Far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik was found guilty of mass murders which he committed on 22 July 2011 in Oslo and at a youth camp of the governing Labour Party on the small island of Utøya. Electoral support for far-right racist parties has been on the rise in a number of countries across Europe. This has been fuelled by the imperialist wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the propaganda campaigns used to justify them. Far-right groups have also fed off the economic insecurities caused by the capitalist world recession. During the Breivik trial evidence emerged of his links with other far-right and racist groups in Europe including in Britain. Trond Sverre and Elise Kolltveit in Oslo comment on some of the trial’s findings.
The court judgment says that Breivik is not “psychotic”. The massacres did not happen because of mental illness, but because of his right-wing extremism and Islamophobia.
He was sentenced to Norway’s toughest punishment - 21 years plus. This means that theoretically he could be imprisoned for life if still considered dangerous. Neither party will appeal, which is a great relief for the families involved. The trial has been a huge burden on them.
A few days before sentencing, the 22 July Commission presented its report about the actions of the state authorities one year ago. It criticised the police for how they handled 22 July, but also for not stopping Breivik earlier.
Security Service Police (POT) had received a list of those who had bought suspected chemicals online, but it was put aside, not taken seriously. There was also very poor communication and management on 22 July, with many errors committed. Among other criticisms; the police overburdened their own little inflatable boat instead of using one of the boats that were offered by locals. The report says that police took too long to reach the island. Many could have been saved when every minute counted.
The report forced the resignation of the national commissioner for police, Oystein Maeland. He is a close friend of prime minister Jens Stoltenberg and was hand-picked for the job. Many high-ranking people serving in the police force are career bureaucrats with no police training. The media has asked if Stoltenberg and other ministers will take responsibility and resign, but that has not happened.
The former head of POT, Janne Kristiansen, said, among other things, that not even the Stasi (former East German secret police) could have stopped Breivik because he had an “Aryan” appearance.
POT has long been criticised for being ‘blind in its right eye’ and traditionally has only monitored the left. POT was reorganised in 2000 after it was disclosed that it had illegally monitored socialists and communists, and collaborated with the Labour Party on this. About 400 people got financial compensation, with many more cases pending. After 22 July, POT was criticised for not taking right-wing extremism seriously, but only focussing on Islamic groups.
Although the Breivik trial has ended, the fight against right-wing extremism, racism and Islamophobia must continue. This summer, Roma people from Romania have been exposed to strong attacks in the media, opinion articles and on line in Norway. They have been subjected to harassment on the streets and in their camp, and by the police.