• Norway edition
 
Breivik trial: Humanity in the face of barbarity
Roses outside the Oslo courthouse (Photo: Krister Sørbø/Scanpix)

Breivik trial: Humanity in the face of barbarity

Published: 27 Apr 2012 17:07 GMT+02:00
Updated: 27 Apr 2012 17:07 GMT+02:00

The tone was set on the first day of the trial on April 16th when theprosecutors, psychiatrists and lawyers for the plaintiffs lined up in front of Breivik before proceedings got under way to politely shake his hand.

Nine months earlier, that same hand killed 77 people when the 33-year-old right-wing extremist detonated a bomb in the government block in Oslo and then went to the nearby island of Utøya where he opened fire on hundreds of people, many of them teenagers, attending a Labour Party youth camp.
 
Courtesy has been the rule throughout the emotional testimony heard so far from survivors and during Breivik's cross-examination, though it has at times been disconcerting to some: a few journalists have expressed surprise at Prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh's use of a seemingly friendly tone with Breivik.
 
"We're going through 'Breivik hell' with dignity and upholding the principles of the rule of law and the rights of the individual, the rights ofthe criminal," a columnist at tabloid Verdens Gang (VG), Shabana Rehman, wrote.
 
"We can be proud that there has been no lynch-mob atmosphere," she added.
 
Breivik, who is led into the courtroom by unarmed police officers every morning, clad in a suit and tie, has never been assaulted, neither verbally nor physically, though families of his victims sit just a few feet away, their suffering visible but silent.

In the absence of shouting or hollering, loud shrieks of grief or anger, there is just soft weeping, the occasional hug between family members, and heads shaking in disgust.

Maren Karlsson, who lost her daughter in the bombing, said she simply caught Breivik's eye at one point and stared him down until he looked away.
 
From the witness stand, none of the bomb survivors, some deeply scarred and still on crutches, addressed Breivik directly.
 
Outside the courtroom, Norwegians have responded to the trial with the same spirit of solidarity and unity that marked the tranquil nation in the days following the July 22nd attacks, when tens of thousands of people marched quietly in the streets, roses in hand.
 
"Unlike the United States after 9/11, Norway is not going to place its soul in jeopardy through brutal and passionate revenge following a terrorist attack," University of Oslo anthropology professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen said.

"The slogan is not 'either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,' but rather 'it is our values against theirs'," he wrote on the site www.openDemocracy.com.

During the trial, Norwegian media have dug up a phrase tweeted by a young Norwegian woman, Helle Gannestad, after July 22: "If one man can create that much hate, you can only imagine how much love we as a togetherness can create."
 
Her message echoed Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's call after the attacks for "more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but without naivety."
 
On Thursday, some 40,000 people gathered at an Oslo square to sing a popular folk song that children in Norway sing in school and which Breivik had described during the trial as a "Marxist indoctrination method."
 
"It's a pretty typical Norwegian reaction," Breivik said a few days earlier of the peaceful marches in reaction to his attacks. "You're not allowed to get angry or furious," he said, adding that he had expected to be lynched for his massacres.
 
Regardless of whether it's a sign of naive good nature or a strong attachment to democratic ideals, the Norwegian reactions have been widely reported abroad.
 
"These civilities? Maybe it's like Breivik says, that in Norway you're not allowed to get angry," another VG columnist, Anders Giaever, told AFP.  
 
"But it may also be that we're not accustomed to crimes like this. Mass murderers were in other countries. We're used to cases of domestic abuse or crimes linked to drugs. So we just keep to our usual reactions," he said.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway terror warnings put nation on high alert
Top government officials in Oslo react to the terror alert. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB Scanpix

Norway terror warnings put nation on high alert

UPDATED: Norway’s security police have warned that people with connections to an extremist group in Syria intend to carry out a terror attack in Norway imminently. READ  

Warning: National risk of forest fires
A forest fire between Sel and Brennhaug in Oppland earlier in July. Photo: Lasse Stadeløkken / NTB scanpix

Warning: National risk of forest fires

Norway's official weather institute warns of nationwide risk of forest fires on Thursday. READ  

Oslo City Hall closed amid terror threat
Tram passing Oslo City Hall in Norway. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Oslo City Hall closed amid terror threat

Oslo City Hall has been closed to the public following a national terror threat announced on Thursday. READ  

Viking FK fined for fan with explosive
Viking FK fans supporting their team against Sandnes. Photo: Kent Skibstad / NTB scanpix

Viking FK fined for fan with explosive

Viking Stavanger football club has been given a fine of 15,000 kroner ($2,400) on Wednesday after a supporter fired a munition fuze during a match. READ  

100s of flight passengers stranded in Israel

100s of flight passengers stranded in Israel

The decision by Norway's top airline companies to halt flights to and from Israel, left over 400 of their passengers stranded at Tel Aviv's airport on Wednesday. READ  

13-year-old boy dies in farm fall tragedy

13-year-old boy dies in farm fall tragedy

A Norwegian teenager died after he fell through a barn's floor in Budal, Midtre Gauldal on Tuesday night. READ  

Norwegian concerns over Danish pork safety

Norwegian concerns over Danish pork safety

Norway's biggest grocery retailer and wholesaler is considering putting a halt to the import of Danish pork over MRSA concerns. READ  

Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
The vintage tractor ready to travel from UK to North Norway. Photo: Peter Matheson

Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway

A British man is set next month to drive from Scotland to the northern tip of Norway on a vintage tractor to raise money for a cancer charity. READ  

Norwegian and SAS cancel flights to Israel
Israel is out of bounds for travellers on Norwegian and SAS flights. Photo: Panoramic view of Tel-Aviv beach Shutterstock

Norwegian and SAS cancel flights to Israel

Norway's two biggest airlines have cancelled Scandinavian flights to and from Israel, on Tuesday, as fears mount for the security of passengers and staff. READ  

GALLERY: Anniversary of Oslo mass murder
Government ministers gather in Oslo to remember the 2011 massacre victims. Photo: Vegard Grøtt / NTB scanpix

GALLERY: Anniversary of Oslo mass murder

Politicians joined the people of Norway to remember the 2011 terror attack in Oslo and Utøya on Tuesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
National
Norway lifts Segway ban
Culture
GALLERY: Ten great songs about Norway
Society
Høie promises to reform sex change law
Education
Norway fjord invaded by monster jellyfish
Culture
VIDEO: Norwegian anti-Facebook film goes viral
Culture
Norway pop duo hits number 4 on US charts
Sport
Norway fan wins big on Suarez bite bet
National
Solberg 'most chatty' leader on Twitter
Culture
British Airways takes 'Slow TV' to the skies
International
Top Norway lawyers back Snowden Nobel
Society
Buy your own Viking warship for just €160,000
Politics
Norway PM beats Candy Crush level 300
Culture
Norway sticks with fårikål as national dish
International
Cold bathing craze leads to teen death
Society
Sweden threatens to 'annex' the ostehøvel
National
Baby squirrels survive cat attack
Society
Norway's 'cushy' prisons spurring foreign cons
National
Half Norwegians overweight: Gates study
International
VIDEO: Jagland doing press-ups in Donetsk
Business & Money
Striking Norway barbers: 'Let your hair grow'
Culture
Rihanna 'hard to please', Norway's Stargate reveal
International
What do Norwegians really think of Swedes?
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

334
jobs available