Norwegian mass killer's trial will present many challenges
Anders Behring Breivik will find out today if he is to be considered legally insane ahead of next Monday’s trial, writes AUDREY ANDERSEN
THERE WERE few material traces of Anders Behring Breivik’s carnage during the media visit to Utoeya on October 3rd last year. Apart from the bullet holes in the cafeteria building, all seemed eerily normal. Last week Breivik (33), a right-wing extremist and Islamophobe, was formally indicted on terror and murder charges for the deaths of 77 people and the attempted murder of 42 others in Oslo and on Utoeya. The 18-page indictment gives a more vivid image of the full horror of what happened on July 22nd last year.
There has been some criticism concerning the fact that not all those affected by Breivik’s crimes are mentioned in the indictment. Prosecutors have defended this decision based on the scale of those affected by Breivik’s crimes, between 600 and 800, and the difficulties in having so many testify in the case. This does not, however, affect entitlements to criminal injuries compensation.
The indictment lists the victims by name, age and chronological order according to where they were found and how they died. It retraces Breivik’s movements as he calmly walked around the island taking potshots at fleeing teenagers and young people.
The attacks began with Breivik parking a bomb-laden van in downtown Oslo killing eight and seriously injuring nine people. Breivik then drove towards Utoeya where 564 people were gathering for the annual youth Labour party (AUF) summer camp.
July 22nd ended with 69 dead and 33 injured on the island.
Breivik’s first victim on Utoeya was off-duty policeman Trond Berntsen (52), whom he shot five times with a pistol, causing substantial brain injury. He then shot Monica Bøsei (46) three times. She died from gunshot injuries to her head.
Most of the Utoeya victims were shot multiple times, many in the head.
One was shot eight times: “One of the shots to the head entered through the left side of the forehead passing through the frontal part of the brain and leaving through the right side of the vertex.”
Of the victims, 34 were aged between 14 and 17 years of age.
As expected, the prosecutors ordered that Breivik be committed to mandatory psychiatric care under the Mental Health Care Act. Under Norwegian law a defendant cannot be sentenced to prison if he or she was psychotic at the time of the act. The initial forensic psychiatric report diagnosed Breivik as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and said he was psychotic during the attacks.
That evaluation sparked heated debate to such an extent that the court ordered a second two-person psychiatric assessment. Breivik continues to claim that his acts are legitimate, lawful and necessary. He shows no remorse for his actions which he continues to plead were justified in order to rid Norway and Europe of multiculturalism and Islamisation.
He is undergoing a second 24-hour psychiatric evaluation in Ila prison. If the second evaluation arrives at the same diagnosis as the first, it is likely that Breivik will be sentenced to mandatory psychiatric care.
“If the second psychiatric team concludes that Breivik is sane, it will be fascinating to see whether the judges will dare to set aside the first diagnosis and sentence Breivik to prison,” said Jo Martin Stigen, professor of law at the University of Oslo. If so, Breivik will face a maximum sentence of 21 years imprisonment.
For most survivors and relatives, focus is now on preparations for the trial on April 16th. After, initial presentations and an overview, Breivik will be called to describe and justify his actions. It is expected that he will be allowed several days to do so. This is set to be a critical stage in the proceedings and is bound to be very traumatic for survivors and relatives. Lawyers acting for the victims and psychologists are preparing for what they might be confronted with during the trial.
Prosecutors are expected to use anatomical dolls and graphic images to illustrate damage.
The timing of the trial also coincides with preparations for school and college exams and assessments. Some students are expected to face a choice on whether to follow the trial or focus on school work. Those who survived and the bereaved continue to experience everyday difficulties which will be further challenged as the trial approaches.
The court services face enormous logistical challenges in terms of dealing with a case of such magnitude and seriousness. The court will have to accommodate five judges, two prosecutors, four defence lawyers, 800 survivors and relatives and 174 lawyers acting for the victims.
There will be massive media interest with 500-600 journalists, from 20 countries, in Norway to cover the case. There are only 200 seats in Oslo district court which means that many will follow the case through video link located in 18 district courts scattered around the country.
The four court-appointed psychiatric experts will also be called to testify. The evaluation findings of the second psychiatric report are due to be submitted to the court today, ahead of the trial which begins next Monday.