Resounding victory for the child protection demonstrators!

Olav Sylte

Olav Sylte

Demonstrators get outside help – and the child protection Minister becomes paralyzed!

By Olav Sylte, lawyer

They demonstrate in front of the Norwegian Parliament and are heatedly active on the internet, their common denominator being that they think the justice system is not working at all. At least not when it comes to Norwegian child protection (CPS) – Barnevernet. Now they may have found acceptance for being at least partially right.

Norway is in fact no longer considered to be typically best in class, at least not in an honest way, and this apparently also applies to child protection and the legal system.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The question I am raising here is not that of exploitation of natural resources, pollution or the use of dope in sports, but the basic issue of whether Barnevernet’s intervention in families and homes has been “necessary” interference in these families in the human rights sense.

The alternative is that it may have been grave transgression of human rights.

Article 8-2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is the rule that states the requirement of “necessity”, and this is what has been subject to debate lately.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

My reason for taking this up now is that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has set in motion this year something resembring a unique, grand action against our child protection and justice system.

In a European context, it is rare that something like this happens. So it does not really surprise me that our Minister of Children and Equality had to give a rather sensational statement to the daily news on October 18.

The action started with the ECtHR admitting a Norwegian child protection case about forced adoption, to be considered under the possibility of violation of ECHR Article 8 last year. Human rights jurist Marius Reikerås was the one to submit the case and according to the media, he has had to move abroad as a result of his activity.

This case has probably, in conjunction with extensive demonstrations and criticism of the Norwegian child protection system over the past year, opened a fertile ground for other cases to get through the narrow needle’s eye which the ECtHR usually keeps.

The action revolves around the investigation of, so far, 7 Norwegian cases, several of them about adoption, and the question of whether ECHR article 8, including the requirement of “necessity”, has been violated.

(About the action: “Angriper barnevernet – Storoffensiv mot Norge: Menneskerettsdomstolen skal granske sju norske barnevernsaker” (Attacks Barnevernet – Grand offensive against Norway: The ECtHR is to investigate 7 Norwegian child protection cases) )

Even the fact that so many cases on the same issue have been admitted for proceedings, justifies the assertion that child welfare critics have already achieved a resounding win over Norwegian Barnevernet and the legal system that we have.

No self-criticism on the part of Barnevernet

Norwegian child protection gives the impression that the opposite has happened, and pretends that they do not even know of the ECtHR’s recent activity.

To illustrate this, I can mention a case on adoption in which I represented the parents before a County Board a few days ago.

In this case the municipality’s lawyer held that the human rights provision is not even applicable in matters of adoption, even though adoption is the most intrusive and serious intervention which the authorities can use against parents who do not agree to having their child adopted away.

The municipal lawyer claimed not to have heard anything about the ECtHR being involved in any proceedings regarding forced adoption, and had absolutely no knowledge of any activity of the ECtHR this year.

Certainly the central child protection authorities do not seem to have issued any instruction to curtail anything.

The Attorney General

Even the Attorney General, who has a habit of supporting the practice of the authorities, has recently stated that he is aware that the Norwegian child protection system may have got “out of control”.

This was in the summer. Subsequently, two more Norwegian cases were admitted to the ECtHR for consideration in the Court (the number of cases thus being increased from 5 to now 7).

( His statement: “Det norske barnevernet under lupen” (Norwegian Barnevernet under close scrutiny) )

Paralyzed Minister

The headline in the newspaper Dagbladet said that the Minister of Children and Equality, too, does not rule out the possibility that Norwegian Barnevernet and the justice system may systematically have violated human rights, like the critics have over several years claimed they do. This at least is my interpretation, based on the newspaper report, of what the Minister said.

I hope somebody will as soon as possible explain to Minister Horne that she is in fact responsible and can issue instructions as she sees fit.

The responsible Minister is expected to immediately have her Ministry instruct all Barnevern offices in the country to change tack before it is too late.

The correction may come from outside

The assertion and the lack of information about the media image shown by the municipal lawyer I mentioned above, may serve as an illustration of the Norwegian child protection system and the zealous legal system that we have.

We have a system which does not dare to admit that it may have made terrible errors, in matters of basic human rights and dignity. That is actually what ECHR Article 8 really is about.

When even the Minister does not manage to take action before it is too late, but just concludes that something may be wrong, there is perhaps only one option left, and that is that the correction must come from outside.

I assume that if this is the case, what happens might be somehat more brutal. Only time will tell and the minister still has a few months to clean house.

