By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – More than 150 instances of rape and assault have been uncovered by police in a remote region in Norway.
An investigation was conducted by police beginning in June 2016, after a Norwegian newspaper published accounts from 11 men and women who said they were assaulted. The police report documents 151 assaults spanning the period of 1953 to 2017.
Approximately 90% of the suspects and victims are part of the indigenous Sami community, who originally inhabited northern Scandinavia. The Sami community now lives in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The community has an estimated population of 40,000 to 60,000.
The crimes span several generations, with some of the assaults dating back to 1953. The most recent crime occurred this past August. All of the crimes took place in a rural municipality called Tysfjord, which has a population of only 2,000.
Forty-three of the assaults were rapes, including of three children. Sexual intercourse with children under fourteen years of age is alleged to have occurred in 40 of the cases. The youngest victim is four years old.
Ninety-two suspects have been identified. They range in age from ten to eighty.
The Sami Parliamentary Council is an elected body representing the Sami people’s interests in Norway. Its president, Vibeke Larsen, called the scandal “a national tragedy” and urged Norwegian authorities to assist.
Larsen cited mistrust of the police as one of the reasons for the crimes going unreported. The Sami “don’t trust the police as much as the Norwegians do,” Larsen said. The Sami people have been told to become “good Norwegians and leave their own culture, language and symbols behind. That’s why they have distrust in the system.”
Head of Nordland County, Tone Vangen, acknowledged that the police “didn’t do a good job”, but also noted that the mechanisms within the Sami environment make it more difficult for police to investigate such crimes.
Anne Lindboe, ombudsman for the children involved, said “there has been a huge failure in the whole safety net that should have been around the children who have been subjected to abuse in Tysfjord.”
The police have acknowledged the mistakes made and stated that one of the aims of the investigation is to instill greater trust of Norwegian police in the Sami community.
Two people have been charged in ten cases so far, but many have been dropped due to the statute of limitations expiring.
For more information, please see:
CNN – Norway Police Uncover 150 Cases of Rape and Assault in Remote Region – 29 November 2017
Time – Rape and Child Sex Abuse in Remote Area Have Gone Largely Unreported and Uninvestigated, Police Say – 29 November 2017
USA Today – Norway Reeling After Multiple Rapes, Sex Assaults Uncovered Near Lapland – 29 November 2017
The Independent – Norwegian Police Uncover More Than 150 Rapes , Including of Children in Remote Region – 30 November 2017