Two years ago, Norway’s Supreme Court found that two wind farms in the Fosen region of western Norway – on land used by Sami reindeer herders – violated the rights of the indigenous people to practise their culture of reindeer husbandry.
Environment and indigenous Sami activists held protests in Oslo on Wednesday to demand the demolition of wind turbines still in place on reindeer herding land two years to the day after a court ruled them illegal.
On October 11, 2021, Norway’s Supreme Court found that two wind farms in the Fosen region of western Norway – on land used by Sami reindeer herders – violated the rights of the indigenous people to practise their culture of reindeer husbandry.
Two years later, the 151 turbines are still operating.
In its ruling, the court found that the expropriation and operating permits for the construction of the turbines were invalid.
However, it gave no guidance on what should be done with the turbines, which were already in operation.
On Wednesday, hundreds of activists, some dressed in traditional Sami clothing, blocked the main Oslo thoroughfare where they erected a laavu, a Sami tent.
They called for the wind turbines to be dismantled and the land restored.
Some 20 others also made their way into the nearby parliament building and occupied a hall, where they sang traditional Sami chants called “joik”.
“Prime Minister (Jonas Gahr) Store must take his responsibility, stop the human rights violation and make sure it won’t happen again,” said Gina Gylver, the head of the Norwegian branch of the environment organisation Friends of the Earth.
An indigenous minority of around 100,000 people spread over the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the Sami have traditionally lived off reindeer herding and fishing.
Sami activists have held protests on symbolic dates since the Supreme Court’s ruling, with this latest one expected to once again last several days.
Swedish climate and environment campaigner Greta Thunberg is due to join the protest on Thursday.
She took part in a demonstration held in February to mark the 500th day since the Supreme Court ruling.
Norway’s government has apologised to Sami reindeer herding families and launched a mediation process to try to find a solution enabling both the herders and wind farms to continue their activities.
“I understand that the despair is even greater when it takes so long to find a good solution,” Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in an email to AFP.
“I think a mediation is the fastest way to resolve this matter by offering the two sides … the possibility to retain control over the resolution of the dispute,” he added.
In a post on Facebook, Aasland wrote that “the destruction of all wind turbines was excluded”.
“This is also not a likely outcome of either a decision-making process or a mediation process.”
The ruling could set a precedent for other infrastructure projects on the vast lands traditionally used by the Sami across Norway.
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