Storberget quits, ministers shuffled

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After six years as one of Norway’s longest-serving justice ministers ever, Knut Storberget called it quits on Friday. He’s endured an autumn of what some called “inhumane pressure,” but he said that’s not why he’s leaving his government post.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget on national TV the night of the terrorist attacks. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

“I have four good reasons to resign,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), referring to his wife and three daughters back home in Elverum, Hedmark County. After spending some time at home, Storberget will assume a seat in Parliament representing the Labour Party.

There’s no question that Storberget has had one of the toughest jobs in Norway. As head of the police, the courts, Norway’s intelligence unit and a host of other legal responsibilities, Storberget landed at the center of the worst attacks on Norway since World War II when a lone terrorist bombed government headquarters and gunned down scores of victims at a Labour Party summer camp in July 22. Storberget’s own offices were destroyed, he lost colleagues and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, also from the hard-hit Labour Party, as the nation went into mourning and since has tried to recover and rebuild.

Storberget also had to tackle heavy criticism over the police response to the attacks, and to the security systems that weren’t able to fend them off. On Thursday, Storberget was called into Parliament to respond to the criticism and update MPs on the ongoing investigation into the attacks.

In addition to dealing with the aftermath of the July 22 terror, Storberget has also had to deal with a wave of rape and other forms of violence in Oslo, and criticism that the police and politicians weren’t doing enough to safeguard citizens. Meanwhile, the courts face huge capacity and cost challenges, not least as they gear up for what will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult and complex trials in Norwegian history when confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik takes the stand.

“He’s been under inhumane pressure,” Arne Johannessen, head of the police union Politiets Fellesforbund, told NRK. “So this (Storberget’s resignation) is no surprise.”

Storberget, however, said on Friday that he actually decided to resign his post in February, long before the dramatic events later in 2011 unfolded. Stoltenberg confirmed that Storberget, who went on extended sick leave in early 2009 after suffering from exhaustion, had asked to be relieved earlier this year, but both decided he should continue, especially after the attacks.

Faremo and Eide take over
Storberget will be replaced by Grete Faremo, also from the Labour Party, who most recently has been serving as defense minister. She served as justice minister in Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Labour government in the early 1990s and now will take over a ministry that will be called the Ministry of Justice and Preparedness, as it also takes on more anti-terror and security assignments.

Faremo, meanwhile, will be replaced by Espen Barth Eide, a Labour Party veteran who has served as state secretary both in the defense and foreign ministries. Eide and Faremo have worked closely together for years, at a time when calls have gone out for more cooperation between the police and the military in Norway, to boost security and enhance preparedness.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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