Last Friday Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing 77 people in shooting and bombing attacks in July 2011.
The sentence of 21 years is the maximum term available under Norwegian law. If the court finds that he is no longer a threat to society after serving 21 years, he will be released in 2033, at the age of 54.
Breivik’s lawyers have said that “the 33-year-old will live outside Oslo in a three-cell suite of rooms equipped with exercise equipment, a television and a laptop, albeit one without Internet access,” the New York Times reported.
However, many legal experts believe that Breivik will most likely remain incarcerated for the rest of his life. Under Norwegian law, the court can continue to tack on 5-year extensions if it believes he remains a danger to society – something that seems inevitable given the rampage killer’s testimony in court.
“The attacks on July 22 were a preventive strike. I acted in self-defense on behalf of my people, my city, my country,” Breivik told the court at a hearing back in April. “I would have done it again.”
He also expressed regret that he didn’t get to kill more people to further his cause of eradicating multiculturalism.
Most importantly for Breivik, though, was the fact that the court found him to be sane during the proceedings. As pointed out by the Chicago Sun-Times, he did not want people to “misconstrue his deliberate actions as the involuntary product of a diseased brain.”
“When you see something too extreme,” the self-proclaimed anti-Islamic militant said, “you might think it is irrational and insane. But you must separate political extremism from insanity.”
Perhaps ironically, most of the victims and their families agreed with Breivik on this front, i.e. that he should be found sane and held responsible for his actions.
“I am relieved to see this verdict,” Tore Sinding Beddekal, who survived the massacre on Utoya by hiding in a storeroom, told the NY Times. “The temptation for people to fob him off as a madman has gone. It would have been difficult to unite the concept of insanity with the level of detail in his planning.”
Unni Espeland Marcussen, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was murder by Breivik, agreed.
She told reporters, “I will never get my daughter Andrine back, but I also think that the man who murdered her has to take responsibility, and that’s good.”
As for the overall sentiment about whether Breivik got off easy only serving 21 years, which amounts to less than 4 months per victim, it seems as though many felt that justice was served, that the merciful Norwegian court system which emphasizes rehabilitation over retribution did its job.
“If he is deemed not to be dangerous any more after 21 years, then he should be released,” said Bjorn Magnus Ihler, who also survived the Utoya shootings. “That’s how it should work. That’s staying true to our principles, and the best evidence that he hasn’t changed our society.
As a proponent of capital punishment, particularly in extreme cases where the issue of guilt is not even disputed (e.g.Timothy McVeigh and more recently Jared Lee Loughner and James Holmes), I cannot wrap my head around this, 21 years? That’s it?
I understand the compassion and nobility in ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘loving thy enemy,’ but looking at the situation pragmatically I don’t see how keeping this man alive achieves anything.
Do you believe justice was served? If not, what should have happen to Breivik? Moreover, do we stand to learn something from Norway’s tolerance and relative leniency on this matter?