Mass murderer Breivik depressed ‘over isolation’

Henry

Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right extremist who killed 77 people in 2011 and according to his legal team now has “suicidal tendencies”, will appear in court on Monday in his case against the Norwegian government over the conditions under which he is being held in prison.

Breivik, now 44 years old, has been held separately from other prisoners in a high-security prison for the past 11 years.

He argues that his prolonged isolation is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhuman” and “degrading” treatment.

On July 22, 2011, Breivik detonated a bomb in a van near government offices in Oslo. It claimed eight lives. He then killed another 69 people, mainly teenagers who had gathered at a youth rally of the Labor Party on the island of Utoya.

In 2012, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison, which can be extended as long as he is considered a threat.

Must use medication

He has since been “detained in isolation and the more time passes, the greater the violation of the convention”, his legal representative, Oystein Storrvik, said earlier.

In court documents it is argued that the “long period of isolation and absence of meaningful interaction causes Breivik (psychological) suffering, including the fact that he now wants to commit suicide”.

“He also depends on the antidepressant Prozac to get through his days in prison,” Storrvik argues.

According to him, Breivik’s only interaction is with two other prisoners whom he sees every two weeks for an hour under strict observation, as well as his contact with prison officials.

Referring to another provision in the Convention on Human Rights regarding the right to correspondence, Breivik also asked that the restrictions that apply to the letters he writes to those outside the prison be relaxed.

Breivik has already taken the Norwegian authorities to court on both issues, with an Oslo District Court ruling in 2016 that his isolation was indeed a violation of his rights.

In the subsequent appeal case, the Norwegian higher court ruled in the state’s favor and the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the case in 2018.

Budgies as pets

The five-day trial starts on Monday and will be held in the Ringerike prison gym for security reasons. The prison is located on the shore of the lake that surrounds the island of Utoya.

Breivik has access to several rooms on two floors which include a kitchen, a TV room with a game console and a training room, reports the Norwegian news channel NTB.

Prison officials also complied with his request for a pet to keep him company, by providing him with three budgies, reports NTB.

Norway is very proud of its humane prison system, which is aimed at rehabilitation, rather than punishment.

The state argued that Breivik’s isolation is relative and justified given the danger he poses and that the conditions under which he is held are necessary to protect society, as well as other prisoners, prison guards and himself from other prisoners.

Breivik enjoys a “wide variety of activities such as cooking, games, walks and basketball” and “there is no indication that he suffers from physical or mental health ailments due to his prison conditions”, argued Andreas Hjetland, on behalf of the state.

“Breivik has so far shown little interest in any rehabilitation work,” he says.

“It is therefore difficult to imagine what significant improvements in prison conditions are possible and justifiable in the short term.”

In the past, Breivik has used his public appearances to trumpet his political ideology; these included Hitler salutes and tirades that caused great suffering to survivors and family members of the victims.

This is one of the reasons why the judge in the case ruled that his testimony – which is expected to be delivered on Tuesday – may not be broadcast.

“There is a substantial danger that Breivik’s testimony will divert attention from the relevant issue and put the focus on his ideological message,” Judge Birgitte Kolrud ruled.