Neighbors of future July 22 memorial site fear “terror tourism” could re-traumatize them

Utøyakaia July 22 memorialPhoto: Ørn E. Borgen / NTB
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The 16 neighbors who have sued the state and the AUF (Workers’ Youth League) over the planned memorial site on Utøyakaia believe that terror tourism can lead to discomfort and increased mental illness.

On Monday, the trial started at Ringerike District Court. A total of 16 neighbors are suing the state and the AUF for the planned construction of a July 22 memorial site on Utøyakaia in Hole municipality.

Many of the 16 neighbors were involved in rescuing people during the terrorist attack on Utøya on July 22, 2011, in which 69 people, most of them youths at AUF’s summer camp, were killed. 

The neighbors’ lawyer Ole Hauge Bendiksen says the memorial site’s establishment would represent a risk of developing pain, suffering, and discomfort for his clients.

Terror tourism

Bendiksen says the memorial site will have a comprehensive and dramatic expression and be the subject of “significant terror-trauma tourist influx.”

“That is the point of the memorial site. Therefore it will be likely that it will be a reminder and a risk factor for re-traumatization,” he said in his introductory speech.

The memorial site will consist of steps and 77 three-meter-high columns in bronze – one for each of the 77 people who were killed in the Government Quarter and on Utøya. 

The length will be 26 meters.

Shared local environment

Bendiksen said that the establishment of the memorial site would also lead to negative psychosocial consequences for the local community.

“It has become a local environment that’s quite divided, and that division is quite strong. It creates problems in an otherwise vulnerable local environment,” Bendiksen said.

According to the lawyer’s own calculation, 86% of those who live within a radius of 1 kilometer around Utøyakaia are against the creation of the memorial site.

He added that even if several of the plaintiffs lived further away, and thus couldn’t be defined as neighbors in the classical sense, they would still be affected by the memorial site.

“We fear the tourist traffic that, based on experience, moves around this entire area,” Bendiksen said.

Neighbors are not opposed to establishing a memorial site but believe it must be located elsewhere.

Ready to go all the way to the ECHR

Ten days have been set aside for the trial, and a total of 27 witnesses will be brought before the court.

Last week, the neighbors lost an appeal in the Borgarting Court of Appeal to temporarily stop the construction of the memorial pending the outcome of the ongoing trial. 

Thus, the memorial site will, in all probability, be completed before a final judgment is made.

Bendiksen told news bureau NTB that the neighbors still believe it is important and correct to carry out the trial.

“There are plenty of examples of how you can win even after something has been built. If we win in the district court, it is also possible to submit a new petition for an interim injunction,” he told NTB on Friday.

Bendiksen says he is prepared, if necessary, to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The neighbors believe the memorial site violates both the Neighborhood Act and Article 8 of the European Commission of Human Rights, which, among other things, deals with the right to respect for private life, family life, and home.

Important to get a memorial site

AUF’s counselor Pål Martin Sand said that it is now important for AUF, the survivors, and relatives to put the process behind them and establish a national memorial.

He said that AUF wants to make it clear during the trial that it is a memorial site that will not be visible from the road or any of the plaintiffs’ homes.

“A lot of adjustments have been made to take care of the plaintiffs’ wishes, and we believe that the establishment of this memorial site in itself will not lead to psychological damage or additional damage. 

“We have also received support for this from the leading professionals within trauma psychology,” Sand told NTB on Friday.

AUF and the state will present several psychiatric and trauma specialists who will testify in support of this.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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