Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in 2011 and is now “suicidal” according to his lawyer, appeared in court on Monday in his lawsuit against Norway over his prison conditions.
At the Ringerike prison where the five-day trial was being held, Breivik appeared with his head shaved.
He refrained from making provocative gestures as he has done on previous occasions. The now 44-year-old has been held apart from other inmates in various high-security facilities for more than 11 years.
He argues that his extended isolation is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhumane” and “degrading” treatment.
On July 22, 2011, Breivik set off a van bomb near government offices in Oslo, killing eight people, before gunning down 69 others, mostly teens, at a Labour Party youth wing summer camp on the island of Utoya.
He was sentenced in 2012 to 21 years in prison, which can be extended as long as he is considered a threat.
Since then, he has been held “in isolation, and the more time that passes the greater the violation of the Convention”, his lawyer Oystein Storrvik argued in October.
In court documents, Storrvik said the “long period of isolation and absence of meaningful interaction has caused Breivik (psychological) suffering, including being suicidal. He is dependent on the anti-depressant Prozac to get through his days in prison.”
Breivik’s only personal contact is with two other inmates whom he sees for one hour every two weeks under strict surveillance, and his interaction with prison staff, he said.
Breivik has also asked for an easing of the restrictions on his letter-writing with people outside prison.
Breivik has already sued the Norwegian state on both grounds, with an Oslo district court stunning the world in 2016 when it ruled his isolation was a breach of his rights. On appeal, Norway’s higher courts found in the State’s favour, and the European Court of Human Rights in 2018 dismissed his case as “inadmissible”.
In the Ringerike prison Breivik has access to a kitchen, a TV room with a game console, and an exercise room.
Prison officials have also complied with his request for a pet by providing him with three budgies.
The State has said that Breivik’s isolation is relative and justified due to the danger he presents, and that his prison conditions are needed to protect society, other inmates and wardens, as well as himself given risks from other inmates. Breivik enjoys “a wide range of activities” such as cooking, games, walks and basketball, and “there is no indication that he is suffering from physical or mental problems due to his prison conditions,” the State’s lawyer Andreas Hjetland said.
“Breivik has so far shown little interest in rehabilitation work,” he added. Breivik has in the past used his public appearances to air his political ideology and provocations, including Hitler salutes.