Norway's human rights appeal over the prison conditions of Anders Breivik – explained

Norway is highlighting a number of ECHR cases to show that Breivik's prison conditions have't violated his rights. Photo: Lise Aserud / NTB scanpix

A human rights appeal involving the detention of Norwegian mass shooter Anders Behring Breivik began by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on January 10.

Breivik, who killed 77 people in attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya in July 2011, is serving his sentence in Telemark prison at Skien. Just as his conviction and sentencing gained much international attention, so too did the judgment of Oslo District Court in April 2016 that Breivik’s human rights had been violated in detention. Since then, it has emerged that his prison conditions have been relaxed, including that he no longer has to speak to his lawyer through a glass wall.

Very soon after the Oslo judgment was delivered, an appeal was launched by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which is being heard in the prison at Skien.

The Oslo judgment dealt with arguments put forward by the prisoner’s lawyer based mainly on two sections of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 3 (prohibition of ill-treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). In spite of what was widely reported at the time – that Breivik complained he did not have the latest version of PlayStation – the real issues in the case were related to the nature of his solitary confinement and repetitive strip-searching.

In its appeal, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security will be highlighting a number of prominent ECHR cases to try and persuade the appeal court that Breivik’s human rights have not been violated.

Solitary confinement

One of these significant cases is that of Ahmad and Others v United Kingdom (2012). This is the incident involving Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad, and other applicants who were all facing terrorism charges in the US and raised concerns about the conditions they would face if extradited. The ECHR ruled that isolation in prison would not immediately constitute inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Instead it said: “The particular conditions, the stringency of the measure, its duration, the objective pursued and its effect on the person concerned had to be taken into account.”

One of the arguments put forward by the applicants in the Ahmad case related to the specific rigorous conditions in the “super-max” US federal facility at ADX Florence. The ECHR noted, among other things, that “although inmates are confined to their cells for the vast majority of the time, a great deal of in-cell stimulation is provided through television and radio channels, frequent newspapers, books” and so on. The ruling allowed the extraditions to go ahead.

Prior to the Ahmad ruling, the case of Ramirez Sanchez v France (2006) had also been decided by the ECHR Grand Chamber. The applicant in that case, better known as “Carlos the Jackal”, endured isolation in detention for a period of eight years – notably longer than that experienced by Breivik who has been in isolation since 2011. During those eight years, Sanchez had no contact with other prisoners but was allowed visits from family and a substantial team of lawyers. The ECHR ruled that this meant his being held in isolation did not violate Article 3.

The Norwegian state will be pressing the point that other than the existence of a glass partition between Breivik and his visitors (which was absent in Sanchez’s case), the isolated conditions encountered by Carlos the Jackal lasted longer and were arguably just as restrictive as in the Norwegian case.

Repeat strip-searching

The other major issue the court will consider in the appeal involves strip-searching. As well as a gym facility, Breivik has access to an exercise yard in the prison where he can remain active, but still be kept separate from other prisoners and strictly supervised, including by surveillance cameras. He was strip-searched after visits to the exercise yard and when he was transferred between prison and police custody. On some occasions female prison staff were present when Breivik was strip-searched.

The original Norwegian ruling that Breivik’s human rights had been violated in detention mainly cited the case of Van der Ven v Netherlands (2003) on this point. This case involved weekly strip-search examinations and these were found to violate Article 3 – however the searches of the prisoner, Franciscus Cornelis van der Ven, involved intrusive internal inspection, which is not what happened to Breivik.

One case not mentioned in the Oslo District Court judgment, however, was that of S.J. (no.2) v Luxembourg (2013), which involved the strip search of a prisoner in facilities where third parties could see him. In this case, the ECHR emphasised the absence of any intention by the prison staff to humiliate or debase the prisoner and found no violation of the prisoner’s human rights under Article 3 of the convention. It could make sense for this case to be referred to by the Norwegian government in its appeal.

These are the points that the appeal hearing will be asked to address by Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, as it seeks to overturn the original ruling. The appeal court will have to determine whether the threshold has been met for degrading treatment, whether the humiliation or debasement of the prisoner has taken place, or been intended, as well as the impact upon the prisoner.

thelocal
Norway'shuman prison Norway Oslo
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in december
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
Nearly 8000 foreigners took the Norwegian test Nearly 8000 immigrants can have a well-deserved break after completing the last Norwegian examinations of the year. The test is becoming increasingly important.   – Norwegian language skills open the door to integration, education and jobs, says Director in Competence Norway, Gina Lund. The Norwegian test has gained an increasing role, and is, among other things, entry conditions for both residence permits and...
Society
Judgement day for Janne Jemtland’s husband The prosecutor wants the husband of Janne Jemtland behind bars for 18 years for the murder of his spouse. He, however, demands an acquittal. The sentencing is due on Monday morning.   At 10 am on Monday, District Court Judge, Trond Christoffersen, calls for order in court for the last time in the Janne Jemtland case. The Hedmark District Court will then provide an answer to the question that everyone asked before...
Society
The man charged with sending a bomb to the police in Ski has been in conflict with them for a long time. He denies having anything to do with the bomb.   When he was detained for four weeks on Saturday, the man appealed the decision on the spot. His lawyer, John Christian Elden, told VG newspaper that his client does not acknowledge having sent the package containing the bomb. “The basis for imprisonment is primarily the risk that there may have been other...
Society
In Norway, there are far more believers than in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, according to a new survey.   According to the study by the independent American think-tank Pew Research Center, 17 per cent of Norway’s citizens are strong believers. The same is true for 8 per cent of Danes, 10 per cent of Swedes and 13 per cent of Finns. In the survey, the degree of religiosity is measured in all the European countries. Romania is at the top with 55 per cent st...
Society
PST investigate threats against Minister of Justice, Wara The Special Branch (PST) investigates serious threats to Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara (Progress Party). His house and car have been tagged, and his car may have been attempted to be ignited.   – We have started investigating threats against Government officials this afternoon. We are in an initial phase of the investigation. There are aspects of the matter that make us look very seriously at it,...
Society
Norwegian Fisheries Directorate wants a ban on cod fishing in entire Oslofjord The Norwegian Fisheries Directorate proposed a ban on fishing for cod from Telemark to the Swedish border, which means that the entire Oslofjord will be subject to the ban.   The proposal is a follow-up after the Directorate issued a consultation proposal earlier this year. The reason for the proposal given was that measures must be taken because the state of the coastal and fjo...
Society
The Police House at Ski is evacuated because of a suspicious parcel in the public area.   The bomb squad is on the spot to investigate the object. It is uncertain whether the package has arrived via the mail or has been delivered at the reception. There is no danger to the area outside the police house, writes Dagbladet. The customer reception at the police house in Ski in Akershus is temporarily evacuated, writes the Eastern Police District on Twitter. –...
Society
Prime Minister Erna Solberg does not want to change abortion practice in Norway, but will remove “discriminatory element in the law”, according to Dagens Næringsliv. Solberg has been criticized for her willingness to negotiate changes in the Abortion Act, as she needs the support of Christian Democrats (KrF) for her bourgeois government. In an interview with the newspaper, Solberg says that women should still be able to use abortion right after 12 weeks if...
Society
The Norwegian cheese Fanaost was named as the world’s best cheese during the World Cheese Awards in Bergen on Friday night. A total of 3,472 cheeses from all over the world participated in the competition to become the world’s best. Norwegian cheese Fanaost, from the producer Ostegården in Bergen, won the competition, writes NRK. Fanaost, according to the manufacturer, is a mild, round and semi-solid cheese that reminds Gouda, made from pasteurized cow mil...