Germany debates counter-terrorism legislation after the Berlin attack

In the aftermath of the December 19 truck rampage committed by jihadist Anis Amri at a Berlin Christmas market, the German public debate has shifted to the policy and security lessons to be drawn from the attack. Given the Tunisian nationality of the attacker, discussions have focused on immigration law and on administrative counter-terrorism measures.

New security prerogatives proposed

Politicians from the conservative CSU party have been at the forefront of demands for increased competencies for the security services. In a policy paper, the CSU leadership most notably called for an expansion of administrative detention.

For the CSU, being identified by the intelligence services as an individual likely to threaten public safety because of suspected terrorist intentions (i.e. being identified as a Gefährder or ‘endangerer’ in German politico-legal parlance) is to be sufficient for an individual to be placed in administrative detention. Moreover, in the case of foreigners awaiting deportation, the period of custody prior to expulsion is to be prolonged from four days to four weeks.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/sicherheitsgesetze-bericht-ueber-umfassenden.1947.de.html?drn:news_id=692879 ))

Finally, the CSU proposes to curb the usage of the more lenient juvenile penal law for terrorist offenders under the age of 21, to allow counter-terrorism intelligence operations against suspects as young as the age of 14, and to monitor the movements of convicted extremists even after their release from prison through electronic ankle bracelets.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/sicherheitsgesetze-bericht-ueber-umfassenden.1947.de.html?drn:news_id=692879 ))

Effectiveness of policy initiatives

The moment for the CSU’s initiative is opportune: not only has the attack on the Christmas market shaken the German public; the effectiveness of expansive surveillance also appeared to be on ample display when a group of young men from Syria and Libya were caught on camera while trying to set on fire a homeless man sleeping in a Berlin metro station.

The men turned themselves in when crystal-clear CCTV images showing their faces were released to the public. Citing this example as an ostentatious success story, the CSU has demanded a drastic expansion of video surveillance of public spaces in the aftermath of the Christmas market attack.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-12/berlin-polizei-fahndet-ubahn-obdachloser-angezuendet ))

A spokesman of the German lawyer’s association, Swen Walentowski observed, however, that “video surveillance does not lead to greater security. There are completely false and exaggerated expectations of video surveillance. […] [A] terrorist would never be deterred by a video camera mounted on some lamp post.”(( http://www.heute.de/csu-papier-fuer-schaerfere-sicherheitsgesetze-partei-setzt-auf-gunst-der-stunde-46201116.html ))

Investigative blunders in the run-up to the attack

Walentowski’s comments highlight the fact that the effectiveness of a number of the currently flouted counter-terrorism proposals is questionable. Indeed, in retrospect Anis Amri’s journey through Europe was hardly a smooth one, and the Tunisian did little to conceal his jihadist ambitions. European security services failed to use existing legal provisions that would have allowed them to curb the terrorist threat posed by Amri.

Having left Tunisia after the country’s revolution, Amri lived in Italy for years and had repeated brushes with the law in the country, spending time in Italian jails. Yet although mandatory on paper, the exchange of information between German and Italian security services appears to have been highly deficient, meaning that Amri could start a new life after his arrival in Germany in summer 2015.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/anis-amri-und-der-anschlag-in-berlin-versaeumnisse-im-anti-terror-kampf-a-1127376.html ))

Subsequently, Amri established contacts to the hardline preacher Abu Walaa, dubbed the informal leader of the Islamic State organisation (ISIL) in Germany. The Abu Walaa network attempted to help Amri to travel to Syria. Amri also repeatedly discussed plans for a potential attack with leading figures in the preacher’s group.(( http://www.dw.com/de/anis-amri-abu-walaa-und-die-salafisten/a-36879648 ))

Slipping under the radar

Authorities had collected extensive material on Amri’s activities. Amri’s file at the domestic intelligence agency was updated only a few days before the December 19 attack, and included his aliases, his contact persons and addresses, details of his arrest in Italy, and his activities as a courier in the Abu Walaa network. It noted, too, Amri’s willingness to work as a suicide operator and his interest in building a bomb.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/anschlag-berlin-amri-101.html ))

