Norway PM under pressure over Breivik report

Outrage and calls for resignation after probe finds police could have prevented, or interrupted, last year’s killings.

Anders Behring Breivik
Lawyers for Breivik's victims are calling for Norway's police force to be reorganised [AFP]

Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister, has come under pressure to resign a day after the release of a report that criticised police for failing to prevent or interrupt last year’s killing spree by Anders Behring Breivik.

Opposition leaders called in politicians from their summer break to discuss a report released on Monday by a commission that concluded that the intelligence services and police had both made a series of crucial blunders that allowed Breivik to carry out his crimes on July 22, 2011, unimpeded.

“A more devastating verdict on our government could not have been made,” top-selling newspaper VG said on Tuesday, calling in a front page editorial for Stoltenberg to resign.

“The government failed to protect the people because of incompetence. It would be intolerable if this didn’t have personal consequences for the people involved.”

Breivik set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, before taking a ferry to Utoeya island, northwest of the capital, where he spent more than an hour gunning down another 69 people, mostly teenagers, and wounding others.

The DN newspaper also laid the responsibility for the failings on the prime minister, saying he had delayed approving security measures that could have prevented the attack.

On Monday, Stoltenberg accepted responsibility for the report’s findings, saying he would stay on to implement its recommendations. He declined to comment on VG‘s editorial.

Poll pressure

The resignation call and criticism are a blow for Stoltenberg’s Labour Party, whose coalition government is trailing the conservative opposition in the polls little more than a year before elections.

But fallout from the report is seen as unlikely to bring down the government, which has so far successfully guided Norway’s economy through Europe’s turbulence.

“A change in political colour at the top seems very unlikely at this stage,” said Bernt Aardal, a political analyst at the Institute for Social Research.

“But it is clear that this report is not going help the government or the coalition in the upcoming elections … Their support is considerably weaker than at the last election.”

Although opinion polls show the Labour Party and the Conservative Party enjoy support of about 30 per cent each, its political allies are faring less well.

While the centre-right Progress Party is polling more than 15 per cent, Stoltenberg’s two smaller allies are both struggling to reach the five per cent parliamentary threshold, giving the opposition a clear lead.

Victim anger

Lawyers for victims of the massacre directed their anger at the police, calling for heads to roll.

Mette Yvonne Larsen, one of the lawyers representing Breivik’ victims at a 10-week trial earlier this year, said lives were lost because of police incompetence.

Sjak Haaheim, another lawyer for victims, said the leadership structure of the police force had to be scrapped and reorganised.

Norwegians calmly sat through Breivik’s trial, which finished in June, and took to the streets in large numbers to condemn his crimes, while celebrating the open society he said he was trying to destroy.

The verdict in his trial is due to be announced on August 24.

Breivik has admitted carrying out the killings, but the judges have yet to pronounce him sane or insane.

Prosecutors have called for him to be declared insane, but public opinion overwhelmingly favours he be deemed sane.

Source: News Agencies