LATEST UPDATE: DECEMBER 2000


In general, despite the fact that Norway remains a tolerant country where human rights and civil liberties are well respected, xenophobic attitudes are becoming more acceptable. The small immigrant and ethnic minority populations have increasingly reported incidents of discrimination, particularly in employment and in access to facilities and services. Opinions that only a few years ago would have been entirely the province of the far right have increasingly entered the mainstream debate on immigration.

At the forefront of that debate is the Progress Party (Frp), which offers immigration as the explanation for all social problems. The Frp has become increasingly popular; it is the third largest party in parliament and, at its peak in September 2000, opinion polls showed the party as the one most approved of by respondents, its support reaching 34.3 per cent compared to 22 per cent for the governing Labour Party (DNA)

This is the first time since the Second World War that a populist party has gained a foothold in Norway, causing some commentators to compare the situation to that in Austria where Jörg Haider's Freedom Party (FPÖ) has become a partner in government. This is most unlikely to occur in Norway, however, not only because of differences between the Frp and the FPÖ, and between the historical trajectories of the two nations, but also because other Norwegian parties seem disinclined to enter into a coalition with the Frp, and Prime Minister Stoltenberg has publicly appealed to them to keep the Frp marginalized.

Demographic data (see Minifacts about Norway)

Total population: 4.48 million (July 2000 estimate)

Jewish population: 1,000 (0.4 per cent of the population), mainly in Oslo

Other ethnic minorities (see also Racism and xenophobia): Norway's long-standing minority groups are: the Sami, formerly known as Lapps and indigenous to Norway, Sweden and Finland; an estimated 50,000­80,000 Norwegian Sami live primarily in the far north of country; a small Finnish population that resides in the north-east of the country; a community of  Roma includes at least three different groups (the biggest is the tatere or travellers) and has been in Norway since the sixteenth century. Some sensitivity about the collection of data pertaining to ethnic origin has made information about minority groups in Norway difficult to obtain.

Religious groups 1999: Evangelical Lutheran, the state church (86 per cent); other Protestant and Roman Catholic (3 per cent); other (1 per cent), including approximately 45,000 Muslims, 6,800 Buddhists and a few hundred Sikhs and Hindus; none and unknown (10 per cent). Religious communities are required to register with the government only if they desire state support, which is provided on a proportional basis in accordance with membership.

Political data

Political system: constitutional monarchy, with a unicameral parliament (the Storting) that occasionally divides itself into two chambers, and elects 25 per cent of its members to an upper house (Lagting)

Head of state: King Harald V (since 1991)

Head of government: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (DNA), at 41 the youngest prime minister in Norway's history, heads a minority Det norske Arbeiderparti (DNA, Norwegian Labour Party) government (with 65 seats in the 165-member Storting). This government was formed on 17 March 2000, following the resignation of Kjell Magne Bondevik's (KrF) coalition government - which had been in power since the 16 September 1997 general election - after it lost a vote of confidence.

Main opposition parties: Kristelig Folkeparti (KrF, Christian People's Party) (25 seats); Fremskrittspartiet (Frp, Progress Party) (25 seats); Høyre (H, Conservative Party) (23 seats); Senterpartiet (Sp, Centre Party) (11 seats); Socialistisk Venstreparti (SV, Socialist Left Party) (9 seats); Venstre (V, Liberal Party) (6 seats); Tverrpolitisk kyst- og distriktspartiet (TF, Non-Partisan Coastal and Rural Party ) (1 seat)

Last general election 16 September 1997: A minority centre-right coalition (composed of KrF, Sp and V) emerged victorious (26 per cent, 42 seats), bringing to an end eleven years of a DNA minority government. The DNA had regarded Frp as its main opponent in the run-up to the election, and Frp did in fact attract many previous Labour voters.

Local elections 13 September 1999: the three parties of Bondevik's ruling coalition fared badly, as did DNA, which with 28.7 per cent of the vote had its worst result for decades. The largest gains were for the far-right Frp; its 13.5 per cent share of the vote was its best result ever, though opinion polls in the run-up to the election had estimated an even higher percentage, as much as 20 per cent. The two other far-right political parties that contested the election, Fedrelandspartiet and Hvit valgallianse, only gained a few hundred votes each.

Next parliamentary election: September 2001

Economic data

GDP: US$146 billion (1998), US$145.4 billion (1999 estimate) (World Bank)

GDP growth: 2.1  per cent (1998), 0.6 per cent (1999 estimate) (World Bank)

Inflation 1999 estimate: 2.8 per cent (CIA World Factbook)

Unemployment (August 1999): 2.9 per cent (general population), 11.5 per cent (non-western immigrants) (ECRI Second Report on Norway)

Pseudo-scientific racism and antisemitism have had proponents in Norway since the beginning of the twentieth century, including Jon Alfred Mjøen, Eivind Saxlund and Mikal Sylten. However, their writings did not go unchallenged and, in several instances, were the subject of court cases. In the 1930s Nasjonal Samling (NS, National Unity) led by Vidkun Quisling and other minor political groups advocated National Socialism. The left-wing press and two other non-socialist newspapers took a clear stand against Nazism and antisemitism. Most of the press strongly condemned the events of Kristallnacht and attacks on Jewish property in Oslo, but the government was reluctant to receive refugees from Germany for fear of offending the Nazis. Norway itself had about 40,000 NS-members during the war and 15,000 Waffen-SS volunteers.

When Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, Norway's Jewish population numbered 1,800. Under Nazi occupation, persecution of the Jews began in 1941 and Quisling became minister president in February 1942. On 26 November 1942, 530 Jews were deported to the Nazi death camps. Altogether, 760 Jews were deported from Norway, and only 24 survived. About 930 Jews fled to Sweden and some 60 remained in hiding in Norway. After the war, the Norwegian government extended a special invitation to Jews who had survived the camps to settle in the country.

After a spate of swastika daubings in the early 1960s, measures were introduced to combat antisemitism. The ministry of church and education instructed schools to keep a close watch on anti-Jewish teachings. In 1963 parliament approved legislation outlawing actions or expressions offensive to a minority faith or ethnic group and in 1970 this legislation was strengthened. However, the law has rarely been applied. In 1977 a teacher was given a 120-day suspended sentence for making antisemitic statements in two Oslo newspapers.

In 1975 the far-right group Norsk Front attempted, unsuccessfully, to enter mainstream political life. It disbanded in 1979 and reorganized itself as Nasjonalt Folkeparti (NF, National People's Party). In 1985 it fire-bombed a mosque in Oslo and sprayed Nazi slogans on the synagogue. The party disbanded in 1991.

Restitution

In March 1996 the justice minister, Grete Faremo, appointed a committee of inquiry to ascertain what happened to Jewish and non-Jewish owned property during and after the Second World War. Having examined approximately 1,700 confiscation cases and several hundred business records, the committee published its findings in the spring of 1997. In March 1999 parliament ratified a resolution allocating NKr 450 million (US$58 million) as compensation for damage caused during the Second World War. Compensation payments are to be given to Norwegian victims of war as well as to Jewish communal projects.

Norwegian citizenship is based on a principle of descent, so that only those born in Norway to one or two Norwegian parents is a citizen. Immigrants are defined as all persons residing legally in Norway whose parents and grandparents were not Norwegian. Immigrants may apply for Norwegian citizenship if they are over eighteen and have been continually resident in the country for seven years. Non-Norwegian citizens may vote in local government elections if they have been legally resident in Norway for a minimum of three years.