Abu Walaa himself, as well as some of his most important associates, were arrested in early November 2016. Yet intelligence services ceased their efforts to monitor Amri in summer 2016. Shortly before, an attempt to deport Amri back to Tunisia had failed: although his demand for asylum had been rejected, Tunisia refused to issue travel documents and to readmit Amri.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/anis-amri-und-der-anschlag-in-berlin-versaeumnisse-im-anti-terror-kampf-a-1127376.html ))

To be sure, with numbers of suspected ISIL sympathisers being relatively large, German and European intelligence services will not be able to effectively monitor every single potential attacker. Rule of law and high standards of accountability can also be encumber investigations against terror suspects. The Amri case nevertheless appears to show a series of mishaps on the part of authorities. Tough questions must be asked as to why Amri was allowed to slip under the radar.

Failures to make use of existing legal provisions

When dealing with Amri, intelligence and security services had a range of tools at their disposal which they only used haphazardly. These include cooperation and information exchange with other agencies in the European abroad, as well as a number of domestic measures.

Perhaps most notably, Amri’s freedom of movement could have been restricted, thereby hampering his ability to integrate into the German jihadist network in Hanover and to commit an attack in Berlin – both places far from his home in North-Rhine Westphalia. The German Residence Act enables local authorities to require suspect or dangerous asylum-seekers who have had their demands for refugee status rejected to remain within a certain area and to report to the local police.

If the individual violates these requirements, he or she is placed in detention. Significantly, Amri did run into police controls when he was travelling through the country several hundreds of kilometres away from his home. At this point, he could have been arrested and detained had such a residence requirement been in force.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/anis-amri-und-der-anschlag-in-berlin-versaeumnisse-im-anti-terror-kampf-a-1127376.html ))

Legislative fever

Yet none of these measures were taken – in spite of authorities’ awareness of Amri’s jihadist activities. Instead, the young man travelled frequently and freely across Germany, keeping in touch with his contacts from the radical scene and scouting potential places for attacks. The failure to stop Amri is thus less due to inadequate legal provisions than to a faulty assessment of the threat Amri posed.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/anschlag-berlin-amri-101.html ))

Consequently, the Green Party security spokesman, Konstantin von Notz, accused the governing parties of voicing expansive demands for new laws in order to detract from their failings in implementing existing legal provisions.(( http://www.heute.de/csu-papier-fuer-schaerfere-sicherheitsgesetze-partei-setzt-auf-gunst-der-stunde-46201116.html ))

Following the events of December 19, Germany is currently undergoing the familiar legislative fever that appears to be the inevitable consequence of a terrorist attack. While it may be necessary to amend or alter selected legal provisions, the rushed introduction of sweeping new counter-terrorism laws does not respond to the genuine shortcomings in the German and European counter-terrorism framework that the Christmas market attack has revealed.

Terrorism: Valls and Urvoas definitively exclude detention centers

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2016/06/15/terrorisme-valls-urvoas-centres-retention-_n_10474368.html

 

June 15, 2016

French authorities have ruled out creating Guantanamo Bay-style detention centers for suspected Islamic radicals, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday. The announcement comes as the nation contends with a growing domestic terror problem, particularly in the wake of a fatal stabbing of two Paris-area police officers Monday night.

 

“Our first weapon is criminal law, and it is the legitimacy of the rule of law: to pursue, detain and put out of harm’s way all those who engage in these [jihadist] networks,” Valls said. “[It is] dangerous to confuse measures of surveillance with those of confinement,” he added.

 

Valls’ statement comes just two days after a French police officer and his partner, who also worked for law enforcement, were stabbed to death at their home west of Paris. They are survived by their 3-year-old son. The perpetrator of the murders had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group terrorist organization.

