Court dumps Breivik’s prison complaint

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UPDATED: Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is not being subjected to prison conditions that violate his human rights, according to an appeals court decision handed down on Wednesday. Breivik lost on all counts but his attorney is already vowing to appeal.

The decision from Norway’s Borgarting lagmannsrett cleared Norwegian state authorities of any violations of treating Breivik unfairly or inhumanely. The appeals court’s panel of judges also threw out Breivik’s own appeal that his mail and communications were being monitored too strictly.

Victims families and survivors relieved
Breivik is an ultra right-wing white supremacist who killed 77 people in twin attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011 because he felt the Labour Party government was too lenient on immigration law. The appeals court also rejected Breivik’s complaint that prison officials were deficient in handling his alleged vulnerability. In short, the ruling marks a full victory for the state and its corrections system.

It came as a relief to the families of Breivik’s victims and survivors of his attacks.  “It’s been absurd to hear how he (Breivik) complains over his prison conditions when there are people spread over the entire country who lost loved ones and people who were so severely injured,” Eskil Pedersen, the former head of the Labour Party youth organization that was a target of Breivik’s attacks, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after the court’s verdict was handed down. “I’m glad the appeals court has ruled as it has. This (Breivik’s lawsuit against the state) has been so difficult for so many.”

Lisbeth Røyneland, leader of the July 22 victims’ national organization, told NRK she was “enormously relieved” by the court’s verdict.” She said she hoped the country could avoid hearing any more about Breivik “for many many years.”

Strict security measures ‘necessary’
The appeals court’s 55-page verdict stressed that the strict measures surrounding Breivik’s incarceration are necessary to ensure security and safety. The court found that Breivik, who is serving what may amount to a life term for his bombing of Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo and his massacre at a Labour Party youth camp, remains capable of inspiring right-wing extremists to violence if allowed to communicate freely. Breivik’s stated desire to build up a network of like-minded white conservative extremists had to be evaluated in light of that.

Breivik has been alternately confined in two of Norway’s most high-security prisons, but they were remodeled to provide him with three cells of his own that can be used for various purposes since he’s held in isolation from other prisoners. That isolation is aimed at protecting Breivik as much as it is protecting others from him.

The appeals court judges, meanwhile, could find no evidence or clear indications that the isolation is harming Breivik. “Breivik is still viewed as harbouring both anti-social and dramatic personality disturbances,” the court wrote in its ruling after Breivik’s latest trial in January. “His overall health and behaviour seem little changed despite his lengthy prison term under strict security. His mental health also appears stable.”

‘Natural to appeal’
Breivik’s attorney, Øystein Storrvik, described the appeals court verdict as “thorough and serious.” He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), however, that he won’t give up his efforts to ease Breivik’s isolation. “For us it’s natural to appeal this case and keep working to break this isolation,” Storrvik told NRK.

He said Breivik had been informed of the appeals court decision that he lost on all counts but that he had no reports of Breivik’s reaction to it. The appeals court also ruled that each side in the case must cover its own costs of both Breivik’s initial civil court case against the state over his prison conditions and the appeal court case.

That means Storrvik is unlikely to be paid for his work as Breivik’s attorney unless he wins on an eventual appeal to the Norwegian Supreme Court. Storrvik has earlier claimed he will take Breivik’s complaints over his isolation and prison conditions all the way to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. It remains unclear whether either of the two high courts will hear Breivik’s appeals. staff