Before the 1970s Norwegian society was virtually homogeneous, apart from a few long-standing minority groups, including the indigenous Sami and small Jewish and Roma communities. It was during that decade that the first groups of  labour immigrants, mainly from Pakistan and Turkey, came to Norway. Ever since, the country's population has become increasingly diverse. Nonetheless, it still remains one of the most homogeneous in Europe, with non-Norwegians accounting for only about 6 per cent of the total population. One-third of the immigrant population lives in Oslo. Other cities with a large number of immigrants are Bergen, Stavanger, Bærum and Trondheim.

In the mid-1990s Norwegian immigration policies became more restrictive and, as a result, the number of incoming immigrants and refugees diminished considerably in the second half of the decade. There has been a virtual block on economic immigration to Norway ever since, and newcomers at present, apart from professionals or other skilled workers from European countries, are generally either asylum-seekers or those taking up family reunification rights.

Incidents involving racist or xenophobic violence have been and remain very rare occurrences in Norway. Nonetheless, there seems to be a certain widespread reluctance among the population to accept that a Norwegian identity can encompass persons of different ethnic and religious origins, despite the fact that many such persons have been born and raised in Norway. According to the European Commission on Racism and Intolerance's (ECRI) Second Report on Norway, there have been complaints that people who appear to be of non-western origin are checked more frequently and thoroughly than other travellers by immigration and customs officials at Norwegian airports and other entry points. Similarly there are reports that the identification papers of visible minorities are checked more frequently by the police on the streets. Furthermore, the majority of such complaints are apparently never investigated by the authorities.

According to the Utlendingsdirektoratet (UDI, Norwegian Office of Immigration), at the beginning of 1998 immigrants made up approximately 5.5 per cent of the population (some 244,700 people), of which more than half were from other European countries. The ten largest nationality groups were Pakistanis (20,924), Swedes (19,546), Danes (18,388), Vietnamese (14,596), Bosnians (11,883), British (10,568), Germans (9,252), Yugoslavians (9,061), Iranians (8,877) and Sri Lankans (8,551). 

As of the first of January 1999 the number of immigrants had risen slightly to 260,742, comprising nearly 6 per cent of the total population. Out of these, the largest groups continued to be from Sweden (22,413), Pakistan (21,889) and Denmark (18,873), the breakdown by continent being as follows: 131,422 Europeans; 23,580 Africans; 85,714 Asians; 10,381 North and Central Americans; 8,810 South Americans; and 835 from Oceania. Of the total, 220,347 were first-generation immigrants (those born abroad) and 40,395 second-generation (those born in Norway to parents born abroad); 165,000 were Norwegian citizens. Between 1998 and 1999, the largest increase was in immigration from Iraq (4,218 to 5,433 persons) and Somalia (5,767 to 6,977 persons).

The latest figures from the UDI (1 January 2000) show a small increase in the number of immigrants in Norway, which is given as 282,5000, representing some 6.3 per cent of the population. Of these 238,500 are first-generation and 44,000 second-generation. The largest nationality groups continued to be Swedes (23,240), Pakistanis (22,831) and Danes (18,863).

Indigenous Sami

The Sami, formerly known as Lapps, live primarily in the far north of the country. In 1989 they were granted their own parliament, the 39-seat Sameting, which functions as a consultative body, and meets regularly to consider matters 'of special importance to the Sami people'. In general the Sameting - members of which were elected in 1997 for the third time - deals with the protection of the Sami language and culture, and of the resources and lands in which they constitute the majority.

In recent years steps have been taken by the government to provide Sami language instruction in schools in the far north, radio and television programmes broadcast or subtitled in Sami and subsidies for Sami newspapers and other publications. In 1997 a deputy minister position was created to look after Sami affairs.

In October 1999, at the opening of the third session of the Sameting, King Harald V publicly apologized to the Sami people for the repression of their culture under Norwegian rule.

Roma

Roma  first migrated to Norway in the sixteenth century and have been subject to persecution ever since. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were an estimated 4,000 Roma in the country and various measures were put into effect at that time - through the so-called Vagabond Mission - to assimilate them into Norway's agricultural society, including the forced removal of children from parents, and the setting up of work camps for travellers. In the 1930s the policy of 'Norwegianization' gave rise to new laws for 'dealing with' Roma, especially the one passed in 1934 that allowed  for the enforced sterilization of Roma on both social (because they were unable to provide for children) and eugenic (because they were 'inferior') grounds. While Roma were not, like the Jews, deported to the camps during the Nazi occupation of Norway, the legal abductions of children, sterilizations, sometimes castrations and later, in the 1940s, lobotomies continued long after the war. Other measures were also introduced including the law, in 1953, that forbade travellers from owning horses. It was not until the 1970s that there was any discernible protest against the treatment of Roma, and not until 1988 that all special legislation concerning Roma was removed from the statute books.

Despite that fact, and the fact that in 1998 the Rom people were accorded the status of a national minority, Roma still experience a high degree of racism and discrimination, particularly in being denied access to legal sites for encampment.

In December 2000 the Norwegian government apologized to Norwegian Roma for its policy of 'Norwegianization', in effect from the 1930s to 1950s and under which so many Roma were subjected to forced human rights abuses. The government did not offer compensation for the wrongs done. Only a very small number of victims of lobotomy and sterilization have been awarded compensation.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Those who enter Norway and apply for asylum will, if their application is accepted, be granted refugee status. Temporary permits may also be granted collectively to large groups of refugees, as they were in the case of Bosnian refugees in the mid-1990s.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) reports that 8,400 applications for asylum were lodged in Norway in 1998, a substantial increase on the 2,300 received in 1997. Most of these were from refugees from the former Yugoslav republics and Iraqi Kurds.

According to the UNHCR, in the whole of 1999, 10,160 applied for asylum in Norway, the largest groups being from Iraq (4,073), followed by Somalia (1,340) and Yugoslavia (1,152). Of the nearly 3,000 asylum-seekers that arrived during the first half of 2000, 1,300 were from European countries, primarily Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Russia and Turkey; non-Europeans were primarily of Iranian, Iraqi or Somali origin.

In 2000, according to the UDI, Norway received a total of 10,842 asylum applications, out of which over 7,000 applicants came from other European countries, the largest groups being from Yugoslavia (1,177), Romania (712), Russia (471) and Slovakia (507). This figure shows only a slight increase on 1999 and an increase of 27 per cent over 1998.

Norway has a low acceptance rate in comparison with other European countries and has several times been reprimanded by the UNHCR for its strict interpretation of the UN Refugee Convention of 1951. According to the US Department of State Human Rights Reports for 1998, 1999 and 2000, the results of the asylum procedures were as follows:

Political asylum: 108 (1998), 181 (1999), 97 (2000)

Temporary collective permits: 261 Bosnians (1998), 7,957 Kosovar Albanians (1999), 2,019 Iraqi Kurds (2000)

Individual residency permits: 1,813 (1998), 2,609 (1999), 2,856 (2000)

Asylum as UN quota refugees: 1,124 (1998), 1,480 (1999), 1,485 (2000)

Residency through family reunification programme: 1,542 (1999) 1,778 (2000)

Rejections: 3,300 (1999), 4,899 (2000)

In July 1999 the government imposed a mandatory visa requirement for all Slovak citizens following an influx of 130 Slovak Roma requesting asylum, on the grounds that Roma from Slovakia were not in need of international protection. The requirement was lifted temporarily in November 1999, re-imposed in December, and finally abolished on 16 August 2000. In the first few weeks after the abolition, 327 Slovakian Roma entered Norway seeking asylum. Very few of the applications have been successful.

