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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No way Norway!

No way Norway!

One of the goals of extremists is to get the authorities to overreact to a situation. While it is accepted that Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto advocates using his trial for propaganda purposes, nevertheless holding his trial in secret goes against the grain of a fair and open system of justice.

During his first court appearance, held in camera to ensure security, the 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik described the killing of 76 people, most of them teenagers enjoying a summer camp, as an act of conscience.

In my experience, security is used to hide abuse by the State. Norway is in danger of abusing Anders Behring Breivik's human rights to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Breivik was initially remanded in custody for eight weeks, the first four in complete solitary confinement during which he will be denied mail and visits to prevent communication with accomplices, if any. Speaking after the hearing Judge Kim Heger said Breivik was being held under section 147 of Norway’s penal code, sub-sections a an b. Sub-section a relates to “destabilisation of society” and b to “creating fear in the population”.

Anders Behring Breivik is a fool to himself for claiming that there are two other cells of terrorists, when it is clear that he is a lone operator. Therefore, keeping him in solitary confinement to prevent his non communication with no accomplices is an overreaction.

The maximum custodial sentence for a crime in Norway is 21 years, a figure that is testament to the country's sincere belief in rehabilitative punishment.

However, if prison authorities believe someone still poses a threat to society they can extend the prison sentence every five years. Two psychiatrists have now been commissioned to assess Breivik's mental health. If he is declared insane he can be held indefinitely.

In a country renowned for its transparency, however, it is highly unusual for a provisional court hearing to be heard in private.

In the UK, the European Court of Human Rights has already ruled that reviews of over 2 years is a breach of human rights under Article 5 of the Convention. In my view, the 5 year rule in Norway would not stand up to a ECtHR challenge.

Solitary confinement has been denounced as torture or "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" by several international bodies, including the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights.

Convicted prisoners are allowed visits, and access to TVs, newspapers and radio and the internet. To deny these to Anders Behring Breivik who has not yet been convicted of any crime, in my view, constitutes an abuse. Then to subject him to what amounts to torture cannot be justified.

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