Breivik Should Not Face Death Penalty for Murder of 77

No one could ever have imagined that July 22, 2011would mark the worst atrocity since World War II to hit Norway. On that day in history, Anders Behring Breivik committed twin attacks, first in Oslo where he activated a car bomb in front of the Norwegian government headquarters, killing eight people. That same day he shot 69 teenagers who were attending a Labour Party summer camp on Utøya Island. Breivik was arrested the very same day. The trial, which will cost around $15 million, began on April 16, 2012, in front of 1,000 spectators. Breivik pleaded not guilty to the charges of terrorism and mass murder.

Breivik claims to acknowledge the acts he committed, but has told the court that he bears no criminal responsibility. Moreover, Breivik showed no emotion as the atrocities and tormenting details of how he killed and tortured his victims (most of them between the ages of 14 and 16) were read. 

Breivik did start to cry as the court viewed a video against multiculturalism that Breivik himself had made before the attacks. This provoked anger and disbelief among the public. A lay judge was dismissed from the case, after he tweeted that Breivik deserves the death penalty. After that, Breivik professed to be proud of what he has done and even instructed his council to tell the press: "I am not sorry and I would do the same thing all over again." This provoked the discussion in Europe about what is the best way to punish someone who has committed such a horrific act with seemingly no remorse, and even the desire to do it again.

Breivik told the court that there could be only two possible outcomes of the trial – acquittal or the death penalty. Keeping in mind that the death penalty is forbidden in Norway (and all European countries with the exception of Belarus), Breivik stated that the trial should end with his acquittal. Breivik's argument is that he has committed no crime, as he was only trying to prevent the further “de-Christianization of Europe.”

There remains a possibility that Breivik will be declared insane. In this case, there is great concern among the public that Breivik will be put in a treatment facility instead of jail. If this happens, it will be undeniable that something is wrong with the judicial system. 

Breivik sees himself as a political activist and a soldier on a mission to save Norway and Europe from being taken over by Islam. Being declared insane would be a blow to Breivik's perceived credibility,which is why Breivik wants a prison sentence rather than a compulsory mental health care order. If he were to receive jail-time, Breivik would face 30 years — the maximum penalty in Norway for crimes against humanity. 

In these times, it is important for Europeans to stay committed to the abolishment of the death penalty. The abolishment of the death penalty in Europe is a symbol of judicial and human progress and Breivik’s case should show that the people of Europe, and hence their judicial systems, are more human than those who commit the crimes.

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Marko Ceperkovic

As Policy Advisor at the U.S. House of Representatives Marko is dealing with Foreign Affairs, Defense, Immigration and Human Rights issues. At the same time he is a fellow at Johns Hopkins SAIS, participating in the Aitchison Public Service Fellowship in Government. Before coming to Washington, Marko lived in France, studying at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. As former Executive Director's Assistant at Helsinki Committee for Human Rights he led Human Rights Schools for Western Balkans, while at the same time presiding over the Commission for Youth Rights in Serbia.

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