Anders Breivik shocked Norway, and the world, with his island massacre of children at a political retreat, coupled with the bomb he exploded outside a government office in the capital in July. He must be crazy, we all thought. He’s not, says the judge. By SIMON ALLISON.
It’s difficult to know how to feel about the news from a Norwegian court on Monday that Anders Breivik is not crazy. Breivik, if you’ve forgotten, was the right-wing fundamentalist madman who bombed government offices in Oslo and ambushed a political youth camp on an island, killing over 77 people, most of them teenagers.
Oh, wait. He’s not a madman. The judge at Breivik’s first public court appearance said that there was no reason to believe that Breivik was insane, and ordered that he stay in prison until his next court appearance. Breivik, for his part, refused to recognise the authority of the court and consistently referred to himself as a Commander of the Knights Templar. Completely normal behaviour.
By virtue of his sanity, Breivik will face justice and serve whatever punishment he’s given. There’s a sense of relief that he can’t dodge responsibility on the strength or lack thereof of his mental condition. Pleas of insanity often feel like a cop-out.
But it also raises disturbing questions of humanity itself. How is it possible that a normal, functional, sane human being can raise a gun to dozens of minors and shoot them in cold blood? Humans have great capacity for evil, that much is known, and perhaps Breivik is just the latest example of this.
Breivik was not given time to explain himself at this stage in the proceedings. The judge did not want to give him the opportunity to express his views until the main trial, which should be held in April next year. DM
Some firing squads are all issued with blank cartridges with the exception of one person. This helps alleviate personal responsibility for the execution squad.