OSLO, (Reuters) – Norway violated mass killer Anders Behring Breivik’s human rights by keeping him in a “completely locked world” after being sentenced for killing 77 people in twin attacks in 2011, a court ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling, which took many by surprise, found that the killer had been subjected to strip searches, had been woken up hourly by guards for long periods and that the authorities had done little to alleviate the impact of his isolation.
A survivor of Breivik’s shooting spree said the decision “feels a bit like being punched in the gut” and a newspaper editorial denounced the decision as “wrong”. A law professor said it was likely to be appealed.
Breivik killed eight people in a bomb attack in Oslo in July 2011 before attacking a youth meeting of the Labour Party on an island to the northwest of the capital, killing 69 people.
He took Norwegian authorities to court in March, accusing them of exposing him to inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Breivik protested his isolation from other inmates and from outsiders who are not professionals.
“The prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society. This applies no matter what – also in the treatment of terrorists and killers,” judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic said in her ruling.
The verdict said the Norwegian state had broken Article 3 of the convention, pointing to the fact that Breivik is spending 22 to 23 hours a day alone in his cell.
“It’s a completely locked world with very little human contact,” it said, adding there had been no attempt to ease the security “even though Breivik has behaved in an exemplary manner during his time in prison”.