• Norway's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Breivik trial: Humanity in the face of barbarity

AFP · 27 Apr 2012, 17:07

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
Philippine troops attack Norwegian hostage's captors
Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad (right) in a still from a previous video released by SITE. Photo: Screen Grab

Philippine warplanes on Thursday attacked Islamic militants holding a Norwegian and 19 other foreign hostages.

Norway vows to change child welfare practices
Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne has announced a series of changes to how the Norwegian Child Welfare Service operates. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

Following global protests, Norway prepares changes and reviews of the Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet).

Statoil tops expectations to stay in the black
The Statoil headquarters in Fornebu. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

Norwegian oil giant Statoil held up better against lower oil prices than expected.

Philippines vows military strike on Norwegian's captors
The Abu Sayyaf terrorists have killed one captive and have threatened to kill the others, including Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad (right). Photo: NTB Scanpix

Following the execution of a Canadian hostage, Philippine President Benigno Aquino says he will 'neutralize' the terrorists still holding a Norwegian and up to 20 others.

Norway cabin gets 'Frozen' treatment at Disney World
When Disney World visitors enter the Royal Sommerhus, they'll actually be entering a replica of this cottage at Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum. Photo: Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum

Kids will be able to meet Elsa and Anna in a replica of a Trondheim cottage.

Norway moves to bar entry to 'hate preachers'
Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

The Justice Ministry wants to crack down on religious groups who invite people into the country "who undermine Norwegian values".

Breivik civil case
Norway to appeal Breivik human rights ruling
Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

UPDATED: The Norwegian state will appeal against the Oslo District Court’s ruling that convicted terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s prison conditions violate his human rights.

Norway eyeing Stockholm threat ahead of royal visit
File photo of police at Stockholm Central Station. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT / NTB scanpix

The Norwegian royals are headed to Stockholm this weekend but a terror threat threatens to disrupt the plans.

Statoil and EON invest €1.2b in Baltic wind farm
Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil's executive VP for New Energy Solutions, announced the investment on Monday. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix

The two energy giants will invest more than €1.2 billion in one of Europe's biggest offshore wind projects.

Norwegian's fellow hostage executed by Islamic militants
Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad (right) in a still from a previous video released by SITE. Photo: Screen Grab

A Norwegian's fellow hostage was murdered by Islamist extremists in the Philippines.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Society
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Society
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Society
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Health
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Memo: Norway 'not mentally prepared' for refugees' impact
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Society
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
National
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
Politics
Norway's tough asylum plans face resistance
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose International Health Insurance
National
'Patriot' group Soldiers of Odin debut in Norway
National
Oslo is the real ‘Capital of Scandinavia’
Health
Norway ads use Hitler teddy bear to scare parents... about dust
National
Migrants: Norway 'sending us to death' in Russia
Norway under fire over tough new asylum plans
Health
Norway doctors push plan for 'tobacco-free generation'
2,137
jobs available