"Arbitrary" EU anti-terrorist laws tested by Swedish Young Left
01 September 2002
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 list.
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 raised (£200 / 300 euros) 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" (2).
Mattias Håkansson, a Swedish journalist, 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. Mr. Kruse 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 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 Decisi