Serious concerns remained about the prevalence of, and inadequate state response to, rape and other violence against women. The rights of refugees and asylum-seekers continued to be restricted; Afghan asylum-seekers faced forced returns to Afghanistan.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
There was a dramatic decrease in the number of people claiming asylum. By November, only 3,378 people had claimed asylum, compared to 31,145 in 2015, according to government statistics.
The government continued to take initiatives to restrict the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees. The practice of “Dublin” returns – requiring any asylum claim to be processed by the country in which the applicant first arrived – to Italy continued, and restarted to Greece.
Afghan nationals represented the fifth biggest group of people who claimed asylum by the end of November. They continued to face obstacles in accessing asylum and forced return to Afghanistan. According to Eurostat, there was a dramatic drop in asylum recognition rates for Afghan nationals, down to 24% by August; Norway had the highest number of persons being forcibly returned to Afghanistan.
Violence against women and girls
Gender-based violence, including rape and sexual violence, remained a serious concern. The Norwegian Penal Code was still not in accordance with international human rights standards as the definition of rape was not based on consent. The number of rape cases reported to the police had been increasing steadily over the years. In 2016, 1,663 cases of rape were reported to the police, an increase of nearly 21.9% since 2015. Shortcomings in police investigations contributed to the low level of rape prosecutions. In April, the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed the quality of investigations in 275 nationally reported rape cases. The review concluded that there was considerable room for improvement in the quality of police investigations, and pointed especially at weaknesses in the initial phase, where the necessary steps to secure evidence were not always taken.
Following the consideration of Norway’s ninth periodic report, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concerns about the high level of gender-based violence against women, and recommended a number of measures including the adoption of a legal definition of rape in the Penal Code that places lack of free consent at its centre. In addition, the Committee expressed concern at the consequences of the criminalization of the purchase of sexual services from adults. The committee recommended a white paper on prostitution with a comprehensive framework which ensured that women who engage in sex work are not prosecuted for the selling of sexual services, including for acts that currently amount to criminal acts of “promotion of prostitution”.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
The Penal Code still did not classify violence motivated by discriminatory attitudes towards transgender people as a hate crime.
On 1 March, a 44-year-old Rwandan national accused of complicity in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was released after four years in custody. The Ministry of Justice had previously concluded that he could be extradited to Rwanda. The investigation into an allegation by his defence lawyer – that two witnesses were pressured into giving false testimonies to the prosecutors – led to the conclusion that their testimonies were not sufficiently credible.