In our work, the Child Welfare Tribunal must also ensure that its decisions comply with universal human rights and international conventions.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are particularly relevant to the tribunal's work. They are both incorporated into the Norwegian Human Rights Act of 21 May 1999. Both these conventions shall take precedence over other Norwegian laws in the event of conflict.
The following provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are the most important ones for the Child Welfare Tribunal’s decisions:
- Article 3: The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions (and decisions) concerning children.
- Article 9.3: Children who are separated from one or both of their parents have the right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests.
- Article 12: The child shall have the opportunity to be heard, either directly or through a representative, in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child.
It must also be mentioned that the Norwegian constitution was amended in May 2014, and the new provision in Article 104 of the Constitution summarises the most important provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 8 of the ECHR is particularly relevant to the Child Welfare Tribunal’s decisions:
- Paragraph 1 of the article sets out the right to family life, a right that is often invoked in response to proposals to place children outside their biological family without the parents’ consent. The provision is applied when stipulating access between children and their biological family in cases where a care order has been issued.
- Paragraph 2 permits public authorities to set aside the rights provided for in paragraph 1 as necessary in a democratic society, for example for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. It has been established by the European Court of Human Rights, among others, that considerations for the child's best interests in specific cases take precedence over the parents’ right to family life.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights has now also been given constitutional protection through the new provision in Article 102 of the Norwegian Constitution.