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Vengeance or Rehabilitation for Norway’s Insane Mass Killer

Andre Behring Breivik has been declared officially insane by a panel of Norwegian psychiatrists, this conclusion will exempt him of a tentative prison sentence according to Norwegian law. But is it just?

The self-confessed, Norwegian mass killer Andre Behring Breivik was officially declared insane after a psychiatric assessment on November 29th which concluded that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia; under Norwegian law, if the psychiatric diagnosis still upholds by the time Breivik stands trial for his crimes in April, the Norwegian courts will  attribute his actions as  a result of his own mental illness and sentence him to compulsory psychiatric rehabilitation instead of imprisonment.

The 234 page psychiatric report concludes that Breivik not only currently suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but that he was in a psychotic state as he executed his plans on July 22nd 2011 killings. Breivik pleaded not guilty to the charges but admits to having carried out the attacks, having killed over 77 people and injuring 151 in his terrorist rampage.

Norwegian prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh told the BBC that the trial would be unaffected by the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia: the only difference was that the prosecution could not ask the judge for a jail sentence.

“It will go as a normal trial as if he had been sane. We will ask him questions and the defence will ask him questions and the judge will ask him questions and he will have his time to talk,” she said.

To identify his killing spree as a product of a psychological illness is perceived as relinquishing Breivik of true accountability for his actions. For many, the findings of the assessment come as a shock and an insult to the memories of those lost in what has now become one of the darkest days of Norway’s pacifist history. Though news of the on-going psychiatric assessment went on for months, many believed that it was unlikely that Breivik would be declared insane as the attacks undoubtedly demonstrated a high degree of deliberate planning and execution.

It reportedly took months for Breivik to plan the July attacks in Oslo and at the Labour Party youth camp on Utoya Island, and he alone had manufactured the very bombs that were detonated in Oslo governmental buildings. Additionally, Breivik allegedly published a 1,500 page manifesto online describing his “mental preparation phases” and planning of his attacks in meticulous and chilling detail.

However his manifesto could equally confirm his sense of delusion and psychotic views about the outside world rather than act as indisputable evidence of the sophistication behind his preparation for the attacks.

Nevertheless news of his diagnosis has fired widespread debate across the internet and the world; on one hand, some concur that the utmost important step for the Norwegian courts to do is to keep Breivik out of society, regardless of whether that be in the form of imprisonment or psychiatric care. Others vehemently refer to the man as a “savage”, “deserving of execution” and even draw parallels to he and Adolf Hitler for the heartless nature of his monstrosities. But for many, a sentence of compulsory rehabilitation does not satisfy the need for vengeance. As with any other culture or society, people want the perpetrators of their grievances to receive compensatory punishment for the actions. That is justice. But Breivik’s unexpected and seemingly light-hearted sentence may very well affect the public’s faith in the courts and the Norwegian legal system.

Though the attacks were a half a year ago, the Norwegian public continues to try and come to terms with the murder of those lost. Regardless of his sentence, Andre Behring Breivik will forever be the face behind one of Norway’s greatest tragedies.

Linda Sarvi

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