Norway to go ahead with massacre memorial despite opposition

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Norway to go ahead with massacre memorial despite opposition
Utoya Island, where a right-wing extremist massacred 69 people, mostly summer campers from the youth wing of Norway's Labor Party, seen on Jan. 11, 2014. Some local residents have sued over plans for a public memorial to victims at a harbor across from Utoya, saying they would be traumatized anew if the area became a destination for 'tragedy tourism.' Kyrre Lien/The New York Times.

by Pierre-Henry Deshayes

OSLO (AFP).- A Norwegian court on Monday ruled against opponents of a national memorial to the victims of a 2011 massacre on Utoya island, saying its benefits outweighed the traumas it might revive.

A number of residents near Utoya had argued that the memorial to the 77 people who were killed by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, including 69 shot dead on the island, would prolong the trauma they suffered on July 22 nearly a decade ago.

They had filed suit with both the Norwegian state and Labour Party's youth wing, the organisation to which most of the victims belonged, in a bid to have the memorial moved from its building site at a dock where people take the ferry to the island.

"The plaintiffs are obviously correct in that they unjustifiably will carry the weight of having a national memorial in their vicinity. The court understands that this feels unreasonable," ruled Ringerike District Court.

"This is however not the deciding factor. In the court's view the considerations that argue in favour of establishing a memorial on Utoyakaia (Utoya dock) have a greater weight than the negative impact of the memorial for the plaintiffs," it said.

'Moral of the story'

In 2011, Breivik, disguised as a police officer, tracked and gunned down 69 people, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Party youth camp on Utoya, shortly after killing eight people in a bombing outside a government building in Oslo.

After an initial plan to build a different monument in another location failed, the authorities decided to erect a memorial of 77 bronze columns at Utoyakaia to permit the nation to pay tribute to the victims.

The plaintiffs, including some who had taken part in rescue efforts the day of the massacre and were traumatised, said they were "shocked and infinitely disappointed" at the court's judgement.

"The moral of the story is that if you, through no fault of your own, end up in a terror act or a situation with potential national and political interests, it's best for you, as a civilian, to turn your back and mind your own health," said a leader of the plaintiffs, Anne-Gry Ruud.

On the other hand, the Labour Party's youth movement said it is "satisfied and relieved" about the decision.

"A national memorial on Utoyakaia means an awful lot to those who lost someone, survivors and relatives after July 22," its secretary general Sindre Lyso said.

Already under construction, the memorial is set to be ready for the 10th anniversary of the massacre on July 22.

© Agence France-Presse

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