Breivik claims isolation is torture

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Convicted Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik wants to petition the courts to have his ongoing isolation deemed unlawful, after 33 months in solitary confinement, reports newspaper Aftenposten. Lawyers for the man who killed 77 people in his July 22, 2011 attacks, along with some other legal experts, argue the isolation is an additional penalty on top of the sentence Breivik is serving, and is not allowing him to rehabilitate.

Ila Prison released this photo of the cell where Anders Behring Breivik can work. He's said to be writing a book. PHOTO: Ila fengsel og forvaringsanstalt/Glefs AS

Ila Prison in Bærum is one of the jails where mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been imprisoned. He has been kept at an “especially high security level” for the past 33 months, which includes isolation from other prisoners and the outside world. Ila Prison released this photo of the cell where Anders Behring Breivik can work. PHOTO: Ila fengsel og forvaringsanstalt/Glefs AS

The Norwegian correctional system, Aftenposten noted, runs on the fundamental principal that imprisonment is a loss of freedom, not a loss of other human rights. Aftenposten reported that there is a broad consensus among criminal law experts and the state’s correctional services management itself that ongoing isolation can cause physical and psychological damage, yet there are no restrictions on how long a prisoner can be kept in isolation.

The average time an inmate spends at the infrequently used “especially high security” level is between 12 to 18 months. Breivik, whose attacks claimed eight lives in his bombing of government headquarters in Oslo and 69 in his massacre on the island of Utøya, occupies specially sectioned-off rooms in the prison and is not allowed contact with other inmates. The 35-year-old’s only visitors have been lawyers, health or pastoral care workers, and his now deceased mother. He has a TV, gaming console and typewriter, but no computer. Breivik’s lawyer Tord Jordet said his client is also subjected to daily bodily inspection.

“When a court imposes a prison sentence, it’s the detention itself that constitutes the punishment, and Correctional Services shall not impose further punishment through stronger prison conditions than necessary,” Jordet told Aftenposten. “Breivik is isolated from contact with other staff and is largely denied correspondence with people outside the prison. When this is exclusively justified under the conditions he is already sentenced for, it constitutes an illegal additional penalty, and is a clear human rights violation.”

“The penalties shall be conducted in a way which protects the community, inmates and staff,” said Marianne Vollan, head of the the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service (Kriminalomsorgsdirektoratet). “There are security reasons justifying some inmates’ zoning at the especially high security level. Such placement is reviewed regularly, and should only be maintained while it is necessary for safety.”

Last January Breivik reported several people for violation of the criminal laws that prevent public service personnel from doing another person physical or psychological damage with the intent of punishment. He claimed his prison conditions worsened after he made the reports, and the hatred against him was so strong that the rule of law had been overridden. His case was dismissed by Norway’s Supreme Court in February this year.

Experts divided
Lawyer John Christian Elden, who assisted in the July 22 case, said isolation under detention was considered torture under international law and should only be used where absolutely necessary. “To justify isolation on the protection of Breivik himself, even where he doesn’t want it, is at best doubtful,” said Elden.

High-profile lawyer Harald Stabell said while Breivik’s case is unique, because of the gravity of his crimes, it doesn’t justify the isolation regime. “There must be other ways to reduce the risk of escape, while maintaining his own safety,” Stabell argued. Professor Kristian Andenæs from Oslo University’s Criminology and Sociology department said 33 months in isolation was “extreme,” and can’t be justified under Norwegian or international law.

Professor Erling Johannes Husabø at Bergen University said it’s questionable whether the total isolation is right. But he said crucial to whether the ongoing isolation was an illegal additional penalty was the grounds for the isolation. “If a prisoner, for example, is particularly dangerous for their inmates, it can not be regarded as a punishment to keep him isolated from the others for a time,” he said. “But if the justification lies with the crime he has done, there is an additional penalty that the law does not allow.”

However, Professor Kjetil Mujezinoviã Larsen at the Norwegian human rights centre said the conditions imposed on Breivik are within the acceptable limits under Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. “The European Court of Human Rights has been willing to accept long isolation under prison conditions that presumably correspond to those Behring Breivik is under, in cases against people who have committed similar acts,” he said.

Working towards rehabilitation
Another fundamental tenet of the Norwegian corrections system is that prisoners should be rehabilitated and returned to society. Breivik’s first opportunity to have his sentence reconsidered will be in July 2021. “The regulations don’t provide for anyone to be exempt from this notion,” said Vollan. “Nevertheless it is so that implementation of detention shall safeguard society’s need for security against new, serious criminality from the detainee’s side. Ensuring safety, the detainee is given the opportunity to change his or her behaviour.”

