European collusion in human rights abuse

European collusion in human rights abuse


Written by: Liz Fekete

How is it that Muslim citizens accused of support for terrorism are not charged but extradited, while far-right supporters of terrorism roam free?

On 24 September, as part of a forty-strong delegation of observers, I was in Morocco at the appeal hearing in the Rabat-Salé court of the Belgian-Moroccan dual national, Ali Aarrass. Aarrass’ conviction and fifteen-year sentence on terrorism charges rested solely on evidence extracted under torture. No representatives of the Spanish or Belgian governments were in court that day to observe the appeal of a European citizen, despite both governments’ complicity in his subsequent torture. (Spain had extradited Ali, a resident in Melilla, to Morocco, in contravention of a UN request to stay his removal, while Belgium had done nothing to protect the basic human rights of its citizen.) In a statement after the verdict, which merely upheld the conviction (while reducing the sentence to twelve years), Aarrass’ lawyers pointed out that the judges had ‘failed to maintain even the appearance of a fair hearing. Two of the judges were obviously sleeping, while the presiding judge was consulting his mobile phone.’ Furthermore, Ali Aarrass’s evidence was cut short and he was not allowed to describe the torture he had been subjected to.[1]

Collusion with torture

No words can express the powerlessness I felt in that court, knowing that a man sitting in the same room, in a glass cage, had been tortured, brutalised by appalling acts to sign a confession into crimes he had consistently denied, and was locked in an inhumane system I can only describe as a nighmarish hell. I imagine what I felt was something akin to the sense of personal failure that US death penalty campaigners must feel every time they stand outside a prison, knowing that someone inside has been condemned. So that when I woke up on the morning of 6 October, and heard the news that both Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan had been extradited to the United States of America, after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, had refused, once again, to bring a prosecution against them in the UK, my thoughts immediately turned to the families and legal team of these two British citizens and to the defenders of their basic rights. Like them, I was horrified that our government could send its own citizens to a country in the full knowledge of the living hell they would most probably endure, literally entombed in the special solitary confinement regime of a supermax prison. Here, incarceration is within a concrete single cell with remote-control solid-steel doors designed to cut off all sound and visual contact with others. And punishments are meted out via electric shock devices such as stun guns and cattle prods, restraint chairs and the ‘five-point restraint’ which leaves prisoners ‘strapped to a steel bed and lying in their own waste for up to 48 hours’.[2]

Whether Babar Ahmad, or Talha Ahsan (who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and is gifted with a unique and surreal poetic mindscape – as recognised by, among others, the Koestler Trust) were guilty of providing material support for terrorism from 1997-2004 and other crimes of conspiracy through their website, should have been a matter for a British court to decide. For Britain is a country which, for as its prime minister now assuredly knows, prides itself on Magna Carta.

No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseized of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land.

The double standard

The sense of injustice grows when the cases of these three Muslim citizens are juxtaposed to cases of non-Muslim men who have not even been charged with providing material support for terrorism, despite compelling evidence. Many of the Muslims who have been rendered to torture states in the name of the war on terror appeared on the radar of the intelligence services because they were believed, prior to September 11, to have raised funds for or actively supported the ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan (during the Soviet Occupation, or subsequently worked alongside the Taliban), Chechnya (remember the devastating Russian offensive and siege of Grozny), or fought in Bosnia, or aided the resistance to Israeli occupation in the Palestinian Territories.

What of the white/indigenous soldier adventurers of Europe’s far Right, some of whom dabbled in exactly the same asymmetric wars (in their case, on the side of the military powerful), but are not considered pariahs, or extradited to legal black holes as ‘enemy combatants’?

