Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Norway: Indictment of Breivik for Terrorism, Arson, Murder

(Mar. 13, 2012) On March 7, 2012, Norwegian prosecutors made public the 18-page indictment against Anders Behring Breivik on charges of terrorism, arson, and murder. Breivik is accused of having killed 77 people, in Oslo and on the nearby island of Utøya, on July 22, 2012. (Horror of Norway Massacre Detailed in Terror Indictment Against Confessed Killer Breivik, THE WASHINGTON POST, (Mar. 7, 2012); Norway Attacks: Breivik Charged with Terror Attacks, BBC NEWS (Mar. 7, 2012); Trond Lepperød, Her er Breivik-tiltalen [Here Is the Breivik-Indictment], NETTAVISEN (Mar. 7, 2012) [viewed in machine translation; cites excerpts of the indictment].)

Prosecutors Svein Holden and Inga Bejer Engh stated in the indictment, “[t]he defendant has committed extremely serious offenses on a scale that has never previously been experienced in our country in modern times.” (THE WASHINGTON POST, supra.) The prosecution has indicated that it might seek a sentence of compulsory psychiatric care for Breivik instead of a prison sentence, in light of some medical assessments deeming him psychotic, but it reserved the right “to request a prison punishment or containment lasting 21 years, based on the complete evidence shown to the court” during the trial set to begin on April 16. (BBC NEWS, supra; THE WASHINGTON POST, supra.) Bejer Engh was quoted as commenting that “[i]n either case, Breivik could spend the rest of his life in captivity,” and, she stated, “[r]egardless of the sentence, we have promised that we will do whatever we can to keep him away from society as long as the system allows us … .” (THE WASHINGTON POST, supra.)

The Indictment and Sanity of Suspect

The indictment against Breivik has two counts, but, as was indicated above, it is subject to a consideration of his sanity. If Breivik is determined to be criminally insane, he would be subject to transfer to compulsory mental health care under section 39 of Norway's criminal law, the General Civil Penal Code. (Lepperød, supra; Almindelig borgerlig Straffelov (Straffeloven) [General Civil Penal Code (Penal Code), Act No. 10 of May 22, 1902 (as last amended by Act. No. 6 of Jan. 20, 2012), LOVDATA online legal database, & English translation as of Dec. 2005, University of Oslo Translated Norwegian Legislation website; Morten Ø. Karlsen, Les tiltalen mot Breivik her [Read the Indictment Against Breivik Here], NETTAVISEN (Mar. 7, 2012) [cites text of indictment with names removed] [viewed in machine translation].)

Count 1 of the Indictment

The first count of the indictment relates to acts committed in Regjeringskvatalet, the government quarter of Oslo. The criminal charges are for terrorism, arson, and murder. (Lepperød, supra.)

Crimes of terrorism and the corresponding punishments are set forth chiefly under Chapter 14, “Felonies Against Public Safety,” of the Penal Code. The maximum term of imprisonment stipulated upon conviction for such acts is 21 years. The Penal Code provision on terrorism named in the Breivik indictment is section 147a, paragraphs 1(a)&(b). It provides that any criminal act (with reference to other specified sections of the Penal Code) “is considered to be a terrorist act and is punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding 21 years when such act has been committed with the intention of (a) seriously disrupting a function of vital importance to society, …” and “(b) seriously intimidating a population … .” (General Civil Penal Code, supra.)

The Penal Code provision on arson is in section 148, paragraph 1. That is also punishable upon conviction with a maximum prison term of 21 years. The crime of homicide is under section 233 of the Code; the maximum penalty of 21 years is applicable if conditions such as premeditation, repeat offenses, or “especially aggravating circumstances” are involved. (Id.) The indictment mentions premeditated murder and particularly aggravating circumstances. (Lepperød, supra.) The indictment names eight people killed in the blast and nine who suffered serious physical injuries, and it notes that at least another 200 persons were injured in varying degrees. (Karlsen, supra.)

Count 2 of the Indictment

Count 2 of the indictment addresses crimes committed at Utøya. It cites the same sections of the Penal Code on terrorism in connection with serious intimidation of a population and on premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances as those cited for the crimes in Oslo under count 1. (Lepperød, supra.) The indictment names the 69 people killed, as well as the 33 persons who were injured. (Karlsen, supra.)

Section 49 of the Penal Code, on “punishable attempt,” applies to certain sections in both counts of the indictment, with reference to confiscation of such items as the weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making materials used. (Id.)

The indictment states that claims for compensation/damages by survivors and victims will be made by counsel in accordance with sections 428 (on civil claims) and 264b, paragraph 2 (on deadlines and procedures for submission of claims to a court) of the Criminal Procedure Code. (Id.; Lov om rettergangsmåten i straffesaker (Straffeprosessloven) [Act on Legal Procedure in Criminal Cases (Criminal Procedure Act)] (May 22, 1981) (last amended by Acts No. 5 & No. 6, both Jan. 20, 2012), LOVDATA [viewed in machine translation]; see also Wendy Zeldin, Norway: Developments in Mass Murder Case, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Jan. 20, 2012), & Wendy Zeldin, Norway: Norwegian Criminal Law and the July 22, 2011, Massacre (Aug. 2011), Law Library of Congress website.)