When the collective one-year temporary permits granted to nearly 8,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999 expired, recipients were encouraged to return to Kosovo, although they were then allowed to apply for individual residency permits. Most of those who did not return to Kosovo voluntarily in 1999 and 2000 - some 5,100, just over 1,000 of whom had returned to Norway after leaving - did so, and most were rejected. In October 2000, after intervention by the UNHCR, the deportation from Norway of all Kosovar Albanian families with small children was postponed until after March 2001.

An opinion poll conducted in May and June 1999 by Statistisk Sentralbyrå (SSB, Central Bureau of Statistics) found that 48 per cent of the Norwegian population, that is nearly half, believe that immigrants commit more crimes than Norwegians. This is a 5 per cent increase on the results of the 1998 poll. In addition, 51 per cent believe that, in comparison to Norwegians, immigrants have greater access to social security benefits. Svein Blom, who carried out the research, believes that people have been influenced by the media's focus on immigrant and youth criminality. On the other hand, 71 per cent accept that Norway should provide domicile for refugees and asylum-seekers to at least the same extent as is current practice (which might be regarded as support for the government's policy of receiving 6,000 Kosovar Albanians during 1999), and 90 per cent believe that immigrants should have the same employment opportunities as Norwegians, a drop of 2 per cent on the 1998 results.

Since the Second World War, during which Norway was occupied by the Nazis for five years, neo-Nazi activity has never been more than a marginal phenomenon. The very first appearance of such activity in post-war Norway was in the 1970s, but it remained virtually non-existent until the early 1990s, when groups of young militants started to form. Today, the Norwegian far right includes xenophobic and anti-immigration parties that field electoral candidates, as well as about twenty similar, or more extreme, extra-parliamentary groups, and a floating population of often violent youths, still generally male but increasingly mixed, involved in the neo-Nazi skinhead, Black Metal and far-right music movements. The movement as a whole continues to be fragmented, lacking in unity and leadership. Almost all of the parties and groups have Internet websites, often designed and run by their youth sections.

Norway has seen the rise and fall of a variety of extreme right-wing youth groups since the early 1990s. But during 1998 and 1999 the level of activity was the lowest for several years, and there have consequently been fewer violent incidents. There are several reasons for this: the far-right scene is small with a limited number of activists and often incompetent leaders; the police have made extra, seemingly successful, efforts in this area; and some of the movement's activists have been sentenced or imprisoned.

It is difficult to know how many individuals are involved in the far right, but observers currently estimate that there is a hardcore group of about 100 people and another 1,000 supporters.

Mainstream political parties

The most significant anti-immigration party is Fremskrittspartiet (Frp, Progress Party), led by Carl Ivar Hagen. It holds 25 seats in parliament (the third largest bloc) and won 15.3 per cent of the votes in the general election of September 1997. At its peak of popularity, in September 2000, opinion polls showed it to be the country's most favoured party: a poll by Norwegian Broadcasting and the mainstream newspaper Aftenposten (published 15 September 2000) found 34.3 per cent supporting the Frp, compared to 22 per cent supporting the DNA; it even showed the Frp enjoying the support of 40 per cent of the country's trade unionists. As far as the polls are concerned, Frp support decreased over the following months until, in December 2000, the DNA had again overtaken it (28.8 per cent to 22.9 per cent). Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly true that the party's recent statements about the need to spend more money on health care and support for the elderly, and less on projects like a new opera house, have attracted the support of traditional DNA voters.

The Frp manifesto includes the establishment of an immigrant quota set at 1,000 per year, and the requirement that a national referendum should be held in order to determine whether further foreigners should be let into the country. It also opposes aid to the developing world, on the grounds that Third World poverty is a consequence of the inability of those nations to organize themselves.

Although two of Frp's MPs, Øystein Hedstrøm and Vidar Kleppe, have a history of involvement with racist organizations, activists of the more extreme far right do not consider the Frp to be a political ally, and disapprove of its adoption of a more moderate stance - particularly in its anti-immigration policies - in order to acquire greater electoral respectability. In 1997 Carl Hagen voiced public disapproval of Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom he characterized as a hardcore racist who should not be compared with members of the Frp. Hagen explained his own point of view as follows: 'It is a fact that a society without ethnic minorities is more harmonious. I believe that when ethnic minorities come into a society, they plant the seed of disharmony. Racism does not exist in a country without minorities, it grows along with the growth of minorities: if the number of immigrants doubles, racism will automatically quadruple.'

The party has had a volatile history. Before the 1993 general election it held twenty-two parliamentary seats. In 1994 a year-long internal battle between the party's racists and 'liberals' came to an end when most of the latter, who opposed the party's leader Carl Hagen, left the Frp. In 1996 the party's ten seats in parliament were further reduced to six when four members realigned as independent MPs following revelations that the party had been infiltrated by neo-Nazi members of Viking. In the same year the party published a report on the 'cost' of immigration, which turned out to be the work of the Den Norske Forening.

In September 1996, in the run-up to the 1997 general election, Øystein Hedstrøm promised that his campaign was going to be 'in the interests of Norwegian voters'. Frp candidate Bjørnar Johansen campaigned for a seat in Finnmark, a region in the far north of Norway where the Samis number between 50,000-80,000. His campaign, which was hostile to the Samis, was not condemned by other political parties.

In the September 1999 local elections the Frp campaigned on an anti-immigration platform and had its best result ever. During the election campaign, the Frp MP Jan Simonsen suggested that asylum-seekers should only be allowed into shops in the company of a Norwegian, a suggestion that apparently was offered in the interests of crime prevention. Carl Hagen raised no public objections to the proposal.

Internal conflicts followed Frp's success in the 1999 elections, and two main factions seem to have formed, one around Hagen, the other around Kleppe and Hedstrøm. Adding to the conflict is the recent exclusion of Oddbjørn Jonstad, leader of the Frp branch in Oppegård, who had been making statements concerning asylum-seekers that were considered to be too extreme. Hagen used the Jonstad case to demonstrate the party's intolerance of racists, although the exclusion is regarded by many observers to be merely cosmetic. Hagen's faction is reportedly keen to expel Hedstrøm as well.

The Frp's youth organization is the Fremskrittspartiets Ungdom (FPU, Progress Party Youth).

In 1999, three Frp members - including Gunner Gundersund - set up the organization Norsk Kultur (Norwegian Culture) to promote and strengthen Norwegian culture and its values.

Far-right parliamentary parties

Fedrelandspartiet (FLP, Fatherland Party) is an anti-immigration party that has been legally registered since 1991. The FLP, currently led by Harald Trefall, has a predominantly  ageing male membership. In the 1997 general election the its vote fell to 3,775 (0.15 per cent) from 11,546 (0.5 per cent) in the 1993 general election, prompting resignations from some of its key activists. In 1996 the FLP relaunched its youth organization, Fedrelandspartiets Ungdom (FLU, Fatherland Party Youth), under the leadership of Arnljot Moseng, who has since become the party secretary of Nasjonalalliansen.

At FLP's annual general meeting in Tvedestrand on 17 October 1998 an argument between delegates broke out that led to a further loss of members. The conflict followed FLP-member Arild Kibsgaard's criticism of the far-right magazine Fritt Forum. Some on the extreme right had hoped that the FLP might be well placed to establish unity between the various nationalist groupings, but in their current condition this is very doubtful.

