11 months ago, Norwegian Anders Breivik committed one of the most horrific massacres in the history of peace-time Europe. In an elaborately planned attack, the 33-year old Breivik set off explosives in Oslo’s government square killing eight people and, while authorities were preoccupied with the explosion, drove about 25 miles to the island of Utoya, where he brutally and systematically massacred 69 people attending a youth camp, most of whom were teenagers. From a personal perspective, this attack feels worse than anything I can remember happening on American soil. To be sure, more people were killed in the terrorist attacks on 9-11 and during the Oklahoma City Bombings, but those were largely impersonal deaths. The Al-Qaeda operatives who flew the planes in to the towers and Timothy McVeigh never had to see the faces of their victims as they died. Anders Breivik slowly and methodically assassinated innocent men, women and children at close range for over an hour and a half. It was an attack so wide in scope that one in four Norwegians are said to know a victim affected by the attacks.
This week, the 10-week long trial of Breivik is coming to a close in Oslo and there doesn’t appear to be much chance for catharsis or resolution. The principle debate going on between he defense and prosecution regard the sanity of Breivik both when he committed the attacks and now as he stands trial. There have been two psychiatric evaluations of Breivik thus far, one of which declared him insane with a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia and the other which concluded that he was sane. Breivik has been seen repeatedly smiling in the courtroom while hearing recounts of and giving testimony about the July 2011 killings and has shown no signs of remorse or humanity. Being familiar with our justice system here in the States, you might lean towards sending him to prison rather than an insane asylum, but Norway has some bizarre criminal laws. In Norway, the maximum sentence for any criminal offense is a mere 21 years in prison, with the added provision that the prisoner may be kept after time has been served if he/she is still deemed a menace to society. The sentencing guidelines are much more flexible for criminals judged to be insane and Breivik would likely spend the rest of his life in a sanitarium if he were to be committed after trial. Now, as a point of reference, you can get more time in prison than that in the state of Maryland for being caught with intent to distribute more than 28 grams of coke or 100 lbs of weed.
In the clip below from Al Jazeera English, an overview is given of recent court proceedings along with interviews with survivors and footage of the disaster. I have to say it is a truly bizarre thing to hear a prosecutor arguing for a defendant’s insanity and against him serving prison time, but there doesn’t seem to be anything normal about this ordeal.
Categories: Social Justice