SchNEWS Of The World


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Opportunism in the face of tragedy

Repression in the name of anti - terrorism

by Gillian Murdoch

In the atmosphere of global xenophobia and paranoia which followed the September 11 attacks, many countries used the opportunity to justify crackdowns on ongoing domestic dissent, tighten surveillance and push through new 'anti-terrorist' legislation. For some countries [like UK] September 11 legitimated draconian anti-terrorist laws which had been introduced during the past few years anyway, while others just carried on with the same human rights abuses they'd always done, whether they wrote new legislation to legalise it or not. Here's a round up of some post 9-11 anti-terrorist rubber stamping worldwide...

The European Union

Under the post September 11 "Anti-terrorism roadmap" the EU has added two new databases to the planned Second Generation SIS (Schengen Information System - see SchNEWS 312).

The first database would cover public order and protests and lead to: "Barring potentially dangerous persons from participating in certain events [where the person is] notoriously known by the police forces for having committed recognised facts of public order disturbance."

The second database would be a register of all third country nationals in the EU who will be tagged with an "alert" if they overstay their visa or residence permit - this follows a call by the German government for the creation of a "centralised register".


Spain used its presidency of the EU to push through new proposals to target anti-capitalist protesters across Europe, with more cooperation between police forces and the introduction of an EU wide arrest warrant. Their own anti-terrorist zeal goes back well before September 11 and they continue to attack Basque political group or publications - accusing them of ETA (Basque militant separatist army) affiliations and terrorism. On October 1st police raided and imprisoned 13 people who were involved in the Basque prisoners support organization Gestoras Pro-amnistía. (For more see SchNEWS 343) The Spanish government admitted to 'tracking' a number of activists websites for intelligence gathering including Barcelona Indymedia (move over Maxwell Smart).


On November 15, France rushed through 'The Law on Daily Security' (LSQ): a package of anti-terrorist laws which are scheduled to remain in force until December 31 2003, giving the police expanded powers to search, monitor communications and heighten security in public places - all in the name of cracking down on "terrorism" and "delinquency."

United Kingdom

The UK's latest anti-global terrorism effort, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act became law on December 14 2001. The new Terrorism Act defines terrorism as "the use or threat of action" designed to "influence the government or to intimidate the public ... for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause". Actions cited include those involving "serious violence against a person" in Britain or abroad. The act covers fundraising.

Expanding the Terrorism Act 2000 (for a rundown see SchNEWS 251, 268, 300), it allows for the freezing of terrorist funding and legalises the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without charge or trial. Detainees can be held with no evidence that they are even thinking of committing a crime, and may be 'certified' as a terrorist suspect if there an 'unspecified link' either to a so-called terrorist organisation, or to someone else who is a member of one.

The opting out of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which outlaws detention without trial) was justified with the soundbite: 'The presence of extremists in the United Kingdom at this time and for the foreseeable future creates a situation of public emergency threatening the life of the nation.'

As a result Asian and north African communities were openly targeted for surveillance and repression in exactly the same way the Irish community was in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 11 September 2001 and 18 January 2002 there were 124 'terrorism-related' arrests. A significant number of those arrested in the post-11 September hysteria have already had any suggestion of terrorist involvement dismissed but remain imprisoned on pretexts connected to their immigration status. With the government putting the pressure on to speed up deportations and effect more 'removals', this is an excuse to trawl minority communities, conflating anti-terrorist and immigration powers.

In March MI6 announced it was seeking to double its recruitment of front-line officers for the "war against terrorism," justifying the need for more spies by claiming that recent events 'pose the greatest threat to Britain's security in 60 years'.

In the same month twenty one [mainly Islamic] groups were banned under new terror law, adding to the list of groups targeted in the Terrorist Act 2000 such as the PKK, the Kurdish Workers' Party; ETA, the Basque separatist group; LTTE, the Tamil separatist group, a number of Sikh organisations, Al Qa'ida of course and more.

The Home Office concedes the large majority of the groups on the list have not attacked British targets.


Rushed through are a package of anti-terrorist laws, amending existing laws, strengthening immigration control and secret services to an extent unknown since Nazi times. New supervisory powers give virtually unlimited access to data from telephones, emails, bank accounts to government intelligence and police. Surprise surprise a lot of the laws are pointed at outsiders living in Germany - with the 'alien central register' law being upped, and records of fingerprints and other documents of asylum seekers being kept for ten years.


On October 24th the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) became law. This gives the police wide powers of arrest, it allows up to six months detention without charge or trial for political suspects. It also made government, army officials, and other paramilitary forces immune from prosecution for any action taken "in good faith" when combating "terrorism". POTO modified 1985's lapsed Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA.) Under TADA, tens of thousands of politically motivated detentions, torture, and other human rights violations were committed against Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, trade union activists, and political opponents in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the face of mounting opposition to the act, India's government acknowledged these abuses and phased TADA out in 1995.

In May this year Thailand agreed to join Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phillipines in an anti-terrorism pact to "defeat a militant network they say is bent on creating a single regional Islamic state." The four-way pact would allow anti-terrorism exercises as well as combined operations to hunt suspected terrorists, the setting up of hotlines and sharing of airline passenger lists.


