• 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

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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Norway is proud of you, Magnus,' says Solberg
Magnus Carlsen, happy to be chess world champion again. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

'Norway is proud of you, Magnus,' says Solberg

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg was among the first to congratulate Magnus Carlsen after he defended his World Champion title in chess, on Sunday. PLUS READ  

'I had a feeling today was the day!': Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen winning the 2014 Chess World Championship. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

'I had a feeling today was the day!': Carlsen

Chess superstar Magnus Carlsen lifted the Chess World Championship in Sochi after he defeated India's Viswanathan Anand in the eleventh match of the series, on Sunday. READ  

Ebola scare: Norway airline grounds flight
Ebola scare for Norway arline at Copenhagen airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Ebola scare: Norway airline grounds flight

An SAS plane was emergency landed in Copenhagen airport on Saturday after it was thought a passenger was infected with the Ebola virus. READ  

Shooting in Norway hospital: Man arrested
Police investigate the cause of Saturday night's disturbance at Stavanger University hospital. Photo: NTB scanpix

Shooting in Norway hospital: Man arrested

A man walked into a hospital in South Norway and fired a handgun before he was over-powered by hospital staff on Saturday night. READ  

Norway u-turn to stay in European space program
Photo: Shutterstock

Norway u-turn to stay in European space program

The Norwegian government will stay in the European space satellite program after their proposal to quit it was rejected by rival parties in Parliament, on Friday. READ  

Is Martin Ødegaard going to get Real?
Where to next for Martin Ødegaard, Norway's hottest sports property. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

Is Martin Ødegaard going to get Real?

Norwegian soccer star Martin Ødegaard is set to sign for Spanish club Real Madrid on his sixteenth birthday next month, said latest media reports on Friday. READ  

Wanted for TV doc: UK expats in Nordics
Kevin McCloud will host the television series. Photo: Optomen Television.

Wanted for TV doc: UK expats in Nordics

Have you and your family moved to a snowy wildscape in Scandinavia and set up eco-friendly home? If so, a British film production company would like to hear from you. READ  

World Chess Champs: Game ten result
Magnus Carlsen in control in Sochi. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

World Chess Champs: Game ten result

Magnus Carlsen drew for the eighth time against Vishy Anand in the tenth game of the World Championship in Russia on Friday, to maintain his lead 5.5 points to 4.5. READ  

Controversial VAT limit raised to 350 kroner
Norway government raises VAT limit for e-commerce Photo: Shutterstock

Controversial VAT limit raised to 350 kroner

The highly debated duty-free limit for imported goods has been finally set at 350 kroner by the Norwegian government, on Friday. READ  

Norway to grow food crops in space
NASA's International Space Station. Photo: Shutterstock

Norway to grow food crops in space

A team of scientists in Norway are set to research the possibility of growing plants and food crops in outer space, it was revealed on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Health
Norwegian Ebola victim free of virus
National
Kjell Inge Røkke tops Norway's Rich List
International
Surprise! Norway priciest for home comforts
National
Norway terror attacks to become TV drama
International
Malala: Youngest ever Nobel Peace Laureate
Society
Norwegian 'child bride' to marry in Oslo
Society
The fickle five: Meet the Nobel commitee
National
Norway celebrates 25 years of Sami politics
Business & Money
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
International
Norway best country for older people
Society
Queen Sonja of Norway's nephew jailed
National
Ex-Norway PM set to become head of Nobel
National
Muslim centre wanted on site of Munch Museum
International
Norway to send military staff in fight against IS
National
Father warns Breivik 'more extreme than ever'
Society
Norway's Princess of the Paranormal under fire
National
Four-year-old Norway girl sleepwalks 4km
National
Photo: Baby cliff edge shocker in Norway
Travel
Cruise line offers Northern Lights promise
National
10-tonne shark found dead off Norway coast
Culture
Britney to visit Norway for lingerie launch
International
'If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!': MP
Culture
VIDEO: Swim ace does 'Pool Rubik's Challenge'
National
Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'
Society
Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer
Sport
Ødegaard: Norway's youngest player ever
Features
Meet Norway's raining kings of fashion
National
Miracle cat survives 20 gunshots in Norway
National
Second death within hours at Chess Olympics
National
Norway and Sweden mark 200 years of peace
Culture
Interview: Helene Meldahl, selfie artist
Society
Now serving ... Norway's smallest bar
Travel
Floating Northern Lights hotel planned in Norway
National
Circus camel escapes again
National
Swiss bus driver charged with careless driving in fatal Norway crash
Society
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
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
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

301
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description