Before the 1999 local elections FLP had specifically targetted two groups: youth and immigrants. The campaign literature intended for immigrants, which was translated into four languages, expressed the view that the populating of Norway with foreigners was dangerous, and called for a halt to economic migrants, though 'real' refugees should continue to receive aid via the United Nations. The material intended for young people was of an entirely different nature: 'Do you wish to see your descendants growing up in a multicultural society with murder, rape and gang fights between different ethnic groups? If so, then vote for the other parties who want unlimited immigration to Norway.' The FLP had its poorest results ever in the election, almost certainly a reflection of the loss of members earlier on the year.

The decline in membership also seems to be reflected in the fact that the FLP has, in general, been relatively inactive over the last few years; even its Internet website seems to have vanished.

In the run-up to the 1997 general election, the FLP and other Scandinavian nationalist parties - including the Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden and the Isänmaallinen Kansallis-Litto/ Fosterländska Folkforbundet (Patriotic National Alliance) in Finland - founded Nord-Nat in Malmö, Sweden. The raison d'être for Nord-Nat, modelled on Le Pen's neo-fascist international Euronat, is to enhance co-operation in the attempt to preserve the so-called culture of the Nordic people. Michael Knutsen, the editor of Fritt Forum, together with members of Euronat, attended a European seminar in Stockholm in September 1998 organized by Sverigedemokraterna.

In February 1999 a number of anti-immigrant groups joined together as a new registered political party, the Nasjonalalliansen (NA, National Alliance), under the leadership of Kjell Tore Vogsland. The move came after Vogsland succeeded Jack Erik Kjuss as leader of Hvit valgallianse (HV, White Electoral Alliance), a party that had won 463 votes in the 1997 general election on a manifesto that included a call for forced sterilization and abortion to reduce the number of ethnic minorities and to safeguard an all-white population. Vogsland was previously the leader of Forente Nasjonalister (FN, United Nationalists), a group that was originally established to be an umbrella organization unifying the Norwegian far right, but had never managed to realize that ambition.

In addition to HV and FN, the new party incorporated HV's youth wing Hvit Ungdom, the mostly inactive Norge Mot Innvandring (Norway against Immigration), the Norges patriotiske enhetsparti (NPE, Norwegian Patriotic Unity Party) - one of Norway's most fanatical, if now ageing, nationalist groups, which had been forced to abandon its attempt in 1996 to collect enough signatures to register as a political party - and attracted as well some members of Frp and Folkebevegelsen Mot Innvandring. Arnljot Moseng, who has a long history of involvement with neo-Nazi movements, became the party secretary, and Eivind Svik - who has been known to pose as an anti-fascist in order to secure information on anti-fascist organizations - the leader of the youth organization.

As part of its plan to adopt a more respectable position on the political spectrum, NA toned down its party programme - which included support for freedom of religion and a limited acceptance of refugees - and adopted the wearing of suits and ties. NA's plans also included the establishment of its own magazine Fremtid (Future), its own publishing house, Fremtid Forlag, and a shop, all of which would be overseen by Vogsland and Moseng. In January 2000 the Norwegian printer's union called on its members to refuse to publish Fremtid.

In the winter of 2000, however, after Oddbjørn Jonstad had been expelled from the Frp, he and the NA joined forces to found a new anti-immigration party, the Norsk Folkeparti (Norwegian People's Party), of which Jonstad became the leader.

Extra-parliamentary groups

The Institut for Norsk Okkupasjonshistorie (INO, Institute for the History of Occupied Norway) was established after the Second World War by former Norwegian Nazis and members of the war-time collaborationist Nasjonal Samling. The leader of INO is Knut Baardseth, a former member of the Waffen-SS. Its original newsletter Skolenytt (School News) was later relaunched as Folk og Land (People and Country), which is still being published and is partly sponsored by Ørnulf Myklestad (a veteran Norwegian Nazi and antisemite). INO was in a very poor financial situation in the early 1990s and had to sell off some of its property. Shortly thereafter, however, it was given access to the Oslo property of former Nazi Rolf Ingebrigtsen, and it still uses these premises as its base. INO has started giving grants and scholarships to students undertaking research on the war-time period, and it has increasingly been in contact with Holocaust deniers throughout the world. In addition INO has succeeded in campaigns to erect memorials dedicated to the Norwegian Waffen-SS in Estonia, Hungary and, in August 1998, in Krasnoye Selo (outside St Petersburg) in Russia. The INO has denied having links to the neo-Nazi movement or to racist organizations. However, it has been reported that the former leader of Hvit Arisk Motstand (White Aryan Resistance), Jan Holthe, and former NPE leader Knut Westland are both members of INO. In April 1996 Holthe was charged with numerous offences in connection with his racist activities. And, at one time, Westland - forced to resign his captaincy in the armed forces in 1996 because of his political views - might well have been described as the country's leading racist.

The principal aim of the INO is the rehabilitation of the Nasjonal Samling and its leader Vidkun Quisling. One of the group's younger members, the physician Inger Cecilie Stridsklev, is probably the country's most enthusiastic defender of Quisling who, she maintains, was not an antisemite and saved many Jews. Stridsklev is also the deputy leader of the anti-abortion movement Pro Vita (For Life) in Telemark. She describes herself as someone who speaks up for those who can't speak for themselves.

The anti-immigration party Folkebevegelsen Mot Innvandring (FMI, Popular Movement against Immigration), established in 1987, is, after a period of relative inertia, once again becoming active. The previous inactivity was thought to be due to the ill-health and retirement of Arne Myrdal, FMI's  former leader and leading ideologue. The new leader of FMI is twenty-two-year old Ken-Rune Almendingen Nilsson.

Since 1997 the FMI has likened its policies to those of the Frp, in response to which Frp leader Carl Hagen said: 'FMI is not a racist organization . . . there is a lot of sense in the group's policies.' Members of FMI distributed propaganda materials at the 1997 New Year's Eve concert in Nittedal, and, in 1998, the party established a new branch in Oslo. In January 2000 FMI recruiting leaflets were distributed in the village of Krokstadelva in Nedre Eiker.

In May 1999 FMI had a meeting with the justice minister at which the party presented a report - entitled 'Nasjonalstaten Norge: en analyse av de fremtidige befolkningsmessige konsekvenser under påvirkning av internasjonalisering og fremmedindvandring' (Nation-state Norway: an analysis of the consequences of globalization and immigration on the demographics of the Norwegian population). The Antirasistisk Senter in Oslo requested an explanation for the meeting and were told that, although the FMI's policies were very far from those of the government, the ministry nevertheless is obliged to allow those with opinions on important political issues to present their views. The justice ministry assured the Antirasistisk Senter that it would not agree to meet with organizations that openly endorse Nazi ideologies. However, FMI leader Ken-Rune Almendingen Nilsson, who was part of the group that met with the minister, does have overt contacts with Viking, and FMI's board contains several well-known racists.

There are a number of so-called Black Metal groups - organizations that are Satanist and/or Odinist (followers of a pagan New Age religion steeped in Norse mythology) - that are overtly  nationalist or racist, and there is a certain crossover between these groups and the neo-Nazi movement. The texts that these groups look to are often anti-Christian and antisemitic, and Norwegian Satanists have in the past been responsible for setting fire to churches and desecrating cemeteries. Varg Vikernes is a cult hero for the Norwegian Black Metal movement; Gjallarhorn, for example, described him as 'an apprentice without a master'.

