Norway won't change plans for Utøya memorial

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Norway won't change plans for Utøya memorial
The 'Memory Wound' design has been bitterly opposed by some locals. Illustration: Jonas Dahlberg/NTB Scanpix

The threat of lawsuits from neighbors are not sufficient grounds to change plans for a memorial at Utøya, the Norwegian government said on Thursday.


The government did, however, agree to a meeting about possible adjustments to the design of the memorial, which will commemorate the massacre of 69 people, mostly teenagers, on the island in 2011. 
Earlier this month, a lawyer representing local residents said that he would initiate legal action against the state unless the July 22nd memorial 'Memory Wound' was stopped. 
‘Memory Wound' is a “permanent scar” that would see the tip of Sørbråten, the peninsular which juts out into the Tyrifjorden towards Utøya, severed from the lakeside, and the names of the dead then carved on the exposed surface of the new island.
Some residents of Sørbråten have fiercely opposed the memorial, condemning Swedish conceptual artist Jonas Dahlberg’s design as a "rape of nature", a "tourist attraction ", and a "hideous monument".
The locals hired one of Norway’s top lawyers, Harald Stabell, to prevent the construction. Stabell, who successfully defended the militant Islamist Mullah Krekar from being deported to Iraq, informed the state of his intended legal action earlier this month and gave officials two weeks to respond. 
On Thursday, a letter signed by Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland and Minister of Local Government and Modernisation Jan Tore Sanner said that the local opposition to the project would not stop it from moving forward. 
“We fully understand that neighbours might consider it difficult to have a national memorial established in their area. But at the same time there is an expectation amongst the bereaved, survivors and society at large that the memorial be established,” their letter read. 
“To try to find a solution everyone can agree on, several meetings were held with representatives from the local community, residents' associations, the bereaved and AUF [the Workers' Youth League, which was holding a summer camp on the island]. It has been impossible to find a solution that everyone can accept, but the consideration of the neighbours were thoroughly considered in the planning decision,” it added.
The ministers said they were committed to an open dialogue with locals to keep them informed of the memorial’s progress. The state agency for public art, KORO, has also invited neighbours to a meeting to discuss possible adjustments to the memorial.
But Helleland and Sanner made it clear that “the threat of a lawsuit does not provide grounds to change the decision to realize the memorial".
Stabell has argued that the memorial will cause locals mental suffering and a delayed recovery from the deadliest attack in Norway since the Second World War. 
Locals who participated in the rescue work after convicted terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s shooting spree on the island suffered traumatic stress, and the lawyer says that construction of the memorial will hinder their rehabilitation.
“From my point of view, I believe there is evidence to suggest that Utstranda [a neighbourhood facing out to Utøya] is Norway's most traumatized residential area, and it is exactly in this area that the government has chosen to erect the memorial,” Stabell wrote. 
A zoning plan for the memorial was enacted last month and 'Memory Wound' is scheduled to be completed in 2017.



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