Ben Hayes on Sat, 21 Sep 2002 16:50:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> "Arbitrary" EU anti-terrorist laws tested by Swedish Young Left

"Arbitrary" EU anti-terrorist laws tested by Swedish Young Left

Ung Vänster, the youth organisation of the Swedish left party (1), has made a
donation to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in order
to challenge its inclusion on the EU's proscribed terrorist organisations

Banning support for the PFLP

On 18 June 2002, the Council of the EU made a second update to the list which
bans financial transactions with specific groups and individuals. The
amendment was adopted by "written procedure", where the text is simply
circulated among the governments and agreed unless there is any objection. The
PFLP, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) were included for the first time with another five groups
based outside of the EU. To protest against the inclusion of the PFLP, Ung
Vänster organised a collection and transferred the 2750 SEK (£200 / 300 euros)
raised through an account used by aid organisation Emmaus Bjorka for
humanitarian work in the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. The organisation has
long cooperated with the PFLP on a project to support Palestinian widows in
Shatila. Ali Esbati, chairman of the Young Left, said the donation was being
made to highlight:

“The fact that EU can add or remove organisations on the list, without
anything specific having happened, is arbitrary and clearly demonstrates its
political character.”

In July, Christer Johansson, chair of Emmaus and Christer Ascher, a board
member and well known paediatrician, met with the Swedish government to
discuss their donation and attempt to clarify their legal liability. They
explained that the PFLP was part of a legitimate resistance movement in an
occupied land and that its right to armed struggle against military occupation
is recognized in international law. Emmaus is demanding the removal of the
PFLP from the list, though the organisation will not challenge the law in the
courts for fear of jeopardizing its other foreign aid projects.

How the EU list is drawn-up

Johansson and Ascher were told that no group "can be put on the list for
political reasons", but that "ministers in the Council do make a political
assessment before taking a decision". The interior ministry representatives
said that one motivation was the PFLP's assassination of Israeli tourism
minister Rehavam Zeevi in Autumn last year. Johansson and Ascher suggest that
if such criteria were applied consistently, Israel "would be top of the list"
Swedish newspaper, Flamman, followed up the issue of why the PFLP had been
included with a series of questions to Anders Kruse, head of judicial matters
at the Swedish foreign ministry. He said that the Swedish government was not
prepared to discuss the reasoning behind the decision:

"This is a standpoint of principle. Behind the decision are ongoing
investigations and other information that cannot be made public... There are
criteria listed, and the Council is following those. However we cannot make
public the background information of the decisions, and we do not wish to
account for how we were given the information."

Neither would he confirm whether or not there investigations concerning either
FARC or the PFLP were actually taking place. It was then put to him that the
inclusion of PFLP and FARC had been discussed before the EU's terrorist list
was previously updated in May 2002, though again Mr. Kruse would not confirm
this. Asked "what has happened since May requiring the addition of these
organisations to the list and the removal of five people connected with ETA?",
he replied:

"Now I may be skating on thin ice, but you could say that they were removed
because the purpose of including them had been achieved, and that is to create
judicial and political pressure in the Member state."

Declaration attached to EU Framework Decision on Terrorism meaningless?

Mr. Kruse was then asked about the non-binding declaration made by the EU
Member States when adopting the recent Framework Decision on Terrorism. It

“It has to be understood... and cannot be construed so as to argue that the
conduct of those who have acted in the interest of preserving or restoring
these democratic values, as was notably the case in some Member States during
the Second World War, could now be considered as "terrorist" acts. Nor can it
be construed so as to incriminate on terrorist grounds persons exercising
their legitimate right to manifest their opinions, even if in the course of
the exercise of such right they commit offences.”

He confirmed that the Council of the EU has not given any thought to this
principle when proscribing organisations:

"In the specific decision, there is no such discussion. At an early stage
there is knowledge about what could be done, or what can be agreed on."

Will the illegal donation be prosecuted?

