The War on Terror is a Deliberate Strategy
to Criminalize Every Resistance against Capitalism
The idea of terrorism is
extended to several forms of social fight and protest. Dissident
political and trade union opinions become criminalized. An environment
movement such as Greenpeace or animal rights activist is even prosecuted
as terrorist in some countries.
By Atty. Raf
Progressive Lawyers Network, Belgium
Posted by Bulatlat
The attacks in New
York, London and Madrid were the signal for the U.S. and Europe to curtail
without scruples, the fundamental rights of its citizens. Under the
banner of “the war on terror,” they have taken measures which up to a
certain point, can be compared to the fascization of Europe in the 1930’s
under Hitler and Mussolini. The war on terror starts long before 9/11;
but after 9/11 it became accelerated and did not stop just at today. A
new historical period of repression was started.
Terrorism has to
be combated; innocent citizens have to be protected.
judicial definition of terrorism is the use of organized violence against
There is no question
that a state should arm itself against terror deeds like those from Al-Qaeda.
These blind extreme right and fascist terror actions do not deserve our
understanding. The victims of these actions are the innocent persons in
the streets of New York, London, Madrid and Mumbai. So too are the Iraqi
people, who are victims of the unlawful occupation in Iraq by the U.S. and
Great Britain. This state terrorism also does not deserve any
understanding. These two forms of terrorism are each other’s breeding
grounds. Without Al Qaeda, Bush would have had a more difficult time
invading Iraq and taking drastic measures against fundamental rights such
as in the Patriot Act. The invasion of Iraq and the terror of the United
States against the people became the pretext for all sorts of
fundamentalists to meddle in the Iraqi quagmire.
9/11 is the
beginning of a new era of war on civil liberties
The U.S. is in the
world arena without doubt the engine and leading power for the so-called
anti-terrorism measures. All violators of human rights are justified with
their argument that they are necessary in the fight against terror.
Imperialist states and their allies have in the course of history
developed and brought to perfection their state system to break the
resistance of the peoples against injustice and oppression.
The measures taken in
the past five years mean a historical modification in the field of
expansion of the apparatus to impose or preserve worldwide the power of
the U.S.-imperium. That imperium has been threatened indeed by the rise of
the developing countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. By 2040, those
countries will have left the old industrial countries (U.S., Japan,
Europe) economically behind them.
We must be aware that
the “measures against terror” mean a new era of repression.
After the second
world war there was an enormous extension worldwide of fundamental rights
as a result of the victory against fascism in Europe and Japan and under
the influence of the rise of socialism and anti-olonialism of which
peoples and citizens could enjoy.
There was the
establishment of the United Nations Organization which in its charter
established the principle of the prohibition on war. It only allows very
exceptionally (if in response to aggression or with the approval of the UN
itself) a state to conduct war. With the war in Iraq, the U.S. and the
United Kingdom have violated theses principles.
In 1949, the
conventions of Geneva (four conventions and two protocols) fixed strict
rules on the treatment of soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians in
armed conflicts. In the war in Iraq and during the aggression war in
Israel of July-August 2006 against Lebanon, these conventions were heavily
violated. In 1966, within the framework of the UNO the very important
treaties on the civil and political rights and on the economic, social and
cultural rights were adopted. In 1950, the important treaty for
protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms had already been
adopted in Europe.
achievements of international law stand today strongly under pressure and
are ignored worldwide. As progressive lawyers we must defend these
fundamental rights obstinately: “fight for these rights, for respect for
these rights, for the concrete application of it, for the extension of
With this main point
in focus, it will be clear that the “war on terror” requires a particular
responsibility on the shoulders of progressive lawyers.
Power lines from
the anti-terror policies of U.S. and EU: A permanent state of terror, a
perpetual state of “war on terror”
Extrajudicial killings, torture, secret prisons, secret flights of
The Philippines is the most terrible
example of the strategy to combat social and political oppression by the
killings of their activists (757 killed, 184 missing since Arroyo came
into power in 2001).
The secret prisons of the U.S. in
countries like Egypt, Romania and Poland and the secret flights with
war-prisoners were reasons for worldwide protests.
Exceptional “anti-terror” legislation
Before 11th of September there
were in certain countries such as Spain, the United Kingdom and Turkey
special anti-terrorism laws. Especially the Turkish law meant
far-reaching restrictions on the right to promote political
change. This law came about under the influence of the military
dictatorship in Turkey. It is thus not astonishing that in Turkey from
the seventies on, there was a record of number political prisoners.
