Sámi rights activists in Norway charged over protests against wind farm affecting reindeer herding

Some 20 activists have been charged after they blocked several entrances to Norwegian government offices over a wind farm that they say hinders the rights of the Sámi Indigenous people to raise reindeer, their lawyer said Friday.

The exact charge was not known. The VG newspaper said they were charged because they did not accept the fines they were given after being forcefully removed by police. They face trial in March.

At the center of the dispute are the 151 turbines of Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, which is located in central Norway’s Fosen district, about 450 kilometres north of the capital, Oslo.

The activists say a transition to green energy shouldn’t come at the expense of the rights of Indigenous people.

They have demonstrated repeatedly against the wind farm’s continued operation since the Supreme Court of Norway ruled in October 2021 that the construction of the turbines had violated the rights of the Sámi, who have used the land for reindeer for centuries.

“Punishing the Sámi youth and their supporters will be yet another violation of their human rights – violation of their freedom of speech and demonstration,” lawyer Olaf Halvorsen Rønning said.

Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen, one of the activists, said “it is the state that is responsible for the situation at Fosen, while the Fosen actions, by all accounts, have only contributed to solving it.”

In October, activists – many dressed in traditional Sámi garments – blocked the entrance to one of the main operators of a wind farm to prevent employees from entering.

In June, they protested outside Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre’s office, and they occupied the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy for four days in February, and later blocked the entrances to 10 ministries.

Sámi, who mostly live in the Arctic, came from neighboring Sweden and Finland to join the protest. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg was among the protesters. It was unclear whether she was among those charged.

Gahr Støre has acknowledged “ongoing human rights violations” and the government has repeatedly apologized for failing to act despite the Supreme Court ruling. 

Energy Minister Terje Aasland has said that the demolition of all wind turbines at Fosen – as the protesters demand – is not being considered.

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