The NPE, after its 1996 bid to become a registered political party failed, tried to become eligible for state support by forming an Åsatru-samfunn (Åsatru society), a pagan religious group that worships Norse gods such as Odin and Thor. Its application was initially rejected by the government but, after a complaint was lodged with the ombudsman, the decision was reversed, and the association Det Norske Åsatru-samfunn is now officially recognized. There are other recognized Åsatru-samfunn in Norway that are apolitical and do not espouse racist views.

In 1997 a Norwegian branch of the international racist and Odinist network Wotansvolk - founded in the United States - was set up. Its founder, Vigrid-leader Tore Tvedt, is behind a virulently antisemitic mail-order operation, Foreningen for sann historie (The Society for True History), that sells antisemtic and Holocaust-denial publications, many of which are imported from the United States. Tore Tvedt has also written several articles for Fritt Forum. Wotansvolk believes that Odinism is a religion for Aryan peoples only, and names as its enemies Communism, Christianity and Zionism.

Den Norske Forening (DNF, The Norwegian Society) was founded in 1991 and is modelled on the Danish organization, Den Danske Forening, and presents itself as an official research institute. DNF, currently led by Torfinn Hellandsvik (a former member of FMI) and Hege Søfteland, is well respected on the far right. Their statistics on population development, immigrants and crime are made use of regularly, including, notoriously in 1996, by the Frp. The DNF runs the Norsk Infomasjonsforum (NOINFO, Norwegian Information Forum), which publishes its magazine  Nordmannen (The Norwegian).

Alfredo Olsen's Catholic fundamentalist, neo-fascist and virulently antisemitic Folkets motstandbevegelse (Peoples' Resistance Movement) has probably only a few members. Olsen promotes his theories by producing and distributing leaflets, books and posters, as well as maintaining his Holy War website (subtitled 'The Christian Brotherhood Holy War against the Enemies of God'). The site has extensive links with Holocaust deniers around the world.

The hard-core neo-Nazi skinhead movement consists of some thirty or forty activists and 200-300 supporters. The Norwegian media closely monitor their movements and they have consequently received what might be seen as a disproportionate amount of press coverage. The year 1997 saw an increase in neo-Nazi skinhead marches and demonstrations, and the first such march allowed by the police since the Second World War - a protest against the trial of South African white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche - took place that year in Oslo outside the South African embassy. There are reports, however, that the level of activity has been decreasing rather than increasing since. Marches are generally held to commemorate Kristallnacht every November: in 1998 marches were held in Mysen and in Hønefoss, the latter having concluded with the arrest of 10 of the 35 who participated; also in 1998 in the town of Asker a spate of daubings of Nazi symbols on houses and shop windows marked the anniversary.

The Boot Boys, neo-Nazi skinheads from Hokksund (near Drammen), are veterans of the far-right scene and are led by thirty-four-year-old Ole Krogstad. They have served in the recent past more as role models - with a reputation for violence - rather than as a leading force of far-right youth culture, although several of the most violent recent incidents have been committed by young neo-Nazis connected to the Boot Boys. Krogstad, who is a member of the band Vidkuns Venner, was one of the prime movers in the development of neo-Nazi music in Norway. The Boot Boys continue to be active in the music business through Boot Boys Records, an on-line mail-order purveyor of CDs and other items. They also were the organizers of an August 2000 march in Oslo to commemorate Rudolf Hess; after the police three times refused them permission to stage the march, some 30-50 members gathered illegally in Askim, outside Oslo, while 15,000 held a counter-demonstration against racism in the centre of Oslo.

Norges Nasjonalsosialistiske bevegelse (NNSB, Norway's National Socialist Movement), formerly Zorn 88 ('8' stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet 'H', and '88' for 'Heil Hitler'), is led by Erik Rune Hansen and is based in Eidsvoll. It has very few members and is largely inactive, although its website is slick and regularly updated. Together with other Scandinavian neo-Nazis NNSB participated in a march held in southern Sweden on the occasion of  Hitler's birthday, 17 April 1999. Another NNSB gathering (in co-operation with Blood & Honour/Norway) was held on 9 April 1999 at the German war cemetery in Oslo, in commemoration of fallen German soldiers. NNSB's publication is Gjallarhorn.

Blood & Honour/Norway is led by Per Erik Monge (who is also Combat 18's prime contact in Norway) and is based in Eidsvoll. This Norwegian section of the international network Blood & Honour (B&H) was formed in 1996 and currently consists of a small group of hard-core neo-Nazis. The group has so far been relatively invisible - unlike both the Danish and Swedish branches - and beset by internal conflicts. Its activity in 1999 consisted of organizing one march, one concert in Østfold and publishing one magazine, although members of the group have attended concerts, marches and meetings in Denmark and Sweden. Only fifteen from the group turned up at the illegal 9 November 1999 march in Sørumsand (east of Oslo) held to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht and commemorate fallen SS-officers.

B&H is planning to establish a headquarters in each of the Scandinavian countries, but so far the only one is in Kædeby in Denmark. In order to collect money for a base in Norway, a fundraising organization, Aksjon Nasjonalt Veksthus (ANV, Action for a National Greenhouse), has been set up, although, apparently, the fundraising has not had much success.

Norsk Hedensk Front (Norwegian Heathen Front) was founded by Jan Erik Kvamsdal (alias Eric Norwayson) and is now being led by 'Varg' Kristian Vikernes (alias Count Grishnak, 'varg' also meaning 'wolf' in Norwegian). This is the Norwegian branch of Allgermanische Heidnische Front (Pan-Germanic Heathen Front), an organization with branches all over Europe. The organization's stated objective is to 'fight for European, but primarily Germanic - including Norwegian - culture and spiritual life, ethics and world-view. [To] return to pre-Christian values . . . in a renewed form and adapted to our times, which will guide our European race into the future.' Heathen Front's programme, which is published on the Internet, calls for the creation of a pan-Germanic state, reuniting the Germanic people under one common leader. The ideology is a mixture of traditional national socialism and Odinism, according to which the status of men corresponds to their military rank, and the status of women corresponds to the number of children they bear.

Vikernes, who has through his books and other writings acquired the status of cult-figure within Black Metal circles, said in 1997 that he became a national socialist because 'the Jews killed my father Odin'. He also stated in the group's programme that persons with incurable 'diseases', such as homosexuals or bisexuals, should be put to death. Despite the fact that he is at present serving a twenty-one-year sentence, in a high-security prison, for murder and setting fire to a church, Vikernes has been running Heathenfront from his cell by using the prison's address as the address of the group.

Vikernes also founded the record label Cymophane in 1993, which distributes the music of  Burzum, Vikernes's own band (Burzum has become one of the top-selling bands of the Black Metal music industry). In 2000 Cympohane was bought by the US neo-Nazi William Pierce, relocated to Sweden and renamed Cymophane-Nordland.

