ON Friday a Norwegian court will hand down its verdict on Anders Behring Breivik, who, on July 22, 2011, detonated a bomb in central Oslo, killing eight people and wounding hundreds more, then drove to Utoya Island, where he shot and killed 69 participants in the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth camp.
The world’s attention is focused on whether the court will find Mr. Breivik guilty or criminally insane, and there has already been much debate about how the court handled the question of his sanity. But there is far more to it. Because it gave space to the story of each individual victim, allowed their families to express their loss and listened to the voices of the wounded, the Breivik trial provides a new model for justice in cases of terrorism and civilian mass murder.
It is true that, on one level, the trial is not just about the state of Mr. Breivik’s mind but forensic psychiatry itself. The trial featured two psychiatric reports, the first concluding that at the time of the crime Mr. Breivik was psychotic and delusional, the other that he was rational. The spectacle of two teams of psychiatrists brandishing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and its Norwegian equivalent, only to draw radically opposed conclusions, undermined many Norwegians’ faith in forensic psychiatry.
This is a New York Times op-ed. Breivik was found sane and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Tom