The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

European court rejects mass murderer Anders Breivik’s claim that isolation in three-room cell is inhumane

Anders Behring Breivik looks on during the last day of his appeal case in Skien, Norway, on Jan. 18, 2017.  (Lise Aaserud/NTB Scanpix/AP)

Anders Behring Breivik is Norway's most notorious mass murderer. In July 2011, he set off a car bomb outside the Norwegian prime minister's office and then opened fire on teenagers at a summer camp. By the time he surrendered to police, he had killed 77 people, making for the deadliest attacks in Norway since World War II.

The right-wing extremist was sentenced to a maximum of 21 years in prison — the longest prison sentence possible in Norway — and has since been held in near-isolation in a prison in the city of Skien.

Breivik claimed that such conditions are a violation of his human rights. But his years-long legal battle against his treatment may have finally ended Thursday, when the Strasbourg-based European Courts of Human Rights rejected his appeal, saying it was “manifestly ill-founded.” The court said its decision is final.

Breivik's prison cell is a three-room suite with video games, a DVD player, a typewriter, books, newspapers and exercise equipment. Compared with jail cells elsewhere in the world, the setup seems luxurious. But soon after he went to jail, Breivik sent 27 pages of complaints to Norwegian officials. He was frustrated that he was being strip-searched and handcuffed. He was annoyed that some of his meals were cooked in a microwave, that his coffee was cold and that he didn't have a moisturizer. He also criticized the stab-resistant pen the prison provided him, saying it was too bendy and caused his hand to cramp.

Breivik, who has since changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, claimed that his treatment in prison, particularly the isolation, has further radicalized him. He also argued that it violates Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” as well as torture.

His case made it to Oslo's District Court in 2016; the hearing, which took place at the prison, began with Breivik making a Nazi salute. He later compared himself to Nelson Mandela.

The judge ruled that Norway had indeed violated Breivik's human rights and ordered the state to pay for his legal costs, which amounted to more than $40,000. But the Norwegian state, which argued that Breivik had to be held in isolation because he still poses a threat, appealed the court's ruling and won. After Norway's Supreme Court refused an appeal from Breivik, he took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, which made its decision this week.

Last year, Norwegian Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted said Breivik “still wants to inspire others.”

“He still believes in a fascist revolution,” Sejersted said.