and of input from users and family members, was stressed. Another point made was the importance of including neutral experts, especially in the medical field, in the visits.

Regarding the criminal law aspect, it was suggested that the NPM should monitor the use of remand in custody and solitary confinement in Norwegian prisons. A number of participants proposed that the NPM should focus on weaknesses in the system and on how to investigate and improve them. Other proposals were that the NPM should cooperate closely with civil society and that it should be relatively easy for individuals to approach the NPM.

Several participants approved of the fact that the NPM intends to have a focus on particularly vulnerable groups during the visits. It was considered important that children and young people in prison or child welfare institutions should be given adequate information about the NPM. It was also stressed that language difficulties, sexual orientation and disability may pose particular problems during detention.

Other questions raised during the meeting included the scope of the NPM’s terms of reference, the form of cooperation with public supervisory authorities and the advisory committee.

Ms Ervik thanked the participants for their valuable comments and offers of cooperation. She made it clear that the organisations and institutions that were being invited to participate in the advisory committee would retain their independent status, and that the NPM would be solely responsible for the content of the visit reports. She also stated that close contact and cooperation with stakeholders are a useful and valuable part of prevention efforts. Other arenas for cooperation are envisaged in addition to the advisory committee.

Mr Fliflet thanked the participants for coming and encouraged them to visit the NPM’s new website. He also urged those who believe they have suffered injustice or error from the public authorities to make a complaint to the Ombudsman.