Although the donation by the Young Left to the PFLP clearly breaches EU law,
much confusion met Flamman's attempts to find how it could be prosecuted under
Swedish law, or even if a case would be brought. The situation is complicated
by a new law that entered into force at the end of June which provides for up
to six years of punishment imprisonment for those who give financial support
to certain criminal acts. But the definitions of terrorism are not the same as
in either the EU Framework Decision or in the Council's list of proscribed
organisations. Thomas Grahn, head of operations at the Swedish financial
inspection authority, suggests:

"The new law is simple. In order for a money transfer to be prosecuted, there
must be a clear connection to the planned support of serious criminal

Consequently, he suggests that the new law is unlikely to be applied, although
Sweden is still bound by EU law and a 1996 Swedish law on implementing
international sanctions. However, this law was designed to support the
sanctions regime of the mid- 1990s and was geared toward action against
countries rather than individuals - though since its express aim is Swedish
compliance with UN and EU measures it supposedly obliges Sweden to deal with
any domestic actions in breach of those sanctions. Conversely, in the recent
al-Barakaat case, where Swedish citizens were included on the UN and EU
proscribed lists and then openly supported by the public (see below),
prosecutors took no action on the grounds that the giving of money was
motivated by humanitarian interest and not of committing a crime.
Theoretically, both the 1996 and 2002 laws could be used to prosecute the PLFP

Last Thursday (12 September) there was an announcement from Hans Ihrman of
Stockholm's international prosecution chamber that an investigation had been
opened. Al Esbati, chair of the Young Left, will be questioned next Tuesday
(23 September) and welcomes the legal action.

"The EU decisions are producing a Kafkaesque situation and I hope that more
people will react."


The PFLP donation is the second strong challenge in Sweden to the
implementation of the international sanctions regime in the "war on
terrorism". Last November, at the request of the US, the UN Taleban Sanctions
Committee added a number of individuals and organisations to an existing list
of those whose assets should be frozen and financial transactions forbidden.
This UN Resolution was later applied across the EU under an EC financial
regulation. Three Swedish citizens of Somali origin were included because of
their work with al-Barakaat, the major "hawala" bank, or money transfer
organisation, used by Somali people in exile in order to send money to their
relatives at home. Since the normal banking system in Somalia collapsed in the
early 1990's, around two thirds of the money transferred to Somalia is sent
through al-Barakaat.

The Swedish government decided to comply with the UN sanctions immediately and
froze the assets of the three men in November. This was met with widespread
public criticism and a campaign urged people to oppose the order and give
money to a quickly formed solidarity committee. More than 300,000 SEK (£22,000
/ 33,000 euros) was eventually raised in order to provide for the basic needs
of the three.

Slow to react to the public criticism, it was six weeks before the Swedish
government began diplomatic contacts with the US in January. Lawyers for the
three men met with the European Commission, the European Parliament and UN
Committee on Human Rights and also lodged a case at the European Court. At no
time throughout the affair has the US presented any evidence or specific
accusations against the three men. To have their names removed from the lists
they were ultimately forced to sign a statement to US authorities that they
have never been or ever will be involved in the support of terrorism and would
immediately cease all contacts with al-Barakaat. A joint request from Sweden
and the US to the UN Sanctions Committee then resulted in a decision to remove
their names at the end of August. The European Commission followed suit
several weeks later and the three men have access to their financial assets

The government's handling of the case was discussed by the Committee of
Constitution in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), which concluded that
although it should have reacted much earlier - and at the very least asked
questions before implementing the UN and EU sanctions - the government could
not not really have acted much differently because of its obligations under
international law.

The Swedish government has since made a number of public claims that judicial
safeguards should be built into the application of the EU lists. In July, Anna
Lindh, Foreign Affairs Minister, called for clear criteria and the condition
that there should be at least a preliminary investigation demonstrating the
connection to terrorism before individuals or organisations could be included
in the list. Henry Ascher of Emmaus is calling for a wider campaign:
"As a citizen, you have to at least know the rules of the game. It is hardly
coherent with a democratic judicial system that the accused should prove his
innocence. This new usage of law can only be compared to witch-hunts."


(1) Ung Vänster is the youth organisation of the Vänsterpartiet and with
14,000 members is the second largest youth organisation of the political
parties in Sweden. Following the recent elections, the Vänsterpartiet (Left
Party) is the fourth largest in the Swedish parliament.

(2) Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated by the PFLP in October 2001. In claiming
responsibility, the group said it was a response to the assassination of PFLP
head Abu Ali Mustafa by the Israeli state in August 2001.

This report is based on a series of articles by Mattias Håkansson for Swedish
newspaper, Flamman. E-mail: <>

For full text and background reports see <> 

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