Viking was established in Oslo in 1994 by young, often middle-class, nationalists as a 'cultural club' to promote Norwegian language and culture. In the past Viking members - whose uniform is composed of brown shirt and black trousers - have been known to recruit children as young as twelve, and have been convicted of violent offences. Following an incident in May 1996, in which Viking members clashed with anti-fascists, the police raided the group's premises and arrested twenty-eight individuals, some of whom were in possession of firearms. They were released the following day and no charges were pressed. It was not until the following autumn that Viking member and convicted murderer Johnny Olsen, who was photographed brandishing a pistol on this occasion and who purportedly shot into the crowd of demonstrating anti-fascists, was detained in custody. A court sentenced him to six years' imprisonment on this and other charges in February 1998. The group's leader, Eirik Ragnar Solheim, was shot by another neo-Nazi, Terje Sjølie, in November 1998, in a fight over the 'disappearance' of handguns belonging to Sjølie that Solheim had been 'taking care of'. Sjølie, who has been arrested, claims it was an act of self-defence. Solheim survived the attack as he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, an item of clothing that has become increasingly popular on the far right. Some commentators have suggested that the decrease in far-right activity in Oslo is due to the downturn in Viking's fortunes.

Valkyria (named after the Odin's handmaidens in Norse mythology) is a female neo-Nazi organization, based in Oslo, Hønefoss and Drammen. Other female groups include Embla at Romerike (a suburb of Oslo), Huldra (Trondheim) and Gyda (the northern town of Bod).

Vigrid is a new neo-Nazi-group on the Norwegian scene, claiming to be the Norwegian branch of the US group National Alliance led by William Pierce (author of the infamous Turner Diaries and The Hunter, both of which have become classics of the contemporary neo-Nazi movement). Vigrid was established in 1999 and is led by Tore W. Tvedt (57). Its stronghold is in southern Norway, and worries have been expressed that racist activity is on the upsurge in this area (see below). It is also feared that Vigrid will be provided with funds and propaganda materials by National Alliance and, in fact, National Alliance posters and flyers have appeared in several places in Norway. The group's magazine, Vigrid, which is virulently racist and antisemitic, is published on a monthly basis and often features articles on Odinism and Nazism, including pieces by Varg Vikernes.

NS-Skien is a marginal group led by Knut Hedbo, which provided Norwegian participants for the annual Rudolf Hess march in Denmark. Forente Nasjonalister tried unsuccessfully to take over the group while Hedbo was in prison for armed robbery.

Anti-Antifa ('anti-antifascism') made a comeback in 1999 on the website of Fritt Forum. A-AFA describes itself as an international organization that monitors and if necessary sabotages what it calls extreme left-wing terror groups. The group carries out such actions, it claims, so that nationalists and national socialists can operate freely. The leader of A-AFA, Robert Westerlund, delivered a talk in July 2000 entitled 'The Zionist murder of freedom fighter Rudolf Hess'.

In recent years neo-Nazi groups such as the Birkebeinergruppen, Einsatz and the Ku Klux Klan (established by members of Einsatz, probably no link to the longstanding American movement of the same name), the last two led by Tom Kimmo Eiternes, have been active in the Stavanger area in southern Norway. Along the southern coastline, in towns such as Risør, Færvik and Kristiansand, disparate far-right activists refer to themselves as Hvit Revolusjon (White Revolution). In Risør the group formerly known as Jenter for Norge (Girls for Norway) has changed its name to Ungdom for Norge (Youth for Norway), though its objective largely remains the same: to put a halt to immigration and cleanse the Norwegian language of foreign vocabulary. The group Hugin Skins from Kristiansand has also been largely invisible in recent years, although an increase in activity at the end of 2000 has been reported in this southern town, including a serious assault on an Ethiopian immigrant on New Year's Eve.

Norsk Arisk Ungdomsfront (NAUF, Norwegian Aryan Youth Front) was set up in the small town of Hønefoss in October 1995, and is led by Fred Ove Olsen. Hønefoss and Tønsberg both have become bastions of neo-Nazi skinhead activity, although it has decreased in the past couple of years. Other notable groups include Vern Av Rikets Grenser (VARG, Defence of National Borders), Norsk Patriotisk Ungdom (Northern Patriotic Youth), Norsk Arisk (Norwegian Aryan), Ariske Brdre (Aryan Brothers) and Tønsberg Skins.

Far-right music scene

Before the mid-1990s, far-right rock music in Norway generally featured foreign bands and was imported from abroad, particularly from Sweden. Like-minded Norwegian musicians often performed in neighbouring countries, at concerts, marches and other far-right gatherings. In the latter part of the 1990s, however, the far right began to use music and concerts as a means of recruiting younger members, and an increase in the number of bands and concerts followed. The far-right music scene developed to the point that, for some years now, Norway and Sweden have been the centre of the industry worldwide.

While Sweden remains the foremost producer of so-called White Power music, it is now in fact Black Metal (Odinist or Satanist) music that is dominating the industry in Norway, and is the most heavily exported: some 20,000 CDs are now reportedly sold annually to Japan for example. There are only a few Norwegian White Power bands but about fifty Black Metal groups, although many move between the different genres.

Relatively few concerts are held in Norway, though Norwegian extremists attend concerts in other Scandinavian countries. Nittedal, close to Oslo, was the venue for a large concert on New Year's Eve 1997, organized by Viking, and attended by about seventy. Sønner af Norge (Sons of Norway) and Max Resist and the Hooligans, a US group, performed. The police co-operated with Viking in checking all arriving cars for anti-fascists whose presence might have caused a disturbance. The concert went off peacefully and some of the neo-Nazis were even given a police escort on their return journeys. A video recording of the concert is popular among far-right youth groups.

Six well-known Norwegian neo-Nazis were among the over 300 who were arrested and charged with rioting and inciting racial hatred at a music concert in Sweden on 3 January 1998. The six were: Ann Kristin Brun, Kay-Amund Almendingen (a member of Viking), Kjell Arne Karlengen (who was already in receipt of convictions for violence and threats), Glenn Nilsson (former leader of Viking in the west of Oslo, who has 'Six million lies' tattooed on his head), Runar Snellingen and Jan-Helge Wanggard (leader of the Nittedal branch of the Vikings).

The bands Sønner af Norge and Heysel, a Swedish group, were to perform at a concert in Rykkin (close to Oslo) on 16 May 1998. When approximately seventy persons arrived at the venue, a local community building, the police gave them ten minutes to leave the building. Thirty Swedish neo-Nazis who wanted to attend the concert had been detained at the border and sent back to Sweden. This was apparently the only such concert organized during 1998.

A concert was held on 22 February 1999 in Østfold just outside Råde, organized by Blood & Honour/Norway. Among the bands performing were the Norwegian groups Sønner af Norge and Vidkuns Venner (Friends of Vidkun, referring to Vidkun Quisling), and the German band Kraftshclag. Police kept a close eye on the event and prevented anti-fascist demonstrators from reaching the venue.

Antisemitic incidents

Antisemitic manifestations continue to occur rarely in Norway. Recorded violent incidents by neo-Nazis have also been declining in recent years.

However, for the first time in several years, there was a desecration of Jewish communal property when, in late July 2000, the Jewish cemetery in Oslo was vandalized by the Boot Boys. Swastikas and slogans such as 'Death to ZOG', 'Holohoax' and 'No Jews allowed in the Reich' were found.

Minor incidents occur from time to time. In October 1999 the property of two Jewish families in Bærum was vandalized and daubed with swastikas. During the following month verbal threats were left on the answering machines of the rabbi and the Jewish community centre in Oslo; they were traced to the telephone number of Anders Erling Fergestad Johansen.

Xenophobic incidents

In the autumn of 1998 four young neo-Nazis were charged in connection with the 1997 attack on the offices of the local branch of SOS Racisme in Asker. The office was set on fire and Nazi graffiti was left as a marker, although no one was hurt. A group called White Aryan Terror claimed responsibility for this attack, as well as for another 1997 arson attack on an Iranian family near Bergen.

