One of the memories that kept me going.
Me and my dog at a warm summerday in
the lake besides our cottage.
Today, the whole world looks in rage to the USA over the prisoner mistreatment in Iraq. President Bush has been forced to apologize for his brutal soldiers. But what happened In Iraq is nothing new. It happens all over the world, all the time. The only thing special this time is that the press tells us about it. Let me tell you about the human rights situation in Norway – one of the countries in the World that really respect the human rights. Huh?
I was 19 – 20 the first time I was sent to jail. My crime at that time was that I refused to lie in court. The police told me that I knew about some small time burglar, and told me what they wanted me to testify. The problem was; I didn’t know the fellow. I was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the police thought I was criminal. Therefore, they treated me like they treat criminals. I myself was not a suspect of any crime. I could make a signed statement after their dictation, and go home. Or I could refuse and go to jail. For me there was really no choice. I refused and was sent to jail for a week. I spent the week in a tiny cell in a very old prison in the middle of my town. I was refused anything to read. There was no TV and no radio. So I was totally alone with my own thoughts for 7 long days. That’s quite a pressure on a late teenager who is used to listen to music, reading, working and being with friends all the time. When the week was gone, the police had discovered that I was indeed not a criminal, but the host of one of the more popular local radio shows. I was a small town celebrity. And not only that: I was a radio journalist! The police officers were very sorry about the misunderstanding, as they put it. I on the other hand was totally shocked. Over the next years, I was among the first journalists in the town who spoke about police brutality in Bergen. There were rumours about prisoner mistreatment, but no one could really believe it. I spoke with a few criminals, and told what they had told me on the air. About this time, two distinguished researchers did a study on this, and concluded that the police in Bergen was indeed utterly brutal. The local press raged against the researchers. Some of the alleged victims of police brutality filed charges against the police. The local court falsified all charges. The victims on the other hands were sentenced for false allegations against the police and sent to jail. A few years ago, the supreme court in Norway ruled that the police in Bergen had indeed been brutal, and that the sentences over the victims was one of the largest injustices in modern time in Norway. Even the press in Bergen was strongly criticized by the Supreme Court.
I was one of very few journalists at that time that actually told he truth. Later I quit the local radio, and started to work full time with computers. When I was 27, the police stroked back. I was charged with sexual abuse against a 12 year old boy, for a whole week, while he was on the run from a children’s home owned by the county. Because he was on the run, they knew the exact days he was supposed to be abused by me. When I was arrested I refused to say a word to the police. When they later spoke with my boss, they learned that I was on the other part of the country that week, at work on a computer show. I was responsible for our presentation on the show, so I was there from early morning to late night every day. Along with several of my staff (I was VP of sales and marketing). It could also be established as a fact that the charges were false. Instead of dropping the charges, the police looked for another “victim”. On an institution for children with serious emotional problems, they found a 13-year-old boy who knew me. For a whole year they put excessive pressure on the kid to say anything bad about me. He refused. But after almost 12 months, he had a nervous breakdown, and he accused me for rape, murder, shooting him, and a whole lot of other claims that even the police understood was totally fictive. What they did was to keep the charges about rape, and dismiss the rest as lies. When the kid tried to withdraw the accusations, he was ignored. A professor on the University of Bergen who examined him (to verify that he was a victim of sexual abuse), concluded that the boy had a brain disorder, and that this was the cause of his emotional problems. I was nevertheless sentenced for rape (the jury did not believe the only sexual act the boy mentioned, so how I could have raped him is still a mystery for me). I was also sentenced for the sexual abuse on the other kid. The fact that I was 500 km away was not disputed. The jury just didn’t care.
When I was arrested about the alleged abuse if the first kid, the police asked to have me totally isolated. The judge said no. I should be allowed to receive mail, and to speak with my family and friends. The police ignored this ruling. I was isolated in the basement of the police station for 7 days. Such confinement is illegal in Norway. Amnesty International has defined this it as torture, and over the years filed several reports about torture in Norway because of this practise in Bergen. I was told that I could “confess” and then walk out free. I refused. Then they sent me to a prison in another city. Friends and family was refused to see me. All mail was confiscated, and I was not told about the letters. Being isolated like this is hell. At least until you either break down or learn to deal with it. After 4 weeks, the police in Bergen called me on a phone and asked if I wanted to give a statement. I refused. At that time they knew that the game was over. The allegations were for a period of time when I had an alibi. And they were unable to break me. If this case were sent to court, I would have won without any doubt. That’s why they needed another case to back the first one. So they set me free.