 

France had been considering the idea of creating detention centers — dubbed “French Guantanamos” — for people who are suspected of being potential terrorists or are being monitored by intelligence officials. More than 10,000 people throughout the country are categorized as “Fiche S,” or a potential security threat. Their offenses range from banditry all the way to terrorism, and not all are being actively monitored by intelligence officials.

 

The system has faced criticism, particularly after coordinated terror attacks in November killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in Paris. Those attacks came just three months after a foiled attack on a high-speed train and 10 months after a pair of ISIS-inspired brothers stormed the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.

A system of detention for suspected Islamic radicals already exists in several French prisons. A few dozen of the most radical prisoners are determined by using a set of questions, and they are then confined with each other with the goal of preventing their philosophies from spreading. That system has faced much scrutiny as well, with critics arguing that it only facilitates communication among would-be jihadists.

 

Minnesota’s Somali-Americans Urge New Treatment for Would-Be Terrorists

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge ordered three young men accused of plotting to travel to Syriato fight for the Islamic State kept in detention while awaiting trial, at least for now. That decision came after the defense argued that entrusting the men immediately to their families and Somali-American leaders was the best way to insulate them from radical Islam.

But United States District Judge Michael J. Davis, in a shift from what other federal judges have done in similar cases involving young people accused of being Islamic State recruits, signaled a willingness to revisit his decision in the coming months.  “This is way too important for us to treat it as a regular criminal case,” Judge Davis said at the end of the third hearing. “It has a dynamic to it that we have to address, and hopefully we can.”

But some Muslim leaders here are trying to make a different case: that the best way to push young people away from militant Islamic groups is to keep them engaged with their community, with responsible clerics and their relatives.  Such an approach, they say, would be a humane counterpoint to the terrorist narrative that the American justice system is anti-Muslim and strictly punitive.

Osman Ahmed, a Somali-American businessman. His nephew died after joining Al Shabaad. (Angela Jimenez for the NY Times)
Osman Ahmed, a Somali-American businessman. His nephew died after joining Al Shabaad. (Angela Jimenez for the NY Times)

Officer criticizes prison’s Terrorism Department

Dutch Public Prosecution Service criticizes the strict manner jihad-suspects are being held in detention. Public prosecutor and coördinator counter-terrorism Bart den Hartigh tells that they are are not in favour of the treatment the inmates receive, but they do not determine the rules. The responsibility lies with the Dutch Custodial Institutions, a department of the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Suspects’ attorneys call the way the suspects are treated a form of paranoia, that instead of preventing terrorism, creates a extremist ideology. Examples of this treatment are: visitation of the private areas, staying 23 hours a day in cell and very restrictive contact with the outside world. But those treatments are not legitimate.

According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Security and Justice the suspects’ complaints are exaggerated. ‘And it’s not a surprise they present themselves as victims’.

Last British Guantanamo prisoner pens powerful letter on twelfth anniversary of detention


February 14, 2014

 

The last remaining British prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay has penned a powerful letter to mark Valentine’s Day – the twelfth anniversary of his detention. Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial since his arrest in Afghanistan in November 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on 14 February 2002 where has been held since – despite being cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 and again by the Obama administration in 2009.

Conveying the desperation felt by prisoners at the US military run camp in Cuba, he wrote: “How do I feel with another year of my life gone unjustly and another year started? Truly, I feel numb. I can’t even think about it. Years are passing like months and months like weeks. Weeks pass like days and days like hours. Hours feel like minutes, minutes seconds, and seconds pass like years. And it goes around in a strange circle that makes no sense. It all takes an age, and yet an age of my life seems to pass too fast. On and on and on. Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest

Mr Aamer, who is currently on hunger strike, added: “I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die. I am confused about everything and everyone. It is not enough for them to leave us alone with all this pain we are suffering. It is not enough for us to live only with our memories, which bring more pain.”