Whilst researching the IRR report Pedlars of Hate: the violent impact of the European far Right I began to see a pattern amongst our intelligence services and police: failure to bring prosecutions against far-right extremists, and even, as is currently being exposed in the ongoing German parliamentary investigation into the National Socialist Underground, collusion with neo-nazis via totally inappropriate informer schemes. I began to ask myself why were there no prosecutions against those fascists who provided material support for Serbian terror in Bosnia or who ‘glorified’ the ethnic cleansing of Muslims at Srebrenica? Nowadays, EU apparatchiks are deeply concerned about the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece, especially now that the level of collusion between the police and the neo-Nazis is becoming so apparent. But where was the EU and intelligence services’ concern when neo-Nazis in Greece and elsewhere were glorifying the massacre of 8,000 men women and children in Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since the second world war? Surely, our politicians and intelligence services were not unaware of claims that a 100-strong unit of Greek volunteers (the Greek Volunteer Guard, some of whom, it is alleged, were supporters of Golden Dawn) fought in Bosnia on the side of the Bosnian Serbs and that some may even have participated in the Srebrenica Massacre, reportedly, on Ratko Mladic’s instigation, hoisting a Greek flag over the town.[3] Today, Golden Dawn has eighteen seats in the Greek parliament; it is not unknown for members to carry out acts of violence, even in front of TV cameras – and yet somehow they avoid arrest and prosecution.[4]

But the story does not end with Golden Dawn. Mass murderer Anders Beiring Brevik declared himself inspired by the Serbian Christian cause, as does Roberto Fiore, another fascist who flies the flag of a ‘Greater Serbia’. He was notorious for fleeing Italy in the 1980s to avoid prosecution following the massacre at Bologna railway station which left eighty-five dead and two hundred wounded. After Fiore, who had fled to London, was convicted in absentia for subversive conspiracy and membership of an armed gang, Her Majesty’s Government repeatedly refused to countenance Italian extradition requests. (It is widely suspected that Fiore was recruited by MI6, and was given full rein to continue his ‘Third Position’ fascist activities, particularly in Libya, in exchange for information.) When in 1998 the Italian appeal court declared that Fiore’s sentence had expired under the statute of limitations, Fiore returned to Italy and resumed his fascist career, even enjoying a stint in the European Parliament as an MEP from 2008-2009 as a representative for the coalition Social Alternative (Alternativa Sociale). Now, he leads Forza Nuova, and hangs out with the Serbian Radical Party which subscribes to the idea of a Greater Serbia and glorifies Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić as ‘Serbian heroes’.[5]

It is hard to know where Europe’s complicity with human rights abuses starts and ends. We extradite one set of citizens to torture states, while we appear to shield another set of citizens from prosecution altogether. ‘After such knowledge, what forgiveness?’

Related links

IRR report: Pedlars of Hate: the violent impact of the European far Right

Read an IRR News story: ‘Poetry prize for Talha Ahsan

Free Talha Ahsan

Free Babar Ahmad

[1] Press release, Cabinet D’Avocats Jus Cogens, 3 October 2012. [2] See Frances Webber, ‘The imminent extradiction of Khalid Al-Fawwaz: a lawyers reflections’, Cageprisoners, 2 October 2012; see also, SACC press release, ‘Extradition - Home Secretary must step in to prevent torture’, 4 October 2012 and CagePrisoners press release, ‘CagePrisoners hosts New York press conference in response to extradition cases’, 3 October 2012. [3] Johannes Jakobsson, 'Valskrällen', Expo, No. 3, 2012; Helena Smith, ‘Greece faces shame over role in Serb massacre’, Observer, 5 January 2003. [4] In June, Ilias Kasidiaris, who is Golden Dawn’s official spokesman, and a former commando in the Greek army, punched a female Communist MP during a live TV debate. There is speculation that the police protected Kasidiaris by failing to arrest him within the 48-hour time-frame needed to fast-track him through the courts on assault charges. (It is a peculiarity of the Greek system that an arrest warrant expires after 48 hours.) Kasidiaris also faces prosecution for complicity in a 2007 attack when he allegedly drove a car carrying several people who attacked a student. Veteran activist Petros Constantinou told the Guardian on 9 June that the police have facilitated Golden Dawn. ‘Without police cover and protection Golden Dawn would not have survived ... And the proof of that is the failure to capture Kasidiaris.’ [5]Roberto Fiore held a meeting with the “Russky Obraz” movement’, Right World. For a description of the Serbian Radical Party, see here.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

