Mandate

The UN Convention against Torture states that torture and inhuman treatment are strictly prohibited and that no exceptions can be made from this prohibition under any circumstances.

Every year, people are deprived of their liberty because of criminal offences, mental illness or for other reasons. These people are particularly vulnerable and face an increased risk of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty that seeks to protect people deprived of their liberty.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s mandate

On 21 June 2013, the Storting decided that Norway would ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The Parliamentary Ombudsman was assigned the task of exercising the mandate set out in the OPCAT. The Ombudsman has a special responsibility for investigating whether the human rights of people who are deprived of their liberty are safeguarded and for preventing torture and inhuman treatment. Work produced under this mandate also gives the general public more insight into the conditions at facilities where people are deprived of their liberty.

The National Preventive Mechanism

Based on this mandate, the Parliamentary Ombudsman established a dedicated national preventive mechanism at its office in 2014. The National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) makes regular visits to facilities where people are deprived of their liberty, such as prisons, police custody facilities, mental health care institutions and child welfare institutions. On the basis of these visits, the Parliamentary Ombudsman issues recommendations for the purpose of preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

 

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Definitions

 

Deprivation of liberty

Any form of detention or imprisonment or the placement of a person in a public or private custodial setting which that person is not permitted to leave at will by order of the authorities.

Place of detention

Any place under the State's jurisdiction and control where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, either by virtue of an order given by a public authority or at its instigation or with its consent or acquiescence.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

When a person is exposed to great physical or psychological pain or suffering, and the act is committed by a public servant, or by a private individual acting on behalf of a public servant.

Torture

When a person is exposed to great physical or psychological pain or suffering in order to obtain information or a confession, or to punish, intimidate, threaten or force the subject into submission.