Three alleged perpetrators of an attack on the asylum centre Klemetsrud in Oslo were arrested in April 1999. No one was hurt in the incident, in which iron bars and stones were thrown through the windows of the centre.

In the city of Sognedal on Norway's western coast a seventeen-year-old adopted boy was found drowned in April 1999, the presumed victim of a racist murder. Arve Beheim Karlsen was of Indian origin and had, over the previous year, been the target of verbal and physical racial harassment. On the evening of 24 April two young men attacked him and began to chase him down a riverside path. The following day Karlson was found drowned in the river. The murder charge against the two alleged attackers has had to be dropped in favour of a lesser charge.

Eight neo-Nazi youths were arrested in Stavanger for the unprovoked March 2000 stabbing of two Africans. The neo-Nazis, all connected to Vigrid, stabbed an African man in the groin and then chased and stabbed six times another African man who had come to the aid of the first. Both victims survived.

Holocaust-denial material has become more visible in Norway in recent years. For the most part, this material is created, disseminated and financed by  marginal individuals or groups, such as the Foreningen for sann historie and the Folkets motstandbevegelse.

Olav Engen, a teacher at Bergen College, maintains a Holocaust-denial website, in which it is claimed, among other things, that the Nazis' gas chambers did not have the capacity to kill millions of people. Bergen College has removed the website from their network on the grounds that Holocaust denial has no place in an academic institution. The College has also made it clear that access to any new website that Engen might launch in the future will not be available on its computers.

The mainstream media in Norway does not engage in the dissemination of racism, antisemitism or xenophobia. Some imbalance, however, does reportedly exist with regard to these matters: far-right groups receive media attention that is disproportionate to their size, and any attention given to immigrants usually involves cases of criminal activity.

The principal publications of the far right are Fritt Forum, Gjallarhorn, Vigrid, Norge er vårt (Norway Is Ours, published by FMI), Folk og Land and Fremtid. Most of them are produced on a small budget and have a limited circulation. They should therefore primarily be regarded as publications for insiders rather than as propaganda or recruiting materials.

Fritt Forum was, up to the mid-1990s, considered to be a relatively moderate nationalist magazine. Thereafter, however, it began opening its columns to neo-Nazis, and has by now become the most important publication of the far right. It claims to maintain a 'neutral' position in terms of the various groups and factions that make up the far right, and to represent the entire spectrum of  views and ideologies. The magazine, which has a mailing address in Jessheim, was founded in 1985 and has lately gone from appearing six times a year to four, but is, in fact, the only far-right magazine that appears regularly. The editor of Fritt Forum is Michael Knutsen (34), although he claims that there is a new editor called 'Roald Holmen'. Commentators think 'Roald Holmen' is a pseudonym as no such person seems to exist outside by-lines on articles in Fritt Forum or on the journal's website. The on-line journal, incidentally, threatens increasingly to overtake the print version.

Knutsen has been linked to the Gardermoen-based NordEffekter, an international neo-Nazi mail-order company, one of the largest in Scandinavia, and he has been tried in court in regard to music sold by NordEffekter. The company advertises a huge stock of White Power and Black Metal CDs, neo-Nazi publications and other merchandise.

Rappsalg is another mail-order operation based in Norway whose catalogue can be found on the Internet (though it also exists in print). It sells a wide variety of goods including videos, posters, clothes and bottle-openers.

Rapport (Report), a newsletter published by Foreningen Fritt Forum (Free Forum Association), surfaced during 1998 and shortly after was replaced by Nett-Rapport (Net-Report), an e-mail newsletter that disseminates information about domestic and foreign events of interest to far-right activists, and claims to have 1,000 subscribers.

Gjallarhorn (literally 'sounding horn', the name in Norse mythology for the horn used by the god Heimdall to alert other gods in times of trouble) is the organ of NNSB, and is edited by Erik Rune Hansen. It appears irregularly, with an Oslo mailing address, and contains racist, antisemitic and Holocaust-denial material as well as advertisements for neo-Nazi paraphernalia. In 1999 NNSB published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a special edition of Gjallarhorn. This new edition of the antisemitic 'classic' - not published in Norway since 1942 - is based on the 1933 Norwegian and the 1924 Finnish editions. The new edition has been reported to the police by Norsk Forening Mot Antisemitisme (Norwegian Association against Antisemitism), and an investigation is presumably underway. The book is likely to be considered an illegal publication according to Norwegian law.

Nordmannen (The Norwegian), a publication of Den Norske Forening, is published on a irregular basis, appearing a few times each year.

An antisemitic book, Vargsmål (Wolf Language), by Varg Vikernes, was published in 1998, in both a Swedish and an English translation, on Svensk Hednisk Front's (Swedish Heathenfront) website, and is also available from NordEffekter. Apart from its highly antisemitic content, the book also is steeped in Norse mythology and a glorification of violence. The book has reportedly been extremely influential among youth involved in the Black Metal scene and the far right generally. There are also plans in place to translate Vikernes's latest book, Germansk Mytologi og Verdensanskuelse (Germanic Mythology and Worldview), into several languages.

Internet

The far-right scene relies increasingly on the Internet for its communications and publications. Virtually all of the anti-immigration, far-right and neo-Nazi parties, organizations and movements maintain a website.

The Norwegian Resource Page is not affiliated with any particular organization, but it provides many links to neo-Nazi and other extreme nationalist groups. Far-right music can be downloaded from this site.

Propatria is an extensive Norwegian neo-Nazi website, to which many Norwegian and foreign neo-Nazi organizations belong. The site is registered in the name of Michael Knutsen.

Norwegians in SS-Uniforms is a site, as the title implies, about Norwegian members of the SS.

Odins Folk (Odin's People) primarily consists of articles, some of which are written by Johnny Olsen.

Legal instruments

The Norwegian constitution, dating from 1814 the oldest in Europe, neither expressly prohibits racial (or ethnic, sexual, religious etc.) discrimination nor provides for equality of treatment. Article 110c, added in July 1994, requires the state to 'respect and ensure' human rights.

The Norwegian penal code has several provisions concerning discrimination. Articles 232 and 292 makes the racist nature of an offense an aggravating circumstance in certain cases (bodily harm, substantial property damage and vandalism). Article 135a penalizes racist propaganda and incitement to racial hatred; it requires a specific attack on a person or persons, the propagation of racist ideas being not punishable as are racist remarks unless they are disseminated in public. Article 135a remains problematic, and is frequently interpreted by the courts with regard to section 100 of the constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression. No convictions were obtained for the spread of racial hatred until 1993, and successful cases have been few after that date. Article 349a penalizes the refusal to supply services or benefits, or refuse access to a public event, on grounds of race, religion, colour, national or ethnic origin. Only one case has reached the courts in the thirty years since the article became law.

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik stated in the summer of 1998 that the legislation on racist expression and hatred should be reinforced. This was Bondevik's response to his government's concern over the increasing visibility of the neo-Nazi and Black Metal music scene in Norway. In early 2000, Odd Einar Drum, the justice minister, also promised that tougher measures would be introduced to combat neo-Nazi and racist violence.

In August 2000, a report was published by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) that expressed concern over the lack of a legal instrument in Norway prohibiting racist groups. The report was praised by some of Norway's anti-racist organizations, including the Antirasistisk Senter. In response, however, some Norwegian legal experts maintained that such a law would contravene the much-valued right to organize.