3 thoughts on “European collusion in human rights abuse

  1. This article reminded me of the 1970s when I learned about the ruthlessness of the state when it comes to dissidents. The punishment is not only harsher than for even the worst mass murderers, it is annihilating. The message is clear: we will crush you into oblivion so that not even a shred of your existence and beliefs survive.

    My aunt, who survived Auschwitz by the skin of her teeth, was outraged at the treatment meted out to the Baader Meinhof gang, which amounted to extreme torture intended to drive the prisoners to suicide, which indeed happened, in comparison to Nazi war criminals who were responsible personally for the torture and murder of hundreds in concentration camps, and who lived comfortable lives in jail, enjoying family visits, given every privilege and featherbedded for the years they were in prison, before being released as respectable and respected citizens into society after minimum sentences.

    The lesson was and remains simple: if you are a nationalist fascist torturer and murderer you will be treated with utmost leniency. (Breivik is having quite a nice life in jail, in comparison to Talha Ahsan). But if you challenge the state, however democratic it purports to be, you can expect no justice or mercy even if there is no evidence that you actually committed violence or did anything wrong.

  2. Everyone opposing these things must show they mean it, they must not let these forces see them as not meaning it – by exposing the “court change”, an item of great legal progress that has been hushed up for longer than the whole War on Terror era.

    As explained here , no longer is any court decision final. All court decisions are open to faulting on their reasoning and logic, including on their omissions and corruption, open endedly. Nobody has ever offered any argument against the reasons why it is real. It is an open ended opening to contest every corruption of process that any court ever does. It applies in the USA too, so there is still a present and future duty to these prisoners to cite to use the court change for them there, including against the human rights legality of their prison conditions. So to speak out there that the court change exists.

    Unless an earlier origin for it is found, court change originiates from ECHR case 41597/98, in 1998-9, where the court called a factually impossible decision final. It decided that an event beginning in 1997 had the last inland decision on it taken in 1995, reversing the order of time. Any court that does that makes itself illegal, because it breaks every precedent that court evidence recognises the correct order of time, and that rulings have to be factually possible. So the ECHR made itself illegal, and the duty in the European Convention for the ECHR to exist hence requires providing an ECHR without the illegality, which means without the feature that allowed it to be done, which means without the power of final decisions.

    The abolition of finality then applies to all the court’s member states, whose own court systems have to respond to ECHR case outcomes. Then, open ended non-finality of case content and outcome extends the court change into any country’s system that any case overlaps into from a place that is already court change. In this way, folks all over the world can get this democratically empowering advance to reach them.

    2 of the prisoners know about the court change, for I wrote to them about it. All their campaigners, think of them now, either knowing you are, or knowing you are not, doing anything with the court change.

  3. We received this message on 24 April from Ali Aarrass, from his prison cell in Salé

    Everything becomes so clear when you’re deprived of liberty. Not to abuse each other. To understand each other despite your differences – it’s so easy and so beautiful when it happens spontaneously, when it comes from your own free will. Here in prison we learn to support and accept each other, and our faults, small or large, are no big thing beside the fact of the injustices we have all suffered.

    Prison is a whole world, all the routines of daily life go on there, but all under constraint. Nothing is done with the pleasure of being able to make ones own choices.

    Dear friends, make use of the happiness and pleasure which liberty brings you to act freely to fight against the barriers separating you from each other.

    Stay united. From inside my cell, this is my vision, this is what would make everything go better.

    (translated from Spanish by his sister Farida and into English by Frances Webber)

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