Further limitation of the freedom of expression of the involved parties

I have written about this subject for many years. I have also been reported to the Bar Association’s disciplinary unit for it. This is the side of Minister Horne which I have seen, besides the article in Dagbladet.

( More here: “Bufdir til klagesak mot advokat” (The directorate for child protection makes complaint against lawyer) )

Furthermore, a year ago I wrote the following:

“If someone is to be criticized besides the psychologist in the current case, it is above all the Norwegian courts with the Supreme Court in the lead. This because the threshold for intervention in private homes may have been set too low in general, and probably all too often in violation of ECHR Article 8. I have yet to see someone criticize, with similar campaigns, the Norwegian courts for this.”

I believe this claim is just as relevant today – but this is of scant help for those who have already lost their children. They can, however, expect to be invited by Horne to seminars, in the election campaign of the Progress Party which has started.

• • •
Olav Sylte is a Norwegian lawyer who has represented the families in many child protection cases, and who is also active writing articles about such issues in e.g. periodicals, newspapers and on his website Rett og urett (Justice and injustice). The Norwegian original of this article, “Brakseier for ‘barnevernsdemonstrantene’!”, was published on October 19, 2016.
This English version is published here with the author’s kind consent.

• • •

Thank you to Professor Marianne Haslev Skånland for making me aware of this article and for obtaining permission for me to print it here. I have found Professor Skanland to be one of the most knowledgeable Norwegians on this tragic subject.



7 Responses to Resounding victory for the child protection demonstrators!

  1. Only one Christian newspaper in Norway, Norge IDAG, has anything like a critical attitude to Norwegian child protection Barnevernet. The others publish contemptuous ridicule of Barnevernet’s victims and critics. One of these is the Oslo-based Vårt Land (Our Country). Here is a good comment on one derogatory article they had about the protest demonstrations against Barnevernet’s abuse of families.

    Marta Straume:
    “Child protection on Norway’s main street”

    The reason why she writes of the children she has witnessed being taken into care that they are ethnic Norwegians, is that Vårt Land’s typical attitude is that the protests only come from foreigners “who do not understand the excellence of Barnevernet and who want to continue their use of violence against their children”.

    Vårt Land has been so unquestioning regarding the whole question of how Barnevernet acts, that I am faintly surprised that they even accepted this comment for publication.

    It remains to be seen whether Vårt Land, or anybody else in Christian but politically correct circles, will understand anything if the Council of Europe or the European Court of Human Rights come out with criticism of the Norwegian way of “protecting” children. Probably not.

    • Jasper says:


      I hope that European Court of Human Rights could obligque norway to pay a sum only for not allowing emergency mehcanism of appeal against an emergency care order, that could take a case to District Court within a few days. Only that small part is a violation of Article 13 — right for effective domestic remedy.
      That could change the process a bit already.

      Not talking about contents yet — the necessity is key, in each case, exactly as Olav Sylte had written. Necessity which has to be proven, before emergency care or care order, which has to be reviewed quickly after emergency care if it was a false alarm or not…
      And necessity for keeping the families separated for years or even just for months?

      Barnevernet and Bufetat and Ministry should get really grilled in the courtroom in Strasbourg…

    • Chris says:

      Thank you for your comment, Marianne. I am saddened by it but it is very educational. I am very curious about “Christian” Norway. Certain statistics show that many “Christians” in Norway don’t even believe in God. Maybe next summer, if time allows, I will do a study on the subject of “Christian Norway.” How anyone, particularly a Christian, can have this sort of attitude towards the Barnevernet’s victims and critics is beyond me.
      I must admit that on this side of the world, in America, Christianity is under attack from within and without. Many churches that used to make up the solid mainstream are now politically correct to the extent that Biblical views are discarded. Like these churches, Vårt Land should be ashamed of themselves. The Bible always trumps humanist/leftist views no matter how popular they are, in my opinion.
      I am particularly saddened by your last paragraph, Marianne. No one should be beyond criticism if claims of wrong doing/human rights violations are valid. I’m convinced that crimes are being committed in what is called Norwegian “child welfare.”
      The Church should be more honest than any media source. At the same time, any good media source keeps the editorials on that page and reports the truth of the news. Unfortunately, in our time, many “media” sources editorialize in their news stories. It sounds like U.S. and Norwegian mainstream media sources are very similar in this way.
      The “Child protection on Norway’s main street” article lines up with my limited knowledge of the CPS of Norway. There is a reason for worldwide criticism of the Barnevernet.

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