The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Norway is a state party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Norway is also a state party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the state has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.

At regional level, Norway is a state party to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Constitutional Provisions

Under Article 101 of the 1814 Norwegian Constitution, "All people may meet in peaceful assemblies and demonstrations."

National Legislation

Under the domestic regime, notification must be provided to the police in advance of a public assembly. Law enforcement agencies may impose restrictions and even prohibit an assembly if necessary to prevent public disorder or crime and traffic disruption.

The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies

The Use of Force

International Legal Rules

Under international law, the duty on the state and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:

In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.

All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.

National Legislation

Use of force by the Norwegian police is generally constrained by the principles of necessity and proportionality.

The Use of Firearms

International Legal Rules

According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life. 

National Legislation

The Norwegian police force is generally unarmed with only those officers belong to specialised divisions permitted to carry firearms. The use of firearms is regulated in the Norwegian Police Force’s "Weapons Instruction" (Våpeninstruks). Under Section 4-3 of this Instruction, firearms may only be used when absolutely necessary to prevent loss of human life or serious injury and lesser means of force have either been tried or would be fruitless. Firearms may also be used when deemed necessary to arrest a person either convicted, or suspected to a high degree of certainty, of killing or engaging in other serious acts of violence or against persons who are considered to be particularly dangerous to human life or health,  Norway's sovereignty, or its fundamental national interests.

State Compliance with its Legal Obligations

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Norway, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly.

Regional Jurisprudence

To date, the European Court of Human Rights has not found a violation of the right of peaceful assembly by Norway.

Views of Civil Society

According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Norway:

The right to freedom of assembly is respected in most cases. There have been tensions in recent years over demonstrations by extremist groups and their potential threat to public security, with some critics calling for far-right marches to be prohibited. In 2017, police blocked one far-right demonstration in order to prevent clashes with left-wing opponents, but later allowed another such event to proceed.

Downloads

1814 Constitution of Norway (as amended) (English version) - Download (111 KB)
2016 Police Weapons Instruction (Norwegian original) - Download (154 KB)