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Interviewer: Why is it that violation of HR turns out to be something that refers to third world countries and not our daily lives? HR have more or less become an instrument of critique of other civilisations, and not an instrument for definition of the state of affairs here and now.
Thune: I don’t know
whether you need to connect the situation in
Interviewer: A brilliant example of this is a problem that you are working with currently, namely the daily lives of demented patients that are not treated in a humane manner due to their mental limitedness. The Norwegian government meets the problem with rules and laws without thinking of legal protection and risk of violation.
Thune: There are many
problems only with the fact that HR does not rule the public domain
that it is
not even on daily debate. Because what can be done in a home for the elderly or another social institution is
not even placed on daily debate as a problem. So you can ask, what are
problems? It is important that we are aware of HR in relation to things
Interviewer: This discussion also forces upon us a question of whether research deals with these sides of reality. There is a big distance between empirical data and research, even in the HR research. Some would call this lack of coordination, but is this really the case, is it really lack of coordination or is the question here the fact that HR are understood as a type of theory?
Thune: It is not possible to understand HR without relating to reality, reality to empirical data and facts. To understand, one has to go down to the ground level, to look at what is really happening, register it and take people’s history as a starting point. A lot of HR work is going on in high theoretical abstractions, far away from the concrete reality experience. There one creates a distance, which makes impossible the understanding of real problems. This is problematic if the hope is to increase consciousness about these problems. The HR world is being made into a theoretical, philosophical world that lives its own life, while what people are being exposed to in reality is happening in another world. In my opinion these worlds have to come together, otherwise this will never be more than amusing party games where one discusses different question, without having any purpose for practice. You need two things, you need thinking and abstraction of this in the form of rules and regulations, but you need both things in order to get anywhere, and as it is now, there is too much focusing on the theoretical part, at least in the academic part of HR.
I can illustrate this with an
example: One of my
colleagues in the
Interviewer: If the
Thune: That is debatable. In a historical perspective it really functions best within the area of HR so far. It is unique because there is no other such possibility anywhere else in the world. This is why its decisions are taken seriously by states. All systems have their strong and weak sides, but it is very important that it exists, and to take care of what there is.
Interview: OK, so we have research on one side and we have the commission on another, while at the same time we have the women’s convention and the convention against race discrimination, which are not yet implemented in the Norwegian law.
Interviewer: But it is not all that accidental that precisely the women’s convention was excluded?
Thune: No, it is easier to get consensus for strengthening of children’s rights, but on the other hand I am not so sure that all those who sit and coordinate rules in Norway see clearly “children’s best”-principle. What we can say is that it is definitely not accidental that the children’s convention was taken before the women’s convention. Even though such a view has to do with women, it also has to do with a general situation in Norwegian juridical system, a general hesitation when it comes to taking HR seriously and a tendency to question it by arguing that it is complicated, that it is an international system that intrudes and disturbs our juridical system, our democratic system, etc..
No, maybe not. It is easier
to get a consensus for
children’s rights. On other hand we did maybe take on more than
we can handle.
Many individuals in leading positions have barely see what it means
Stortinget accepts that “children’s best” shall gain
priority in all forms of
governmental power exercise. When one did not go so far as to
women’s convention in the same way, this has to do with a general
with juridical environment against stretching Human rights too far. One
understand this hesitation in the light of lacking interest amongst
politicians to take HR actively in use and really understand what does
not to ratify and at least incorporate an international convention into
juridical system. My impression from other countries is that at least
politicians get hold of this. Here in
Interviewer: For the time
being you also work with questions related to integration, especially
Thune: To speak very
concretely, circumcision of young girls is definitely a violation of
Therefore all states have an obligation to stop this, they have an
to protect the girls from the circumcision. The state has under HR
an obligation to protect the girls against the violation from the
persons. In the case of circumcision the state has an obligation to
girls also against their families, to protect them against violation
be committed by their families. But when authorities shall protect
cannot use methods, which are violating and straining, like for
stigmatising the entire group. This is not effective. When one
control and punishment, one brushes the problems aside. The situation
worse, and this is not an effective protection of the girls either. The
Norwegian politics around circumcision is both: neither wise nor
problem is that we are not enough result oriented, in
Interviewer: This is a conflict between legislations and customs, traditions. One cannot rationalise someone’s lifestyle from a distance without engaging oneself and think first on others premises, so that a possible change is reached also from their premises.
Thune: To stop the damaging traditional practice people’s views and attitudes have to change. It is difficult to change people’s attitudes via legal regulations. It is very important that authorities say very clearly that that something is not allowed, but that is already in the laws, and everybody knows it. The problem is that that one does not take these very seriously, so the decisions that refer to immigrants in general in the whole world are not translated in Norwegian, people are not informed, etc. And suddenly we have too much activity, so that there is no consistent follow up in relation to this, to protect the girls.
Interviewer: It turns out that
it is because of the large amounts of knowledge about immigrants in
Thune: We are becoming
completely helpless by using our own methods.
Interviewer: There is one group of immigrants that HR especially are more and more relevant, as a valid argument or demand of immediate changes in the Norwegian as well as European juridical system. Those are the immigrants who never really come into the country they remain sitting in imprisonment until they are either sent back or until they eventually after a long time are taken into the country. The other question is about those who cannot be sent back, what about them? They are very suitable objects for overproduction of legislations without giving the public proper insight into what is really going on with them.
Thune: Yes all these people become sort of “not-people”, it is as if they disappear if we just close our eyes. We are playing with the idea in hope that we do not need to do anything with their existence. Despite all this, they should have rights, and all this is in huge collision with HR. They are people with rights, either we like it or not, independent of status or citizenship. This practice. What they are exposed for each day, is very doubtable in relation to HR conventions that authorities obliged themselves to follow.
