• 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

With civility in the courtroom and dignity in the streets, Norway has risen to the challenge posed by the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, one of history's worst mass murderers, observers say.

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 teen has lived in cave for a year
da Beate Løken in her cave. Photo: Screen Grab Romerikes Blad TV

Norway teen has lived in cave for a year

A 19-year-old girl from the most fjord-filled region of Western Norway has been living a cave for almost a year with little but a high-grade sleeping bag to get her through the gruelling Norwegian winter. READ () »

Plumber stabbed workmate after gay jibe
Court psychiatrist Terje Tørrissen ruled the plumber was not psychotic. Photo: Håkon Mosvsvold Larsen / Scanpix NTB

Plumber stabbed workmate after gay jibe

A plumber in Norway has been sentenced to compulsory mental care after he drew a knife on his colleague and stabbed him ten times in the head and torso after the man called him a "grumpy little gay". READ () »

Hikers to wear green hats if 'open to romance'
Nils Øverås, secretary general of the Norwegian Trekking Association and Hanna Melhus, head of the organization's youth wing, posing for the April Fools message. Photo: Norwegian Trekking Association

Hikers to wear green hats if 'open to romance'

An April Fools joke in which the Norwegian Trekking Association declared that all single people hiking over the Easter break should wear a green hat if they're open to romance triggered such a huge reaction that the association has decided to institute it for real. READ () »

Excavator operator gets $2,000 after outcry
John Erik Tveitdal shows off the money he found in the safe he broke open. Photo: Norsk Gjenvinning Group

Excavator operator gets $2,000 after outcry

The businessman who mistakenly dumped an old safe containing 117,000 kroner ($19,200) at a recycling centre has given a 12,000 kroner reward to the excavator operator who cracked it open and found the money. READ () »

'They loved nature: that's why they were there'
Helicopter comes with three of the four missing men found in the landslide area in Sunndalsfjella. Photo: Berit Roald / Scanpix NTB

'They loved nature: that's why they were there'

Henning Nilsen, 37, from Trondheim, has told Adressa.no of his grief at losing two of his best friends in the avalanche in the Sunndalsfjella mountains on Monday. READ () »

Three boys arrested for taping girl to  railing
Russ in Oslo in 2012. None of these people were involved in taping a girl to a bar. PHOTO: Berit Keilen / NTB SCANPIX

Three boys arrested for taping girl to railing

Police have arrested three out-of-contol Norwegian high-school students after they taped a 17-year-old girl to a railing in a park in Sandnes, south of Bergen, and pelted her with eggs and flour. READ () »

Union could take 1,300 Norwegian staff on strike
One of Norwegian's new Dreamliners arriving from New York at Stockholm Arlanda airport - Johan Nilsson / NTB Scanpix

Union could take 1,300 Norwegian staff on strike

Norway's Parat Union has threatened to take more than 1,300 Norwegian Airlines employees out on strike if the airline does not agree to a joint collective bargaining agreement for the cabin crew by April 30. READ () »

Police free Norwegians jailed for wolf hunt

Police free Norwegians jailed for wolf hunt

The three Norwegians jailed last week pending trial for taking part in an illegal wolf hunt were released on Wednesday, allowing them to spend Easter with their families. READ () »

Video
Norway's Solli gets the weirdest yellow card ever
Jan Gunnar Solli when playing for the New York Bulls. Photo: Joscarfas/Wikimedia Commons

Norway's Solli gets the weirdest yellow card ever

Norwegian footballer Jan Gunnar Solli displayed some unorthodox ball play on Monday evening, catching a pass by lifting up his football shirt and slipping the ball inside. Sadly, the referee didn't see the funny side and promptly served Solli with a yellow card, READ () »

Norway PM backs gay church weddings
Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Parliament in Oslo on Wednesday morning. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB Scanpix

Norway PM backs gay church weddings

Norway's Prime Minister has declared her support for gay church weddings, although she argues the decision on whether to allow them is up to the Church of Norway. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
VIDEO: Norway police's chilled way with drunk wows US
Education
VIDEO: Norway skydiver dodges meteorite
National
Oslo shortlisted for Green Capital 2016
International
Work to start on world's tallest wooden house
Culture
NRK boss: Slow TV 'difficult to joke with'
International
Stoltenberg named as next Nato boss
Society
'Silly walk' sign enrages roads agency
Norwegian tattoos McDonald's bill on arm
Sport
Norwegian man 'forgets' luxury boat for two years
Society
VIDEO: Oslo transformed into miniature city
International
GALLERY: Nato troops' Arctic 'selfies'
International
Feature: Why Jens Stoltenberg is a natural choice for Nato
Advertisement:
International
Norwegian troops get unisex dorms
Travel & Tourism
Trolltunga 'most stunning place for a selfie'
Society
Caffeine-fuelled game binge puts boy in coma
Culture
VIDEO: Norway's 'reality TV with wild birds'
Culture
VIDEO: Bouncer wins Norway Eurovision spot
Culture
VIDEO: Norway fans in awesome Sherlock skit
National
Two new Oslo eateries win Michelin stars
International
Masked Russians seized our gear: Norway journos
National
Lingo cops beat sweet maker in jelly-baby battle
International
US court gives Norway Bieber fraudster 11 years
Society
VIDEO: 7-year-old channels Billie Holiday
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 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

326
jobs available