When I was 18 I was shot on close range by a shotgun. I remember the time stopping, and large parts of my life passing by in memory, very fast. It was a terrifying shock. When I was sentenced for something I never did (something that never even happened) I had exactly the same feeling. I was shocked. I was not that naive that I thought this could not happen, but I was still as shocked as a human being can be.
Now we are coming to the part I meant to tell you about: How Norway treats its prisoners. Because, when we see the rage about how US troops are treating Iraqi prisoners, it must be a lot better in Norway. Don’t you think?
When I was sent to jail I was furious, to say it the least. I refused to accept the situation. No decent man would. But I was on he other hand not going to use any kind of violence. I used nothing but passive resistance. The first day I was undressed in front of several officers, of both sexes. It was hit. I was kicked. I was threatened. I was dragged naked over the floor and down the hall after my feet’s. Then I was locked up in a naked cell designed for the outraging prisoners. I destroyed that cell with my bare hands that night. That is – I made graffiti in the painting on the door, something that was unacceptable in those special cells. The next day I ruined another cell. And the third day a third cell. After seven days I was put in an ordinary cell.
In Norwegian prisons the inmates are supposed to work. Not to earn money, like in some US prisons, but just because they are supposed to. I refused to lift a finger to support the “justice” system. I would not work. That was punished with three months in isolation. About the same punishment I would have had if I smuggled drugs into the prison. The isolation did not break me. I still refused to work. I still refused to say I was guilty. I was then placed in a unit with 15 extremely hostile inmates. Their agenda was to bully me until I committed suicide. I was not protected in any way. The first week was hell. I had to worry about my personal safety all the time. After a few weeks without showing any weakness, the other inmates started to back down. They still bullied me and threatened me a lot, but as I am very tall, and I trained strength and martial arts most of the day, most of them looked afraid. They could still attack me as a group – but It was unlikely that any of them would attack me alone. So I survived.
When I had visitors once a week, I met them in person in a room with a sofa, some chairs and a table. December 23rd 2004, I found drugs planted in the visit room when I waited for my father to be locked in. I told the guard how I felt about that, and refused to have visits like that any more, to protect my family and friends against false allegations. When I had three months left of the sentence, I sent a letter to a friend that I knew would make a few headlines, and make my situation pretty risky among the other inmates. So I sent another letter to the prison, complaining about new food rations that took away 1/3 of my food. I was immediately moved back to the isolation unit (just as I had planned). I pretended to be even more upset than usually, and stated that I refused to communicate with the guards until they let me out. For three months I remained 100% silent (except for a few conversations with the librarian, and a teacher). In periods I was refused food, toilet paper and soap.
I was punished extremely hard over the 15 months I spent in jail. Guards and inmates threatened me. The guards more or less encouraged other inmates to pick on me. Me on the other side never used any kind of violence. I never even raised my voice. But I never let anyone push me 1 inch in any direction.
A few weeks ago there was a radio program on the national Norwegian radio (NRK) about refugees. A researcher had studied how people survived torture and horrifying experiences in prison. Like most western countries, we have problems in Norway with refugees that come to live in Norway, but have a hard time to integrate with the native population. This researcher tried to find out the state of mind on the traumatized refugees, and how the society could include them. I was shocked when I realized that I had developed survival techniques similar to the people he was talking about. Not only had I resisted extreme stress by using many of the exact same methods (like blocking out the present and taking shelter in good memories) as them – but I also suffered from the same after-effects. I realized that I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress even when I was in prison, but not to witch extent I had changed as a person. I took several years after I was released, until I could live a whole day without terrifying flashbacks from the mistreatment in prison. I still suffer from flashbacks. When I listened to that radio program; for the first time I realized that I had been a victim of mistreatment just as bad as any torture victim in development countries. The torture was better hidden, the evil more sophisticated. But the psychological pressure, and at times also the physical pain, was the same.
So, as you may realize by now; Norway is not really any different than other countries when it comes to cruelty against prisoners. Or injustice against innocent people. Human rights are violated all the time. What’s special about Norway is that people here don’t care. When US troops torture prisoners in Iraq, US media exposes it. When Norwegian police tortured prisoners in Bergen, the press raged against the victims. Just as they raged against me. First when I was sentenced. Then when I released a book with my story a few years later. A Norwegian journalist has never contacted me about my experiences. I’ve never received any excuses or compensation from the Norwegian authorities. When I tell fragments about my story on Norwegian newsgroups – it usually becomes very quiet. People here don’t want to think about this. They want to think of Norway as a flagship for Human Rights. They don’t want to realize that Norway is just as bad, and in some ways even worse, than most other countries. That’s why the injustice can go on.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
Thanks for your time.