International concern for human rights abuses in Chechnya appeared to wane after the September 11 attacks, although Russian forces in Chechnya have continued with extrajudicial executions, arrests, and extortion of civilians. Since September 11 alone, at least one person per week has "disappeared" after being taken into custody by Russian forces.

The Kremlin has laboured to link the Russian operation in Chechnya with the global fight against terrorism. On September 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that America and Russia had a "common foe" because "Bin Laden's people are connected with the events currently taking place in our Chechnya."


In October Jordan amended its Penal Code and press law "to cover all the needs that we are confronting now," said Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb. The amendments expanded the definition of "terrorism", and introduced loosely defined offences restricting freedom of expression and expanding the scope of offences punishable by death. It allowed the government to close down any publication deemed to have published "false or libellous information that can undermine national unity or the country's reputation," and prescribed prison terms for publicising in the media or on the internet pictures "that undermine the king's dignity" or information tarnishing the reputation of the royal family.

In January Fahd al-Rimawi, the editor-in-chief of the weekly political paper al Majd, became the first known victim of the amended penal code. He was questioned for four hours by the General Intelligence Department (GID) and then detained for three days at Jweideh Prison in January 2002. He was charged with "writing and publishing false information and rumours that may harm the prestige and reputation of the state and slander the integrity and reputation of its members".


Since Somalia's Islamist group al-Ittihad was linked with al-Qai'da and the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the threat to people's freedom since September 11 is not a case of the Somalian government rushing through anti-terrorist laws. Rather the threat comes from the US, who are poised to inflict terror themselves in the name of preventing terror. US and German warships are patrolling the waters around Yemen, Sudan and Somalia, and to prepare the country for being hit, earlier this year the US closed down international banking to it, as well as cutting off the internet and restricting phone communication.


In October Nigerian Police were reported to be making efforts to "revive" their anti-terrorism squad in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The squad, was set up by the late dictator General Sanni Abacha, and disbanded after Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

The idea had critics worried. In all its years of existence, not a single terrorist was arrested or prosecuted. Instead, it was used to terrorise the media, human rights community, the pro-democracy movement and other real and imagined enemies.


The Government, proposed four repressive anti-terrorist laws modelled on the US Patriot Act. Bill C-36, the Canada Police State Act, was enacted on December 24th 2001. It allows new powers of "preventative arrests of people suspected of terrorism" for up to 72 hours based on police suspicion and removes the right to remain silent. It defines protests that interrupt public facilities as acts of terrorism, and allows suspects' property to be confiscated. Under the Bill anyone who associates with listed person or organisation can be by association defined as a terrorist. Property and bank accounts can be frozen.


The Mapuches, the most active radical group in Chile fighting repression and land rights, have felt the brunt of the crackdown after September 11. After one newspaper spread the rumour that a Mapuche web-page was done by a so-called 'Bin Laden Corporation'. Government officials asked an Appeals Court to apply the Anti-terrorist Law to any Mapuches who attack Endesa Chile, a subsidiary of Endesa Espana, the company building a controversial dam on the Biobio River.


A Bush administration "policy review" about Plan Colombia is moving the goalposts further to allow Colombia's military to use future US aid - guns, helicopters, intelligence and training - to attack domestic 'terrorists' - in other words any group who are defending the country and it's people against the neo-liberal onslaught. Likely targets are leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) and anyone else who steps out of line. (see Plan Colombia article in this book)

United States

In early October Bush announced he was creating the Office of Home and Security, to co-ordinate the government's 46 "anti-terrorist" agencies. Modelled on the CIA's Vietnam War Phoenix Programme, the office came into effect in March 2002, with Tom Ridge, former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, as director. The proposed 2003 budget gave homeland security $38 billion - roughly double the budget allocation for the previous year.

State lawmakers in the US responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks by drafting more than 1,200 bills - an average of 24 per state! They ranged from making terrorism a capital crime to requiring teachers to lead students each day to sing the national anthem. Iowa lawmakers made terrorist crimes punishable by life imprisonment or death. In Pennsylvania, a bill would require students to start each day with the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem. In October the USA Patriot Act was approved by Congress without debate and signed into law. It put into place the most sweeping expansion of state powers to spy, search, restrict speech, arrest, incarcerate, interrogate, punish, deport, and withhold information the United States has ever seen, all unchecked by judicial review.


On September 13, Defence Minister Peter Reith cited the US attacks and terrorism to justify his (1950's style conservative) government's effort to prevent asylum-seekers from entering Australia. These remarks came as the Australian government overturned a court decision that it had illegally detained hundreds of migrants from Afghanistan.

A bundle of post September 11 counter-terrorism legislation is currently pending which is mainly about giving the government covert access to electronic communications and banning organisations on the basis of secret intelligence information.

Aotearoa/New Zealand

The NZ version of the UK RIP Bill enabling covert access to communications is being delayed due to public resistance. The Security Intelligence Service has cashed in on the paranoia by launching a 'dob in a terrorist' hotline.