Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who killed 77 people in two terrorist attacks in Norway five years ago, just won a human rights case against the state on Wednesday.
The surprise decision came as a result of the isolation Breivik feels in solitary confinement being called inhumane treatment. The Oslo district court ruled that the conditions under which he was being held were in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Breivik is being held in solitary confinement in a three-complex cell at Skien prison, where, according to the Associated Press, he has access to “video game consoles, a television, a DVD player, electronic typewriter, newspapers and exercise machines.”
“The prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society,” the Oslo district court ruling said. “This applies no matter what — also in the treatment of terrorists and killers.”
The court also ordered the government to pay Breivik’s legal fees, which amounted to 331,000 kroner, or about $41,000. However, the court dismissed the convicted terrorist’s claims that the Norwegian government was violating his right to a private and family life. Talking Points Memo reported on the basis of Breivik’s suit, which alleged mistreatment in prison.
“Breivik, 37, had sued the government, saying his isolation from other prisoners, frequent strip searches and the fact that he was often handcuffed during the early part of his incarceration violated his human rights. During a four-day hearing last month at Skien prison in southern Norway, where he is serving his sentence, he also complained about the quality of the prison food, having to eat with plastic utensils and not being able to communicate with sympathizers.”
The government has long rejected his claims, saying he was being treated humanely in prison despite the severity of his crimes and that he was kept in solitary confinement for safety reasons. Apparently, the court disagreed with the government’s evaluation.
“We are surprised,” government attorney Marius Emberland told the Associated Press. “We are not in agreement with the court.”
The Atlantic summed up Breivik’s crimes, which included the bombing of a government building in the capital and the shooting massacre of 69 people at a youth camp, most of them children. It was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. Breivik notably gave the Nazi salute during his trial.
“On July 22, 2011, Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo’s center, killing eight people, and then traveled to a nearby island, the location of a youth camp for Labor Party supporters, and killed 69 people. He is serving a 21-year prison term for his actions, the maximum allowed under Norwegian law. That sentence can be extended indefinitely.”
Breivik’s lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, has “called for his solitary confinement to be repealed” in the wake of the judgement, according to the BBC.
Breivik, for his part, had previously given apocalyptic warnings to Norwegian authorities of what could happen if he wasn’t given better treatment. In a letter described by NPR as “neatly-typed,” the right-wing extremist threatened to go on a hunger strike if his list of 12 demands were not met, which included a daily walk, an end to daily physical searches, access to a better video game console, and more “adult” games. He also warned of grave consequences should his ideological fellow travelers come to power in the near future.
“You’ve put me in hell,” Breivik wrote. “You are killing me. If I die, all of Europe’s right-wing extremists will know exactly who it was that tortured me to death…That could have consequences for certain individuals in the short term but also when Norway is once again ruled by a fascist regime in 13 to 40 years from now.”
Both sides of the case have four weeks to file an appeal of the district court’s decision. The Norwegian government says it is still debating whether to do so. Emberland said his team would study the verdict very carefully before deciding whether to appeal.
[AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File]