Please visit the page “Norwegian Police Violence and Human Rights” to see the full investigative series of articles on this case.
“The video allegedly was recorded through a window facing the street on May 21, 2013, showing two police officers in civilian clothing apprehending two people, seemingly on suspicion of possession of drugs. During the apprehension, making the apprehended spit out something they were suspected to have in their mouths was given great emphasis.”
– Aslak Syse ,Prof. Dr. Juris, MD
[dropcap size=small]O[/dropcap]SLO, NORWAY – At 0945am on the 21st of May 2013, Circus Bazaar became the unlikely custodian of this disheartening material. With my newborn son in my arms, I the Editor stood in shock and filmed as I witnessed a disturbing reality unfold before me. A reality that exposes truths so inconvenient, most barely accept they even exist in Norway.
At this same time, and just over the border, Sweden was in the middle of riots that had become the focus of the international media. The approximate cause of which was a case of perceived police brutality propagated by dissatisfaction with a classless unreality. This environment and the obviously related nature of our newly acquired material gave us reason to pause on its release. Similarly the Norwegian summer and its corresponding period of media non-attention was inappropriate for the release of something we consider so important.
[pullquote] “By our understanding, the actions of the police raise a question of how they relate to the prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment as according to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), article 3″
– The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights[/pullquote]
Circus Bazaar has taken on somewhat of a quest in the past couple of months to unravel the story behind this. The major obstacle being the identification of the faceless man that was subjected to this special treatment. We can only speculate but this man may well have no official identity in Norway and been provided no avenue in which to make a complaint himself. Also from our experience in trying to identify him he has extremely limited chances of having others ensure his rights are protected.
Circus Bazaar recently spoke with the Norwegian Police High School to try to uncover the methods taught to students for conducting mouth searches in relation to the concealment of Narcotics and to investigate what circumstance may possibly justify such treatment. During our conversation they also informed me that they have received a multitude of requests from the Oslo Police in recent times to produce complete explanations for dealing specifically with these issues.
Is it possible that Circus Bazaar’s very public and open enquiry into this matter that started in late May has already contributed to an attempted improvement in Police procedures? If so, Circus Bazaar could not be more pleased.
The Norwegian Police High School openly provided us with the following,
“The Norwegian Police University College does not teach techniques for opening the mouth or removing narcotics from the mouth. The following information is given to the students:
- If life is not endangered, the police officer has to consider whether to let the person go or whether to take him to the police cell and place him on a pot.
- If it is suspected that life may be in danger, the person shall immediately be brought to the doctor.
- If life is endangered and there is no time to bring the person to the doctor, the principle of necessity comes into effect and it is up to the police officer himself to decide on a method to remove the drugs.
It is regarded as disproportionate intervention to force the mouth open by taking a stranglehold or by using a tool to do so, and this would be a breach of Article 6 of the Norwegian Police Law. An exception is, however, made in an act of necessity where the police officer believes that the persons life will be in immediate danger if the officer does not manage to prevent him swallowing the drugs.”
– Politihøgskolen, Avdeling Oslo
The full unedited piece of Media footage runs for a total of 18 minutes of which to the very end the police continue to search bags, clothes, wallets, shoes and mouths again of the individuals. There is no visible concern for the “immediate danger” necessary to justify such an act and located only 3km from the place of arrest is Norway’s largest hospital, yet no attempt is made to call an ambulance nor urgently transport the individual there.
Speculative as this may be, the casual and workman like nature in which these police operate begs the obvious question, is this part of everyday procedure in the Oslo Police force?
Of course we are not the only organization to ask questions about this event. The Internationally recognized “Norwegian Centre for Human Rights” has provided us with the following statement,
“The National institution makes this statement after having been presented with a private video recording showing police conduct during an arrest in Oslo. The recording is claimed to be recorded on the 21st of May 2013 09:30-10:00. With the reservation that we do not know the details of this particular case, the recording reveals what appears to be serious and disproportional use of force by two ununiformed policemen. Judging by the context, it is hard to understand how the ununiformed policemen’s use of batons in the mouth of the man arrested can be justified as a proportional form of action.