Jordet does not believe there’s any will within Corrective Services to allow Breivik the opportunity to change. “I see no plans or thoughts over rehabilitating him,” he told Aftenposten. “Through a written request I asked to see his rehabilitation plan, and got the answer that no such plan has been prepared. As soon as a judgment has been made, Corrective Services should start targeted rehabilitation work so the inmate can return to society. For many it seems so unthinkable for Breivik to be released that it looks like Corrective Services neither wants or has the capabilities to facilitate a return to society.” Woodgate

  • BobBobbyBobertsen

    Can’t this pathetic waste of life just cease to exist, or at least be ignored by the media so he doesn’t get the attention he desperately seeks?

    That he has a clean and comfortable bed, internet access, and three square meals a day is a massive insult to the billions of innocents living in poverty the world over, struggling just to survive. Take the huge amount of money we’re wasting on him and use it to save 77 children from starvation in Africa, that would be true morality.

    • John Palmer

      I agree. I wouldn’t waste money on his amenities. No Internet access. Limited visitors. Let him spend the time reflecting on his actions. Rehabilitate him? Give him daily the option of a death pill and send him on his way.

      • inquisitor

        I am sure there are plenty of people waiting for his rehabilitated azz to get out of jail and hit the streets.

        He won’t last a week.

        • John Palmer

          Death is too easy. Let him sit in a cell for the rest of his life. Of course he should have access to the general prison population, and they to him.

        • Willow

          I agree!

    • Tom Just Olsen

      Most likely, Anders Behring Breivik and his lawyers are correct: 33 months of isolation is ‘torture’. Not only according to Norwegian law, but international as well. But, by all means; let the guy have some company.
      I have a few suggestions. Like the Hells Angels boss of Norway; Leif Ivar Christiansen. They better hurry; he will be parolled soon. I would advice Anders Behring Breivik to turn up for their common lunch with a boxer’s mouth guard. No use chewing knekkebrød and goat cheese with that. leif Ivar has some impressive biceps – all covered in tattoos, – and a wild temper.
      Or this Norwegian/Pakistani hard drug gangster boss who had a torture chamber in his cellar in his house at Kløfta close to Gardermoen. Then they can share the luck of not being arrested in Pakistan. Where they both would have faced a death sencence. Øh, could life be better?!
      I have more suggestions….

      • richard albert

        I have the perfect cellmate for him. (Tah-DAH!) Ted Krazyinsky – remember him? The Unibummer. OK, see – zoologists tell us that when you put two shrews (spissmus) together in a confined space, within 8 hours there will be one shrew and a pile of ‘ash’. Leif Ivar Christiansen has done nothing to deserve being exposed to Andy, and the outcome is rather predictable. No drama.

        Better; here is this pair of rats in a trap. Can we get the producers of ‘Lillyhammer’ to do an episode and have Frank ‘the fixer’… Well, I won’t spoil the ending, but involves a rusty lid from a tin of torsk baller and a prison railroad contractor’s Eastern European employees leaving some Thermite lying around.

      • Dan

        They will never let him out. He will rot there till he dies.

        • Tom Just Olsen

          Leif Ivar Christiansen is already out. Anders Behring Breivik can maximum be held for 25 – 30 years acc. to Norwegian law.

          • Dan

            If he is deemed a danger to society they can keep him locked up. I doubt that they’ll let him out. Maybe when he is a senior citizen.

    • Dan

      You obviously have never been in an isolation cell. I rather live in a shack in a shanty town in Africa than what he endures. Not that I don’t think he deserves it.

      • BobBobbyBobertsen

        You’ve obviously never lived in a shack in a shanty town in Africa! You’d be praying for that fancy “isolation cell” after that first bout of diarrhea from the rancid water you walked 4 hours to get. Mercifully death would likely come very quickly to someone who isn’t used to those conditions.

  • Raympnd L Ingrey

    Has anybody offered him a cyanide pill if he cannot stand his own company???

    • John Palmer

      I’d like to see him offered one every day.

  • John Palmer

    Who is the idiot who allows him Internet access?

  • Dan

    They should let him out to socialize with the other inmates. He will be begging to be put back into isolation again. If he is still alive that is.