Supreme court rulings

Since 1995 'religious knowledge and education in ethics' - which teaches the values and beliefs of Christianity - has been a mandatory subject in the national school system, no exceptions being granted to children of other faiths. Atheists and members of the Muslim community have contested the legality of the enforced teaching of Christianity but the Oslo city court has twice ruled against these arguments. The case is expected to reach the supreme court.

In 1997, Jack-Erik Kjuss, the then leader of HV, was given a 60-day suspended sentence and a £2,000 fine for advocating forced sterilization and abortion in HV's election manifesto. Kjuss had stated that pregnancies should be aborted in the case of mixed couples, and that non-white residents (including adopted children) in Norway should be sterilized. This case is the first since 1981 in which the Norwegian courts have applied anti-discriminatory legislation. The Norwegian Editor's Union received the verdict with dismay, perceiving it as a restriction on freedom of speech. But a majority of the supreme court judges who heard the case held that Kjuss was promoting racial discrimination and therefore his freedom of speech could be restricted. Kjuss's own comment was: ' Poor Norway. The case doesn't concern me, but how long will the Norwegian people survive?' Kjuss has appealed his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights, which is still pending. In the meanwhile Kjuss has been repeating his ideas on sterilization and abortion in Fritt Forum.

'Norwegians only', 'foreigneers unwanted' and 'Europeans only' are some of the expressions that have been deemed acceptable for use by estate agents in advertising flats. The Organisasjonen Mot Offentlig Diskriminering (OMOD, Organization against Public Discrimination) in Oslo filed a complaint against the use of such discriminatory statements citing Article 349a of the Norwegian penal code. In August 1999 Norway's supreme court ruled that the statements were acceptable under the law. The government subsequently suggested that it might attempt to amend the law.

Criminal cases

In February 1998 the court handed down a six-year prison sentence (four of which are suspended) to Viking member Johnny Olsen who was charged with involvement in violent incidents and attacks on anti-racists that occurred between July 1995 and February 1997. Olsen was convicted  for the illegal possession of weapons, for shooting at an anti-fascist during a demonstration, setting fire to a pub in Oslo, stealing a bicycle to escape from the pub and threatening anti-fascists repeatedly with a gun or a knife. Olsen was found guilty of murder in 1981 and sentenced to eighteen years in prison; he was released in 1993.

Having appealed the February verdict, the thirty-seven-year-old Olsen found himself arrested again, along with two other neo-Nazis, in April 1998 after violent clashes with anti-fascists. Olsen was allegedly armed with an axe and one of his accomplices, Daniel de Linde (19, also a member of Viking), shot at the group of anti-fascists who had gathered to protest a meeting in Oslo of some thirty neo-Nazis. The case came to trial before the Oslo city court in February 2000. De Linde was given a fourteen-month prison sentence and fined £900 to be paid to two of his victims. The other defendant, Jan Roger Larsen (22), received a 120-day suspended sentence and a £450 fine. Olsen, however, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

In April 1998 Anders Erling Fergestad Johansen was convicted of attacking a refugee centre in Oslo. In December 1999 he was again arrested after threatening and abusive messages left on the Oslo synagogue's and the rabbi's answerphones had been traced to Johansen's home. Johansen was one of the organizers of the first concert organized by  Blood & Honour/Norway.

In September 1998 20-year-old Tommy Tangen, a member of Viking, was given a ten-month prison sentence (reduced on appeal to eight) and was ordered to pay £4,000, the amount he was thought to have received as profit from his illegal sale of stolen weapons. Tangen was convicted of the illegal possession of weapons as well as of obtaining and selling them illegally. (Among Tangen's customers was Eirik Ragnar Solheim and Andreas Utne Wang, secretary of the youth section of the FLP.)

In September 1998 four young neo-Nazis from Hokkesund were found guilty of possession of stolen dynamite. They were all sentenced to 45 days in prison, and one was fined £1,000. One of the four, John Borgen, had stood as an HV parliamentary candidate in 1997, and is a member of Vidkuns Venner.

In November 1998 Michael Knutsen won his appeal against a June 1998 conviction for inciting racial hatred through neo-Nazi music sold by the mail-order company NordEffekter. Knutsen had refused to pay the £2,000 fine, and the prosecution failed to prove that he was legally responsible for NordEffekter or the products it sells.

In 1998 Jan Høeg, FMI's press officer, lost his case against the youth section of the DNA, which FMI sued for describing its members as 'damned Nazis'. Høeg was ordered to pay £7,000 to the DNA for the legal costs involved. He has appealed the case, although funds for the appeal will have to be found, as Høeg apparently mortgaged his house to pay for the first trial.

In January 2000 three men from Sotra and Bergen were sentenced to five and eight months' imprisonment for attacking and verbally abusing a Ghanaian immigrant in September 1998. The three received enhanced sentences as the attack was deemed to be racially motivated. The court also ruled that they should pay the victim approximately US$7,500 (NOK 60,000).

In  February 2000 the district attorney dropped the murder charges against the two teenagers arrested with regard to the death of Arve Beheim Karlsen. The two boys are  known members of a local racist group and both have previous convictions for violent crimes. They are now charged with making death-threats, as direct evidence supporting the murder charge was unavailable.

Terje Sjølie (26) and Werner Holm (27), leading members of the Boot Boys and regarded as two of the most violent neo-Nazis in Norway, were arrested in Sweden in October 2000 for a bank robbery committed in Norway. Sjølie has also recently been charged with incitement to racial hatred, for a talk he delivered at the August 2000 march in commemoration of Rudolf Hess, in which he stated: 'The Jews are plundering the country and replacing our values with immoral and un-Norwegian values.' He was also recently sentenced to three years for the attempted murder of Viking leader Eirik Ragnar Solheim. In February 1998, Werner Holm and two others (Petter Gundersen (21) and Tom André) had been arrested for stabbing an immigrant on the streets of Oslo. Holm is a central figure on the far-right music scene, as both organizer and performer with Vidkuns Venner.

In the context of the government's so-called 'plan of action' to combat racism and discrimination, the Senter mot etnisk diskriminering (SMED, Centre for Combating Ethnic Discrimination) was established in September 1998, and opened in February 1999. SMED's task is to document and monitor developments related to discrimination and to provide legal advice (sometimes legal aid) to victims of racial, religious or ethnic discrimination. It will prepare annual reports and propose preventative measures, although it will not itself be able to bring cases before the courts.

Following the widespread publicity given to violent outbreaks by hooligan supporters of the Oslo football club Vålerenga in May 2000, the club embarked on a series of measures to eliminate violent and/or neo-Nazi supporters. Known neo-Nazis who have attended matches have been excluded from the club, and anti-racist events have been organized to coincide with Norway Cup games. Some of Norway's most violent neo-Nazis are known to have used Vålerenga matches as a recruiting ground.

In August 2000, while some 30-50 members of the neo-Nazi Boot Boys gathered illegally in Askim, outside Oslo, about 15,000 attended a massive counter-demonstration against racism in the centre of Oslo. The protest took place after the Boot Boys were denied permission to stage their commemoration of the Nazi Rudolf Hess in Oslo. About 122 organizations and all of the mainstream political parties were represented.

In November 2000 a memorial to the nearly 800 Norwegian Jews who were shipped by the Nazis from Oslo to concentration camps was unveiled. The sculpture - by British artist Anthony Gormley - is located near the point on the harbour from which the ships set sail in late 1942 and early 1943. It is composed of eight empty chairs.

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Institute for Jewish Policy Research and American Jewish Committee

© JPR 2001