The scale and severity of the trial against Anders Behring Breivik in spring 2012 makes it quite unique in the post-war Norwegian context. The case attracted massive media interest, both nationally and internationally, and Oslo District Court had to be modified to attend to the next of kin and handle the huge media coverage.
When the sentence of 21 years’ preventive detention was pronounced on 24 August 2012, many people were relieved by the fact that the terrorist was declared to be of a sound mind and could be held accountable, but also because the Norwegian court system had proved robust in the face of a crime and perpetrator that could have challenged precisely this.
Throughout the court case, survivors and bereaved family members were confronted with the details of the terror attack, and also with the terrorist himself and his extreme right-wing message. The professional participants in the trial – the judges, the prosecuting authority, counsel and experts – had to ensure all concerns were given due consideration, even the defendant’s. The defendant was given limited time in courtroom to promote his political message.
The trial’s only real controversy concerned the question of Breivik’s sanity and criminal capacity and the two widely different expert reports. The battle that played out in court in relation to these issues became decisive, not only to the sentencing, but also to establishing a common understanding of 22 July, the terrorist Breivik and his actions.
De Graaf, B., et. Al. (2013). The Anders Behring Breivik Trial And Performing Justice, Defending Democracy. ICCT Research Paper June 2013. The Hague: International Center For Counter Terrorism. https://www.icct.nl/download/file/ICCT-De-Graaf-et-al-The-Anders-Behring-Breivik-Trial-August-2013.pdf
McPherson, B. (2012, 7. juli) Prosecuting Breivik, The Foreigner. http://theforeigner.no/pages/columns/prosecuting-breivik/.
Kolås, Å. (2018) Forståelsen av 22. juli. I Syse H. (Red.), Norge etter 22. juli. Forhandlinger om verdier, identiteter og et motstandsdyktig samfunn. Cappelen Damm Akademisk.