July 22 memorial trial postponed

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Painful disagreement persists between state officials, who want to create a memorial to victims of Norway’s July 22, 2011 terrorist attacks, and neighbours who don’t want a memorial in their area, but a trial on the conflict has now been postponed. Both sides want to wait until plans for a different memorial at a different site across the water from Utøya, the island where the attacks took place, can be evaluated.

This makeshift memorial spontaneously set up by mourners just across the water from Utøya was ultimately removed by neighbours who grew weary of all the traffic it attracted, and how it reminded them of the Utøya massacre on a daily basis. Plans were quickly laid for a permanent memorial, but they’ve generated more conflicts ever since. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

A lawuit filed by the neighbours in an effort to halt the state’s memorial plans was supposed to go to trial on April 25. Now the court case will be postponed for at least six months and up to two years, until both state building agency Statsbygg and the government ministry in charge of local governments can evaluate the new memorial proposal.

It was put forth last month by the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF, whose members were the target of the right-wing Norwegian extremist who carried out the attacks at their annual summer camp on Utøya. AUF, backed by the July 22 national survivors’ organization, proposed scrapping the memorial chosen by a jury that has sparked so many objections from neighbours, in favour of another memorial to be built at AUF’s own ferry pier across the water from Utøya.

They repeated the mistake of not consulting the Utøya neighbours about the new proposal but now both sides have at least agreed to postpone the court case over the original memorial. “An agonizing trial will be a huge burden for everyone involved,” Jan Tore Sanner, the government minister charged with carrying out the memorial plans, told news bureau NTB. “I’m therefore glad for this postponement.”

He said that both sides “will now get some peace” and more time “to undertake a good evaluation of Utøyakaia (the ferry pier site). We want a process where the support group, AUF, the neighbours, the local government and everyone involved are included.”

Sanner’s ministry has not withdrawn the initial memorial or its site at Sørbråten, not far from Utøyakaia, but it’s now “on hold,” according to the neighbours’ lawyer Harald Stabell. The neighbours have been advocating a memorial site much higher up the hill behind their community, and out of their sight as a daily reminder of the tragedy five years ago. It’s located near a highway rest stop, though, where it would be disturbed by traffic noise, and neither AUF nor the support group likes it.

Newspaper Aftenposten recently reported that work on the memorial has already cost the state more than NOK 10 million. Three years after artist Jonas Dahlberg’s memorial design was selected by a jury, and two years after it was supposed to have been unveiled, the project remains caught in conflict and uncertainty. Dahlberg will still be paid for his efforts, with his memorial contract set at NOK 21 million including site preparation, materials and labour. The total budget for July 22 memorials that also will be placed at the site of the terrorist’s bombing of government headquarters in downtown Oslo is NOK 35 million. Dahlberg has continued to work on memorial-related projects in Oslo, while work on the site near Utøya is on hold.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund