It has recently been announced that the convicted Terrorist/Mass murderer Anders Breivik has been accepted to study at the University of Oslo, and the reaction can only be described as mixed.
Breivik was sentenced to 21 years for killing a total of 77 people in 2011, he will only be released at the end of this sentence if he is deemed no danger to society, if not, then he will stay in prison.
While some people may balk at Norway’s prison system, it should be noted that not only does Norway have one of the lowest prison populations (75 per 100,000 people compared to 149 per 100,000 in England and Wales), they also have one of the lowest reoffending rates in the world (around 20% compared to around 58% for England and Wales), so the system is clearly working compared to other nations.
Ole Petter Ottersen, rector of the University of Oslo, was kind enough to answer some questions for Kettle. In response to being asked if Breivik would have any contact with the university, Ottersen said:
‘Prison regulations entail that Breivik will follow the programme through studies in his prison cell. Under no circumstances will he be allowed to have any contact with other students or staff or be admitted to campus. Breivik cannot attend compulsory seminars or receive personal guidance from staff. Prison regulations also prevent him from accessing digital learning resources or communicating with other students through the internet. The communication between the university and Breivik will take place via a contact person in prison. Our teachers will supply learning material through this contact person.’
Because of these prison regulations, Breivik will not be completing a full degree course; because he is not allowed to attend compulsory seminars, he is not able to be awarded a full degree.
The right to education
So, Breivik will not have any contact with anyone from the university, he will not be permitted to access online information. The courts have already levied punishment by sending him to prison, why should his right to education be taken away as well?
“Everybody has a right to education, and depriving somebody of this right is equivalent to measuring out an additional punishment,” said Ottersen. “This is not something a university should do. In a democracy we should all stick to our roles. The courts are the institutions that measure out the punishment and the only ones that are assigned this role.”
The reaction to the news has been mixed, a lot of people have been appalled by the university admitting Breivik, and his admission was not taken lightly. Ottersen said: “We have students who were at the scene where he committed his brutal murders. We have students who lost friends and family on July 22. We do acknowledge that there are moral dilemmas in this case, but the last thing we need is a “lex Breivik”. We keep to our rules for our own sake, not for his.”
Testing Norway’s legal and democratic system
Through his actions in July 2011, Anders Breivik has tested the Norwegian legal system, now, his acceptance into the University of Oslo is testing the Education system. By allowing him the right to be heard, and also to learn, Norway has proven than their system works.
It is testing Norway’s democracy, in allowing Breivik to study they are making sure that the democratic system is upheld and as Ole Petter Ottersen said:
“By sticking to our rules and not clamouring for new ones we send a clear message to those whose misguided mission it is to undermine and change our democratic system. It is part of the universities’ mission to uphold democratic values, ideals and practices, also when these are challenged by heinous acts.”
He added: “We are on a slippery slope should we change the rules and adjust them to crimes committed.”
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