Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist responsible for the deaths of 77 people in 2011, is presently described as “suicidal” by his attorney. He appeared in court on Monday, pursuing a legal case against Norway regarding his prison conditions.
Having spent over 11 years in a high-security facility, Breivik contends that his prolonged isolation violates Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhumane” and “degrading” treatment.
On July 22, 2011, Breivik orchestrated a van bomb near government offices in Oslo, resulting in eight casualties. Subsequently, he gunned down 69 individuals, primarily teenagers, at a Labour Party youth wing summer camp on Utoya island. Sentenced in 2012 to 21 years in prison, extendable based on the threat he poses, Breivik has been kept apart from other inmates in isolation.
His lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, asserted in October that Breivik’s prolonged isolation has caused him “psychological suffering,” leading to suicidal tendencies. Storrvik emphasizes that as time passes, the extent of the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights intensifies.
“He is dependent on the anti-depressant Prozac to be able to get through his days in prison,” Storrvik said.
As per his lawyer’s statement, Breivik’s sole personal interactions occur during one-hour meetings every two weeks with two fellow inmates, closely monitored, and through his interactions with prison staff. Additionally, he is pushing for a relaxation of the limitations imposed on his correspondence with individuals outside the prison, invoking another article of the Convention on Human Rights that guarantees the right to correspondence.
Having already initiated legal action against the Norwegian state on both these grounds, Breivik gained international attention in 2016 when an Oslo district court ruled that his isolation amounted to a violation of his rights.
Despite the initial ruling in Breivik’s favor by an Oslo district court in 2016, Norway’s higher courts overturned the decision on appeal, and in 2018, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed his case, deeming it “inadmissible.”
The upcoming five-day trial, commencing on Monday, will take place in the gymnasium of Ringerike prison for security considerations. Situated on the shores of the lake surrounding the island of Utoya, the prison holds various facilities accessible to Breivik.
According to the Norwegian news agency NTB, Breivik has at his disposal several rooms on two floors, including a kitchen, a TV room equipped with a game console, and an exercise room. In response to his request for companionship, prison officials have provided him with three budgies, as reported by NTB.
Norway takes pride in its prison system, emphasizing rehabilitation over punitive measures. The state contends that Anders Behring Breivik’s isolation is proportionate and warranted, citing the threat he poses. They argue that his prison conditions are essential to safeguard society, fellow inmates, prison staff, and even Breivik himself, considering potential risks from other inmates.
According to the state’s lawyer, Andreas Hjetland, Breivik is engaged in a diverse range of activities, including cooking, games, walks, and basketball. Hjetland further asserts that there is no evidence indicating that Breivik is experiencing physical or mental issues as a result of his prison conditions.
The state’s lawyer, Andreas Hjetland, noted that Breivik has displayed minimal interest in rehabilitation efforts. Consequently, Hjetland expressed skepticism about the feasibility of significant and justifiable improvements in Breivik’s prison conditions in the near term.
Moreover, Breivik has a history of utilizing public appearances to propagate his political ideology, accompanied by provocative actions such as Hitler salutes and inflammatory speeches. These actions have caused distress to survivors and relatives of the victims.
In light of this, the judge has made the decision to prevent the broadcast of Breivik’s testimony scheduled for Tuesday, citing concerns that it could potentially divert attention from the case at hand and emphasize his ideological message. Judge Birgitte Kolrud underscored the real danger posed by such a scenario.