Capital punishment in Norway

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Capital punishment in Norway (Norwegian: dødsstraff) was abolished in 1979 and constitutionally prohibited in 2014. The penal code/the criminal law of 1902, in force from 1905, abolished capital punishment in peacetime. Military capital punishment was abolished in 1979.[1] The last execution in peacetime was carried out on 25 February 1876, when Kristoffer Nilsen Grindalen was beheaded in Løten.[2] Several persons, mainly Norwegians and Germans, were executed after the Second World War and the years of Nazi occupation, among them Vidkun Quisling. Until the 19th century, lèse majesté could result in capital punishment.


Early use

In addition to the usual capital crimes of murder and treason, medieval Norwegian law demanded execution also of persons who were found guilty of witchcraft. During the witch-hunting of the 16th and 17th centuries, 300 persons were burned. About a hundred of them were from the Vardø area. Women in the north, especially in Finnmark, were at particular risk due to the clergy and authorities believing that the devil resided at the edge of the world.[3]

King Christian V's Norwegian Law of 1687 described several capital crimes. A law of 16 October 1697 increased the penalty for some murders by coupling torture with the executions. On the way to the execution site the convict would be pinched with red hot tongs, and a hand would be cut off prior to decapitation.[4]

Modern use

By 1815 the most inhumane forms of execution were abolished, and decapitation or shooting were the remaining authorised methods. Capital crimes were premeditated or otherwise heinous murders as well as treason.[5]

During the Nazi occupation of Norway (1940–1945), capital punishment was introduced by Vidkun Quisling's regime in September 1942, and the first of a total of nineteen executions was carried out on 16 August 1943, when Gunnar Eilifsen was executed for disobedience. Before this, German law had applied, and four hundred Norwegians had already been executed. In 1941, the Cabinet Nygaardsvold exiled in London allowed for the death penalty after the war, and expanded its scope in 1942 to cover torture and murder. The legal purge that followed the occupation resulted in several death sentences, of which 37 persons, whereof 25 Norwegians and 12 Germans, were executed.[6] The last execution took place on 27 August 1948, when Ragnar Skancke was put before a firing squad at Akershus Fortress.[7]

European Convention on Human Rights

In 1988 Norway signed on to protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which bans the use of capital punishment in peacetime[5] and ratified protocol 13 which bans all use of capital punishment whatsoever in 2005.[8] Norway generally opposes capital punishment outside of the country as well. The government has banished Mullah Krekar from Norway, but has not sent him to Iraq due to the possibility of him being charged with capital crimes in his home county.[9] In the Martine Vik Magnussen case, Norway has declined to cooperate with the Yemenese government unless a guarantee is made that the death penalty is off the table.[10]

Constitutional prohibition

The Constitution of Norway was extensively amended in May 2014. The new article 93 in the constitution explicitly prohibits capital punishment ("Every person has the right to life. No one can be sentenced to death.") along with torture, inhumane or degrading punishments, and slavery, and compels the government to protect against these practices.[11]

Public opinion

Opinion polls have showed that about 1 in 4 Norwegians support the death penalty, with the highest support among Progress Party voters, among whom the support, as expressed in a poll from 2010, is at 51 percent.[12] Although Progress Party politicians like Ulf Erik Knudsen[13] and Jan Blomseth[14] have expressed support for the death penalty for egregious cases of rape and murder, the party's policy is opposed to the death penalty.[12] An opinion poll taken after the 2011 Norway attacks showed that the opposition to the death penalty remained firmly entrenched, with 16 percent supporting and 68 percent opposed.[15]


  1. "Norway, With No Death Penalty, Balks at Treaty to Ban It", LA Times
  2. Øversveen, Jørn (28 January 2009). "Den siste halshuggingen". Digitalt Fortalt. Retrieved 27 February 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Rapp, Ole Magnus (17 August 2007). "Heksejakt foregår fremdeles". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 27 February 2009. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Kjærvikmordet" (in Norwegian). University of Tromsø. Retrieved 23 August 2014. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  7. Steen Jensen, Øyvind (15 November 2010). "Den siste Norge henrettet" (in Norwegian). Nettavisen (side3). Retrieved 30 April 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Noreg har i dag ratifisert EMK protokoll 13 om avskaffing av dødsstraff" (in Norwegian). Regjeringen. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 10 May 2014. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Krekar-saken: Irak vil ikke oppgi dødsstraffen nå" (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 27 February 2009. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Gunnersen, Anja Tho (12 February 2009). "Støre: - Dødsstraff er ikke aktuelt" (in Norwegian). TV 2. Retrieved 27 February 2009. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Kongeriket Norges Grunnlov" (in Norwegian). Lovdata. Retrieved 14 February 2015. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Frp-velgere vil ha dødsstraff i Norge" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten/NTB. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Frp-representant: Gi dødsstraff" (in Norwegian). Vårt Land/NTB. 29 October 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Pettersen, Egil (28 October 2010). "Frp-leder i Tromsø støtter dødsstraff" (in Norwegian). TV2 Nyhetene. Retrieved 30 October 2010. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Meldalen, Sindre Granly (8 October 2011). "Nordmenn vil ikke at Breivik skal henrettes" (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Retrieved 22 October 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>