What we see after 9/11 is that this type
of fascist legislation, which is normal to dictatorships, is introduced in
almost all countries. You can see it in the U.S. with the Patriot Act I
and II. In Europe, it is implemented by the application of a special
resolution of the European Union and in the Philippines with the current
The nature of this legislation means that
a type of common political offense is inserted in most penal laws whereas
previously in most of the penal laws only very specific political offenses
had been formerly registered, like for example collaboration with a
foreign enemy, insult of a Head of State, etc.
This kind of legislation implies that the
political fight which normally must be realized with political resources
(debate, elections, mass demonstrations, parliament, bills…) and that
takes place in the field of the executive and legislative powers, from now
on will also be conducted by the courts. This is a very dangerous
evolution because it makes an indictable offense of political opposition
and because it criminalizes politically other options and actions.
The nature of
all this legislation is that it is meant to maintain the existing
capitalist order in each country and that it blocks the social action for
social and political improvement. This is also said in an explicit way in
all those laws.
All these laws against terror introduce a
broadly defined prohibition:
To modify the existing
political, economic and social order of the country, in other words it is
considered terrorism to stand up for another form of society than the one
where private property of production resources and of the capital
To force the governments and
international institutions with radical resources not to take certain
decisions or to force them to take certain decisions they do not want to
“To scare the population”:
which is meant to cover organizing broad social action, and instilling
fear for example about general strikes
These laws therefore mix political actions
with crime: In other words they make a criminal action out of a political
action and strip it of its political character (depoliticize political
They stigmatized a wide range of
legitimate political activity as “terrorism”. This law created “terrorist
suspects” by redefining terrorism in broader ways, blurring any
distinction between anti-government protest and organized violence against
civilians, by placing entire communities under suspicion of associating
with such “terrorism” by waging psychological warfare through
disinformation and mass media scares about “Al Qaeda cells”.
All these laws impose very heavy
sentences, going in certain countries to the death penalty. They lead to
a massive increase of political prisoners like in Turkey.
All these laws not only punish individuals
for what they do, but introduce also the so-called association-indictable
offense. This means that the mere membership in an organization that is
considered terrorist, even the legal contribution to that organization
without even being member, or the solidarity with such an organization
also will be considered “terrorist”.
The idea of terrorism is extended to
several forms of social fight and protest. Dissident political and trade
union opinions become criminalized. An environment movement such as
Greenpeace or animal rights activist is even prosecuted as terrorist in
These exceptional laws also lead to
exceptional procedures in court, to special anti- terrorism courts, to
courts established behind closed doors and lose in this way the public’s
access, to strategies that avoid the normal guarantees in trials (e.g.
secret proof, especially selected lawyers, prohibition among other things
for lawyers to make certain information known to client or press), to
special system and long periods of “incommunicado” of the suspect (e.g.,
proposed Philippine law: 15-day detention before appearance in front of a
judge) something that opens the door for the application of torture during
On 19 September 2001, barely 8 days after
9/11, the EU came up with a framework decision against terrorism and a
framework decision for a European warrant of arrest. Because of the
framework decision against terrorism, all EU countries were obligated to
draw up anti-terror legislation in their own penal codes. This happened
in 2004. This new legislation means a historical intervention in criminal
legislation: for the first time in history, a very broadly defined and
general political crime is added to the penal code, with heavy punishment
and with punishment for mere membership (also when the person has done
The definition of a terrorist crime is
clearly a political crime. What is defined as a terrorist purpose:
disclosing or destroying the political, constitutional, economic or social
basic structures, forcing a government to abstain from an action; and
inflicting grave fear on the population of a country.
These are pre-eminently political
Anyone, like the European dockworkers who
want to compel the European Commission to withdraw its directive to
liberalize the hiring of dockworkers, falls under this definition. Those
who carry out anti-globalization activities against capitalism and who
want another society, also fall under this category. So, this goes much
further than combating Al Qaeda, and makes clear that Al Qaeda, in fact is
a pretext to go after anyone who opposes in a radical way.
Administrative repression replaces more and more repression by
means of the criminal law. Lists of “terrorists”.
There is a tendency to politically repress
more and more by means of the administrative process. The administration,
the executive power and the government act in name of the courts. A number
of guarantees, recognized in criminal law: right to due process, right to
objection, right by a lawyer, right to examination of the file and the
evidence disappear in that way. These administrative measures are based on
unverifiable information of security services.
