Europe

Norway remembers Utoeya and Oslo victims, one year on

  • 22 July 2012
  • From the section Europe

Norway has commemorated one year since 77 people were killed and 242 hurt in gun and bomb attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utoeya.

PM Jens Stoltenberg laid a wreath in Oslo before travelling to Utoeya, where he was joined by hundreds of people, including relatives of the dead.

Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted carrying out the two attacks, remains on trial.

"The killer failed; the people have won," Mr Stoltenberg said.

Most of the dead were young activists with the Labour Party who had been staying on Utoeya as part of a summer camp.

National debate

Church services, a concert and other events were held around Norway.

"It's been a very heavy year for all of us. Not a day has passed the tragedy has not filled the room," Mr Stoltenberg said at a wreath-laying ceremony in Oslo.

"The bomb and bullets were aimed at changing Norway. The Norwegian people responded by embracing our values," he said.

"Let us honour the dead by being happy about the life they had, and the life we share."

King Harald and other members of the royal family joined Mr Stoltenberg at a memorial service in Oslo.

Later, Mr Stoltenberg gave a speech to Labour Party youth on Utoeya before laying a wreath there at 18:45 - the time a year ago when Breivik was arrested.

One of those who revisited the island was 24-year-old Tore Sinding Bekkedal, who said summer camps should be held on the island again soon.

"There are some people who want to take it slow, but I'm way over the other end of the scale. I'll pitch a tent there as soon as practically possible," Mr Bekkedal said.

In the evening, a national memorial concert with mainly Norwegian musicians was held.

Hundreds of relatives and survivors held a private service on Utoeya on Sunday morning.

Christin Bjelland, the mother of a survivor of the shootings, said the commemorations were especially important for the bereaved.

"What happened here is so huge, there were so many affected, that I think it means a lot to come together for those who wish and feel the love and care between all the affected," she said.

Tolerance and democracy

Many of the buildings that were damaged in the bomb attack have not yet been fully repaired.

The prime minister's office and the ministry of health buildings are still covered in plastic.

The attacks, regarded as the worst act of violence in Norway since World War II, sparked a national debate about the nature of tolerance and democracy in the country.

Breivik, who has been on trial for three months, has tried to justify the attacks by claiming he was trying to stop Muslims from taking over Norway.

But the government, and much of the population, have actively promoted tolerance and openness to counter Breivik's views.

"I think that people thought it a bit naive to cling to these values of openness in a situation like that," said Vegard Groeslie Wennesland, a Labour Party activist who survived the attack.

"But I think it's more naive to think that brutal police, or more restrictive policies will bring you a safer society."

Judges are to announce next month whether Breivik is sane or insane, and therefore whether he will be given a long prison sentence or be sent to a secure psychiatric ward.