This is the type of headline that grabs your attention. It comprises everything that is evil and good in society wrapped up in a contradiction.
So when Anders Breivik brought a claim that his Human Rights had been infringed, there was a sense of incredulity. This was after all a man who killed 77 people in a cold blooded killing spree fuelled by his extreme right wing ideology. He claimed his solitary confinement amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and strict controls on his correspondence infringed his right to a private and family life under Article 8.
It is often said that the mark of a civilized society is not how it treats friends, but how it treats it enemies. This thinking pervades the Court’s judgement. In essence the court ruled that prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment applies to terrorists and killers, therefore ruling that solitary confinement was such treatment, and therefore in breach of the ECHR.
We should applaud that Judgement. Humanity is the best weapon against extremism. Solitary confinement we associate with total absolute isolation; physical confinement in a cell that restricts exercise. Mental isolation….hour after hour…. day after day of nothing.
Norway’s Prison Utopia
However this is someway from the reality. The Norwegian penal system is also known as ‘Prison Utopia’. This is Anders Breivik’s world: three cells (sleeping, studying and exercising), daily access to the exercise yard, television, video games, own cooking facilities and phone conversations with ‘a female friend’.
Norway certainly treats it’s enemies well. After all, standing trial, citing his extreme right wing views as his ‘defence’, inevitably being found guilty he was sentenced to ….21 years imprisonment (not a typo) this being the maximum sentence under Norwegian law. Norway’s enemies are treated very well indeed.
Max Saffman – Specialist Criminal Defence
Written by Max Saffman. Max is a Higher Court Advocate and has a wealth of experience of defending serious criminal cases.