Thune: Yes, all these
people become “not-people” and this is just denying the
clear facts. In case of
the not-returnable immigrants we just pretend that they can be
though they just remain here. This is just one of many HR violations in
Interviewer: Another case you are working with, that we both are familiar with is care for elderly, demented, senile people who do not want to be placed in an institution, and therefore they live at home. We, who know about this problem, we know also that there are no control instances to take care of what happens and what does not happen in people’s private homes daily. Isn’t this also a form of violation of HR?
Thune: What is interesting here is that there should be control instances within the system. We have too many control instances that are dysfunctional. We are not smart enough to see what we are capable of doing, which framework we have, which possibilities we have, which possibilities for sanctioning we have, etc.. Knowledge about what possibilities for action we have in such systems is essential to being able to protect those who are easily exposed to different assaults and violations, whether it happens by the public system or by the private persons. Other people also violate people. That is a HR objective, if it is elderly care, home care, or if it is the family that does something wrong. If the authorities know about it, they have the responsibility to act.
Interviewer: Is it accidental
Thune: We do not know
how bad we are, because there is no system that can weigh or measure
is those who are violated, obviously there are a lot of them, they have
to go in order to tell their stories, to get their possibilities
Violations done in hospitals, homes for the elderly, in psychiatry or
private homes, are also done in other countries. This is because at
you have a closed area, there is a high risk of something happening.
are worse than others in
Interviewer: Due to the extremely developed bureaucratic system, or formalisation of the health services, today bureaucracy is also on the one hand used to a high degree for a defining away of responsibility whenever something serious happens. Like for example the “tram-murders”. On the other hand, care givers are surrounded by rules they must follow, and at the end of the day there is not much left for the personal care that should be there, except from the care giving routines the patients are going through on a daily basis. Isn’t this inhuman?
Yes, I think that is the biggest problem in
Interviewer: So HR have human-concern as its objective?
Interview: So HR focus first
of all on battle against powerlessness and injustice, which are not
as that type of formalism. But there is a special case, and that is the
war criminals that for example are residents of
Thune: If someone had done something wrong, and they are residents of a local community, nobody can call on HR and demand from authorities that they punish the same person. Only if someone had experienced something personally, then they can maybe raise a HR question, but generally it is not a HR to get someone punished.
Interviewer: But isn’t this a form of assault, a violation if they are allowed to live where they like, and especially to allow them to live close to their earlier victims? First they were in Haag, and the next day they are my first neighbours? Isn’t this a HR violation from the side of state, because it is the state that allows them to live wherever they want?
Thune: Technically speaking I am interested in using HR for what they are meant to be. The problem I see, is that HR are used in many different ways. I do not think that we can come any further with HR as a concrete instrument for the fight against bad treatment of people if we do not become more precise in ways we use the HR concept. Here I speak as judge, because HR have to be looked upon as a legal apparatus, as a way of exercising power. If one speaks about HR from the philosophical perspective, as for example ‘the right to food’, etc., then we are going too far and we end up with not being able to use them for anything because they remain rhetorical, and therefore it is not understood by states as obligatory. In other words, it becomes very much like a utopia even though HR are very concrete. They should not be allowed to sign a declaration and convention if they do not plan to follow it up and take the responsibility for it in relation to the concrete situations that may occur. Rhetoric is dangerous.
Interview: Are you trying to say that the fact that people are dying of hunger is not a HR problem?
Thune: No, what I am trying to say is that this is not ONLY a HR problem; it is all kinds of problem. It is a decency problem, it is a political problem, it is a religious problem, and it is a HR problem. It is necessary to do something dramatic with the world in order to sort it out. But I think that this should not be called only a HR problem because you should be able to resolve the hunger problem without referring to HR at all, because it is clear that people have a decent demand of food, clean air and clean water, to live. In the complexity of HR it is very difficult to move further because there are so many demands, and there is so much good will and good intentions, and this leads to the fact that the states sign this as form of intention-declaration rather then as binding juridical document, and that is wrong. If someone signs the paper saying that no human being shall suffer from hunger, this cannot be legally binding, something which can end up in court. It has to be an intention we shall work for that no one shall suffer from hunger. This is a utopia, because there is always someone who suffers from hunger in this world.
Interviewer: it certainly appears as if that what is far away from us seems less binding, while whatever is closer to us seems more binding?
Thune: The world is full of problems, the world is full of people who are suffering, the world is full of people who are exposed to assaults of one or the other kind. And then it was decided that we should establish the human rights system. This is the product of what happened in the Second World War, but we did not get as far as to really find out how this system should be used, and this goes also for us who work with it. Books are written, thoughts are thought, thick books are written about this, we come up with new rights all the time, new conventions, but still there aren’t that many news about how this is to help us working against problems, which is the starting point for the whole thing. If we take it completely cynically, it is the state that gave these rules, because they gave them through the cooperation with institutions, which are beyond the state. This is about relation state-individual. Those who violate HR are these states, the same states that made the rules, and they violate them by not following up the HR. And then the states are supposed to also enforce the rights too, so that you have the three things in one. As Montesquieu said in his time, democratic principles can never come from the same instance, if we are to call a system ‘democratic’. It should always be that one is practicing, one is judging and one is juridical. One gives laws, one breaks laws and one judges the lawbreaking. The difficulty within HR area is that all of it is in one hand; the state has all three roles. The conclusion one can draw is that the state is not so interested in effective enforcing of HR laws because that means that the state would be criticised. There will not be any change within this area as long as people do not understand what these rules are trying to protect, and as long as people see themselves as thinking subjects, and do not pretend as if the state is suppose to introduce, enforce, etc.., these rules because it is precisely the state that violates them.
And then there is a question
about who shall prosecute
and who shall
correct this? They are not the state authorities because they
the violators. In
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