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I know that the Norwegian Criminal Procedures Code §90 gives a suspect the right to refrain from testifying against themselves.

There's this Norwegian fictional story where a group of friends witness someone they know commit a crime. They are then called by the police to come testify regarding the incident. Since the accused is their friend, they don't want to contribute to him being convicted.

I know that it's illegal to give false testimony in Norway, so to claim the accused didn't commit the crime would clearly be illegal.

But would they have the right to say "I don't wish to comment"? Or simply refuse to show up at the questioning? (Since they themselves were not accused of any crime.)

Is that legal in Norway? If not, what kind of punishment can be given for someone refusing to testify in a case where they themselves are not the accused or a family member of the accused, but rather their friend or something like that? What if the accused is a stranger and they simply don't wish to testify?

Is there any difference in this regard between the right to silence during the initial police investigation and the right to silence during an actual trial in court?

I prefer answers that cite their sources.

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This appears to be covered by the Norway Criminal Procedures Code, of which an English version can be found here. Chapter 10 deals with witnesses. Here are some relevant sections:

§ 108. Unless otherwise provided by statute, every person summoned to attend as a witness is bound to do so and to give evidence before the court.

There follow a number of exceptions (spousal privilege, attorney-client privilege, state secrets, etc). None of them seem to apply to your example.

§ 115. The court may decide that a witness who fails to attend or who leaves the place of sitting without a valid reason shall be brought before the same or a subsequent sitting of the court. In special cases the court may decide that a witness shall be detained in custody until he can be examined.

§ 128. Before the examination the president of the court shall admonish the witnesses to tell the whole truth without concealing anything. He shall inform the witnesses of the liability consequent on giving false evidence or making a false affirmation.

§ 137. If a witness refuses to give evidence after being ordered to do so by a legally enforceable court order, the court may by a new order decide that the witness shall be kept in custody until he fulfils his obligation. Nevertheless a witness may not be kept in custody for more than three months altogether in the same case or in another case relating to the same matter.

So effectively, if the witness fails to show up voluntarily, he can be brought in forcibly. He can be ordered to testify, and if he refuses, he can be held in custody (probably a jail) for up to three months.

However, the authority to compel testimony is limited to courts; the police cannot compel statements from witnesses.

§ 230. The police may take statements from suspected persons, witnesses and experts but may not order any person to make a statement.

So in your example, it appears that the witnesses would be free to refuse to speak to the police. However, if the case came to trial, they could be ordered to testify, and could be held in custody if they refused.

  • Thanks for the answer. Does this also apply during the preliminary investigation by the police? Or only during an actual trial in court? – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica May 31 '16 at 3:51
  • @Fiksdal: Updated. – Nate Eldredge May 31 '16 at 3:58

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