It is already this way in the United
Kingdom with the so-called control orders. By means of these control
orders the government can take very far-reaching measures (administrative
detention, house judgment, prohibition for communication with third
parties, only lawyers indicated by the state can act in the purely
administrative procedure…) without the necessity to prove a violation on
The most far-reaching example is of course
the U.S. prison of Guantanamo. One single command of the president of the
U.S. and of the government of this country mean that about 400 prisoners
are stuck in this prison, some for already five years, without any form of
due process, of (being detained) without charge.
That this is the real strategy behind the
EU anti-terror policy is confirmed by the so-called list of terrorist
organizations and individuals. This list has been drawn up by the EU
without any defense by the concerned and without any right to defend
As a consequence, anyone on the list is
deprived of all financial means to undertake political actions, and that
the branding with the label “terrorist” scares anyone who wants to be in
solidarity with the person or organization.
The criminalizing effect therefore not
only on Al Qaeda is evident because there are also liberation movements
which for decades have been struggling against tyranny, oppression or
occupation. Movements like the NPA (New Peoples’ Army) in the Philippines,
(and the chief political consultant of the panel of the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace talks with the Government of
the Republic of the Philippines, Professor Jose Maria Sison) and the PFLP
(Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) or the Iranian Mujaheddin
are on the list. The struggles of these organizations are legitimate under
international law, but this right to (armed) resistance is now downgraded
by the EU to a criminal act.
Complete control of the
population and extension of the secret investigation methods of the police
force – and security services.
In every country of the world, large-scale
measures which allow the checking of the activities of the population are
This happens by massive registering of
data (data which by means of the internet, mail movement, telephone,
databank – swift scandal-…are obtained). The U.S. obliges other countries
to pass on details about all kinds of personal information (e.g. eating
habits…) of plane passengers to the U.S. These massive fact files are
digitally verified by means of code words. Thus, enormous analyses and
lists are made about individuals and organizations, of which majority does
nothing else but in a legitimate manner practice their civil liberties.
These analyses are used to criminalize social protest. In that way the big
brother society has become a fact.
This is done by giving to the judicial
service and police force, but now also more and more to the information –
and security services (of state, of the army) the possibility to use
particular control methods without judicial or parliamentary control:
infiltration, letter, telephone – and mail tap, observation, use of
monitoring equipment, house seeking without democratic control and without
opportunity of the touched person to resist.
There is a worldwide tendency to use these
data collected by secret services, collected within the framework of the
security policy of a state, also in criminal law. This breaks through the
borders of the criminal law seeing that data from security investigations
are not intended for criminal prosecution.
From Terrorism to Extremism and Radicalism
The “war against terror” is a conscious
strategy of the EU and the United States against every resistance directed
at neo-liberal capitalism. This is further made evident from the fact that
since 2004, in one breath, “extremism and radicalism” are put in the same
category with terrorism. Naturally, the excessive profits of the
multinationals in, for example, the bank or petroleum sector, are not
meant here. The struggle against extremism is being peddled as a struggle
against the fundamentalist and radical tendencies in the Muslim world and
especially among Muslim migrants in Europe.
But this flag does not cover the entire
cargo. Under extremism is envisioned all individuals and organizations who
in one way or another question the existing society, even environmental
activists like Greenpeace. A striking example of this is the secret list
of the police service in Antwerp (a port city in Belgium with 420.000
residents) which was exposed in 2005. In the list of “terrorist and
extremist” organizations of the city were more than 200 names of persons
and organizations, 99 percent of whom undertake legal and open social and
political activities. These were migrant organizations, printing presses,
humanitarian organizations, protectors of animal rights, and progressive
lawyers. In this way, under the cover of the fight against terrorism, the
most flagrant violations of the basic rights become “normal” practice.
The existence of such a list means that
persons and organizations will be followed, their privacy violated, their
right to free organization and freedom of speech curtailed. In this way,
the understanding of terrorism is expanded to all forms of protest and
resistance in the political, trade union and social fields.
6. Restrictions on
I’ll give you one very concrete and recent
example that indicates how far fundamental rights are damaged. At the end
of September 2006 the American Senate approved the “Military Commissions
Act”. Military interrogators can now use unorthodox interrogation
techniques to enforce suspects of terror to make “confessions”, such as
keeping suspects awake, keeping them upright in stressful positions,
exposing them to heat, water and cold. Torture, forbidden by international
treaties, becomes in that way legalized. These barbaric methods mean the
end of the rule of law. Universal citizens rights which must protect us
against possible arbitrariness of the state, the army and the police force
are lost. The same “Military Commissions Act” presents further military
commissions for all persons qualified by the president of the U.S. as
“Unlawful Enemy Combatant”. These military commissions are composed only
of military judges, the suspects are only defended by military lawyers or
by civil lawyers that must be screened and must acquire a special
admission, they work with secret information and proves which cannot be
communicated by the lawyer to its costumer, a large number of the
indictable offenses can be sanctioned with the death penalty. Also
fundamental Right of the Habeas Corpus (that nobody can be deprived of
freedom without a command of a judge and without right of objection at a
judge) is simply abolished. It is clear that this legislation means the
end of the rule of law.
Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of
Cheney’s (U.S. vice president) Halliburton, is constructing a huge
facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of
The “war on terror” of the EU infringes on
other fields. The framework decision on the European extradition order has
a consequence that within the EU, extradition also of those politically
suspected or convicted happens almost automatically. A country used to be
able to refuse the extradition of the person in question if he was a
citizen of the country, if he was a political refugee, if it was a
political crime, or if there was threat that the person would be
persecuted because of his religion, nationality or political beliefs. All
of these fundamental guarantees, which were achievements in international
law in the 19th century, are, with one blow, abolished.
Another phenomenon is that the exception
laws like the anti-terror laws lead to exceptional procedures and to
strategies to avoid guarantees of due process. In this way the classic
principles of criminal law are eroded. More and more, there is work on
secret documents which the defense has no right to see. Special judges,
special solicitors and even appointed lawyers (so that the free choice of
a lawyer disappears are being implemented.
A shift has been established from the
repression through criminal law to the repression via administrative law,
where even less guarantees exist for the defense than in criminal law. A
typical, but very terrible example is the “control orders” in the UK. With
one control order, a person can be subjected for months to all sorts of
control regulations (for example, house arrest, forbidden to exchange
letters, telephone and visits from friends) can happen through a decision
of the minister of internal affairs on the basis of a secret dossier
without any judicial review.
This example illustrates a more general
tendency in the EU: the increasingly bigger hold of the executive
authority (to the detriment of the legislative and judicial authority
power). The executive authority, (EU Council of Ministers, EU commission,
national governments, police, info and security services, solicitors)
determine more and more which laws will be passed (they dictate these to
the parliaments of the different EU countries and to the European
Parliament) and they decide more and more practice of the repression. The
control orders but also the EU list of the so-called terrorists are the
most typical examples of this. It is very important that in most of the EU
countries, during the last few years, laws have been made allowing the
police, secret and info services of the country entrance to use
extraordinary investigation methods. These extraordinary investigation
methods (tapping, infiltration, surveillance) are almost without judicial
controls and so broad that every individual that is under suspicion to
have the intention to commit a crime, can be the subject of this.
- What is still
in the Pipeline?
The G8 wants to sharpen the repression in
First, they want the anti-terror laws in
all the countries to be even more broad so that the “apology” (the
justification) of a terrorist act, will be punishable. This is a very
dangerous tendency because this can lead to suppression of press freedom.
Which journalist will now dare give news about, for example, liberation
movement in the Third World if he himself will risk being accused of being
Secondly, they want that the information
that security services collect by using secret investigation procedures
can be used in criminal cases. The problem here is that this secret
information, even during the court hearing, in large measure, must remain
secret, which, naturally, leads to the giving of secret criminal dossiers
and to special judges and specified lawyers who must guarantee this
There is worldwide a growing resistance
against this “war on terror” which has degenerated into war against
fundamental rights and especially to the criminalizing of every political
and social movement that dares to questions the exploitation of capital
with the scandalous profits and enrichment of a fraction of the
Jo Stevens, Chairperson of the Orde van
Vlaamse Balies, (Order of Flemish Associations in Belgium), and which
represents more than 8,000 lawyers in Belgium, expressed it in his New
Year speech as follows: “Because a gentleman in America has declared the
war on terror, we have become lawyers in the time of war. The rights and
freedom that Europe through the centuries centimeter by centimeter has
fought for are now being reversed. The fundamentalists of prevention and
repression threaten our rule of law more than the religious
This standpoint I can adopt
wholeheartedly. It is also a call to the progressive lawyers, together
with the broad social and trade union movement to defend the fundamental
rights, especially the right to social improvement.
- Stop extra-judicial killings,
independent investigation of the killings, punishment of the responsible
- Campaign for the repeal of the
exceptional anti-terrorist laws;
- Oppose any measures which could
criminalize mere association with a political organization, or which
involve detention without charge, or restrictions on freedom of speech,
association or publication;
- Defend the democratic freedom of
dissent and to resist oppression, nationally and internationally; respect
for the right to oppose tyranny and state-oppression.
Posted by Bulatlat
*Presented before the Public Forum of the IAPL 3rd Congress, Oct. 14,
2006, Davao City, Philippines.
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