By our understanding, the actions of the police raise questions of the relationship to the prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment prescribed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), article 3, and the prohibition of a disproportional interference of privacy in article 8. The actions also appear to be a breach of the restrictions the police are subjected to under ordinary Norwegian law.
Based on this, the National institution expects there to be conducted an independent investigation of the circumstances of this incident. We have recommended to the holder of the video recording in question to contact the Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs. As an extension of such an investigation, the proper authorities should review the general practice of the police when it comes to arrests where one suspects that the concerned has swallowed narcotic substances.”
– The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights
[pullquote] A separate assessment undertaken by the police’s internal investigation unit to evaluate the human rights aspects – and other legal aspects – in connection with the apprehension in question, would be beneficial..
– Aslak Syse ,Prof. Dr. Juris, MD[/pullquote]
Circus Bazaar has also been fortunate enough to discuss this issue with the Director of the Department of Public and International Law at the University of Oslo. Aslak Syse holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (1971), a Masters Degree in Medicine (1972), a Masters Degree in Law (1988) and a Ph. D. in Law (1996). He also chairs the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Tribunal. He had this to say,
“I have been asked to assess the lawfulness of the behavior of the police documented by a private video recording.
The video allegedly was recorded through a window facing the street on May 21, 2013, showing two police officers in civilian clothing apprehending two people, seemingly on suspicion of possession of drugs. During the apprehension, making the apprehended spit out something they were suspected to have in their mouths was given great emphasis. There seemed to be suspicion that the mouth was a repository (for whatever substance they were looking for) that should be examined by spitting out, and if this was not sufficient, through an active search of the mouth.
The video appears to document two police officers in civilian clothing trying to ensure spitting out, or alternatively provoking vomiting, by irritating the throat with a baton pressed into the mouth.
The question from a human rights perspective is whether the behaviour of the police is proportional to what they try to accomplish. One of the apprehended was, according to the video, put on the ground with handcuffs, while the rough treatment of his mouth was taking place.
It may appear as if both the law against degrading and inhumane treatment (UCHR art. 3), and the law against the violation of a person’s privacy, have been violated. ECHR demands that police actions are in proportion to what one wishes to achieve (“necessary in a democratic society”).
I am not assessing the lawfulness of the actions based on laws regulating police actions, as violations of civil liberties and rights given through ECHR, in this case ECHR art. 3 and 8, according to human rights laws have precedence over what is considered acceptable means of apprehension in the police law.
A separate assessment undertaken by the police’s internal investigation unit to evaluate the human rights aspects – and other legal aspects – in connection with the apprehension in question, would be beneficial.”
Oslo, September 4, 2013
– Aslak Syse ,Prof. Dr. Juris, MD
Director – Department of Public and International Law, University of Oslo”
In a time in which digital media and surveillance programs by governments the world over have the potential to threaten the liberties of individuals, it is worth taking note that this is a double-edged sword. The individual also has access to the same technology to monitor those that govern us. The fact that this incident just so happened to occur directly outside the front window of a small but established independent publication speaks volumes for the hope that a continued critic and forced public justification of power can exist well into the future.
While they are watching us, we are watching them.
Circus Bazaar would also like to make clear that although operating as a small independent publication with an obviously controversial story is extremely challenging, at no time have we felt under threat or coercion from any institution. It has not been without its let downs but on the whole we have been able to move freely and safely without fear of legal or violent reprisal.
Circus Bazaar will release the full footage of this incident at a later date.
Circus Bazaar will also happily provide the relevant authorities in Norway with a full original copy of the material for the purposes of investigations as outlined by the above statements.
This story could not have been finalized without the support of,
The Norwegian Centre of Human Rights
The Norwegian Police High School
Oslo University and the Department of Public and International Law