I started legal proceedings against the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MoD) in may 2005. Despite all attempts to have a constructive discussion with the MoD, I realized that we would continue for years with their never-ending demands for further documentation, new medical evidence and yet more testimonies.
The hearing was postponed several times, so it wasn´t until September 2006 that we were finally face to face at the District Court. The case was a long and ugly process that taught me something about life and death, but also about friendship and love. And maybe a little about hatred too. After battling wearily through two courts, it all culminated in a financial settlement in October 2007.
“Dad,” she says, staring straight ahead through the car windscreen.
We are on our way home from Trondheim city center and are driving along the E6 up the Okstad Hills.
“I will testify.” Her mouth is tight, hands clasped fiercely in her lap. I know my ten-year-old daughter well enough to understand that she is deadly serious.
“What do you mean, Andrea?” I ask. Although I understand very well what she means. One year earlier, we won in the District Court against the Ministry of Defense, but decided to appeal because we did not agree with some of the conclusions in their final ruling. Precedents that would be important to those who came after me. The MoD did not appeal, which in itself spoke volumes.
We have now been preparing the Court of Appeal case for almost a year. The Norwegian MoD’s case officers continue as before, endlessly requesting more paperwork and slowing things down as much as possible. The hearing date is scheduled and postponed a number of times, but is finally approaching now.
“I want to tell them how hurt you are,” she says. “And how badly they treat you.”
I answer her with something that is not a real answer – the usual waffle adults use when they do not know what to say. It turns out later that she has been toiling through the night, preparing long testimonies for me.
At that moment, on the way up the Okstad hills, I realize that it’s over. We have been doing this for four long years, since 2003.
It is time to stop.
The Court of Appeal became something completely different from the district court. The judges had done their job. The MoD had summoned the previously court-appointed expert as their own witness. The person in question sat right behind them and gave the Attorney General’s representative comments and sent notes about what they should ask me about. At one point it became too much, even for my phlegmatic lawyer, Frode Kvernrød. A scuffle occurred and the former court-appointed was moved further back. MoD ran the same race as before. The same arguments, the same half-hearted statements that could be interpreted in several directions, and the same incomplete extracts of reports that took on a completely different meaning when the judges asked the Attorney General’s representative to read the rest.
One did not need to have served in the military to realize that it was not a scout trip we had been on.
The two new experts made a statement that was completely different from the previous expert’s. My experiences in Lebanon almost thirty years ago were the cause of my ailments today.
The judges spent twenty minutes in the back room before bringing in the lawyers. There, the public prosecutor received a clear message: They could either agree on a settlement with me immediately or wait for the verdict and pay me then.
The case was over.