PMOI blacklisting has put thousands in jeopardy in EU states
Wolfgang Kaleck

I wish to report to you some of the consequences that have flowed in Germany from the inclusion of the PMOI in the EU list, because while our discussions here seem to focus mainly on theoretical questions, in Germany we have seen the adverse effects of the blacklisting of the PMOI on the lives of individuals and curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at the heart of Europe.


Wolfgang Kaleck

The president of the Association of Republican Lawyers in Germany, is a high-profile human rights lawyer and a specialist in international criminal law who has successfully represented victims of repressive regimes in Argentina, Chile, Serbia and other countries. He is the author, with Dr. Jörg Arnold of Max Planck Institute in Freibourg, of a legal opinion on the inclusion of the PMOI in the EU terrorism list.


Terrorism is a political concept which pretends to be legal. Many important points have been raised in the discussion this morning, combining legal and political arguments. As a German criminal lawyer and as a European human rights lawyer, I would like to comment on some of the legal aspects.


If I had to propose a project for a class of law students, I would ask them to study the inclusion of the PMOI in the European Union's terrorism list and discover as many violations of procedural rights and of substantial human rights as possible. This would be a very fruitful and intense work that would keep them busy for months.


I say this, because my colleague, Dr. Jörg Arnold, and I did some research into this very issue when we wrote a legal opinion that was presented to the International Conference in Jurists in Paris last November.


I do not want to repeat here the very long and sound arguments against the inclusion of the PMOI in the terrorism list. The total lack of procedural transparency, the total lack of judicial control, and everything else that was mentioned here by speakers who were focusing on the PMOI inclusion in the British list, were also discussed at the European level. There is a long list of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and community laws that have been violated in the blacklisting of the PMOI. In addition, I agree with Professor Bowring's comments on the lack of a clear and consensual definition of terrorism.


I want to underline the very important conclusions that Professor Eric David, president of the Centre for International Law at Brussels University, drew at the end of his legal opinion on the terrorism tag on the PMOI. He wrote, "Considered separately and outside the Iranian context, the armed actions of the PMOI in the past can seemingly fall under certain definitions of terrorism. But placed within the framework of the Iranian situation, they are acts of war and not acts of terrorism."


Professor David presents a lucid argument, noting that "the Iranian regime can be qualified as one of the greatest violators of human rights; a regime which has executed over 120,000 people, which has imprisoned tens of thousands of persons, which has tortured tens of thousands of persons. It can be said that a regime which implements this type of policy of terror is truly terrorist. Such a regime obviously commits an ongoing aggression against the portion of the population which does not conform to its wishes. And permanent aggression against a portion of the population is indeed an armed conflict in the form of open confrontation, even if it is in the form of simple arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudiciary executions."


Professor David points out that the two criteria for armed conflict - as opposed to terrorism - under International Humanitarian Law, have been met in the case of the PMOI's conflict with the Iranian government, namely an open confrontation in the form of an ongoing aggression on the part of the state against a section of the population, and the existence of a structured organization which assumes responsibility for its actions and which could even be held responsible for any excesses committed in the framework of its actions. He therefore concluded that the PMOI's actions against the Iranian regime were indeed acts of war and must not be labelled as terrorist acts.


I think Professor David's legal opinion is a significant contribution to this debate and is well worth reading.


I wish to report to you some of the consequences that have flowed in Germany from the inclusion of the PMOI in the EU list, because while our discussions here seem to focus mainly on theoretical questions, in Germany we have seen the adverse effects of the blacklisting of the PMOI on the lives of individuals and curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at the heart of Europe.


A case in point was the ban on a demonstration planned by Iranian exiles in Europe on February 10 this year to protest human rights violations in Iran. On January 10, the authorities in Berlin authorized a demonstration at Brandenburg Gate against human rights violations and nuclear weapons programme in Iran. For about a month, the Berlin police discussed the details of the demonstration with the organizers and everything was agreed. Then on the night of 9-10 February, hours before the demonstration was due to begin, the German secret service sent a fax to the Berlin police and at 7:13 am, the German police informed the organizers that the demonstration had been banned. But lawyers acting on behalf of demonstrators immediately sought an injunction from the administrative court of Berlin. A panel of three judges overturned the police ban and allowed the rally by the thousands of Iranians who had come to Berlin from across Europe.


This case showed how secret services intervene directly in the democratic process. But it also demonstrated the dire consequences of the EU blacklisting of the PMOI, which manifested itself, in this case, as a violation of the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of thousands of Iranians and EU citizens.


Another very serious issue is the case of some 30 Iranian political refugees in Germany, whose refugee status is to be withdrawn simply because they are supposed to be members of the PMOI.


Here, therefore, we are not talking only about freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and other fundamental human rights. We are talking about the right to life and the right to be protected from torture, because it is abundantly clear that if such persons have their refugee status annulled and sent back to Iran, they would face certain torture and execution. An expert colleague of mine estimates that several hundred persons in Germany are facing such a fate. In all of these cases, the government's argument is that the PMOI is on the EU terrorism list.


For me, therefore, there is no argument over whether this is a political or legal fight. For us as lawyers, there is an obligation to assist these affected people, to assist these victims of the so-called fight against terrorism. We have no other choice as lawyers, as jurists and as politicians. As my colleague, Mark Muller, said earlier, we are entering a new era and a new world order, the world order of states. So it falls on us to defend the concept of human rights in the face of a single-minded focus on security which, for the moment, seems to dominate not only the UK, not only the European Union, but the whole world.

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