He also captured some of the alleged mistreatment and humiliation the 160 current inmates suffer in the prison. He describes how ‘the National Anthem is playing so loudly’ at his time of writing and how a fellow inmate consistently misses his legal call because of the full body search he is threated with by the guards. Shaker Aamer: ‘I may have to die. I hope not. I want to see my family again’

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/last-british-guantanamo-prisoner-pens-powerful-letter-on-twelfth-anniversary-of-detention-9129745.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/shaker-aamer-i-may-have-to-die-i-hope-not-i-want-to-see-my-family-again-8581966.html

Islam, the Milanese Judges in the Abu Omar Case: “Extremists Cultivated in Viale Jenner”

January 15, 2014

 

The written judgment that sentenced Abu Omar to six years in prison for international terrorism explained that the sentence was greatly reduced due to unlawful seizure by the CIA and Omar’s subsequent unlawful detention.

For at least two years, between 2001 and 2003, in the mosques of Milan’s Viale Jenner and Via Quaranta Omar, the imam, would instruct his flock to sacrifice themselves in the “battle” of “all Muslims against all non-Muslims ” or Jihad which involves the duty to “kill people.” The spiritual guide was “one of the main nodes in Lombardy to the “terrorist group Ansar al- Islam, also linked to Osama bin Laden.“On 17 February 2003, Abu Omar, of Egyptian origin, was illegally seized through “extraordinary rendition” in Milan by the CIA and taken to Egypt, where he was also tortured.

THE INVESTIGATION The imam kidnapped by the CIA Abu Omar was sentenced to six years in jail for international terrorism, on the one hand there are dozens and dozens of pages of wiretaps and documents proving that the former imam recruited “soldiers” in Milan who were ready for “martyrdom” in Kurdistan and on the other hand the imam was unlawfully abducted by 007 Americans. According to the indictment, the CIA was given the green light by SISMI, the Italian military secret service.

According to the preliminary hearing judge Stefania Milan Donadeo, although Abu Omar does not deserve the “extenuating circumstances given the seriousness of the facts” and his ” dangerousness,” and in “accordance with Article 133 of the Penal Code, the court had to take into account the illegitimate detention suffered.” The kidnapping of former imams has been brought to light in 33 convictions.

The sentence for Abu Omar, who was brought to trial in absentia (he is still in Egypt) by deputy prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli, came almost 11 years after his abduction. Before being seized, the former imam had already been under investigation for international terrorism by Digos , coordinated by the anti-terrorism PMs Armando Spataro and Ferdinando Pomarici . According to the indictment, between 2001 and 2003 he was a member, along with 13 other foreigners, of an association, which had “the purpose of committing acts of violence for the purposes of terrorism in Italy and abroad.”

 

La Repubblica: http://milano.repubblica.it/cronaca/2014/01/15/news/islam_i_giudici_milanesi_su_abu_omar_cos_formava_martiri_in_viale_jenner-76042412/

Guantanamo Bay detainees’ frustrations simmering, lawyers and others say

Tensions between detainees and the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have spiked in recent weeks, with a hunger strike at one of the camps reflecting growing despair that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to repatriate prisoners cleared for release, according to defense lawyers and other people with access to information about detention operations.

A majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay are housed in Camp 6, a facility that until recently held men the military deemed “compliant.” But the camp, where cell doors are left open so detainees can live communally, has been at the center of a series of escalating protests since January.

The lawyers and human rights advocates said there is a mass hunger strike at Camp 6 that is threatening the health and life of a number of detainees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they said they have received “alarming reports” that men have lost “over 20 and 30 pounds” and that “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”

A military official said 14 detainees are on hunger strikes and six of them are being force fed. Others have been refusing meals but eating non-perishable food stashed in their cells, officials said.

In a statement, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said “claims of a mass hunger strike . . . are simply untrue.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside organization allowed unrestricted visits to the camps, said it visited Guantanamo from Feb. 18 to 23 and “is aware of the tensions at the detention facility.”

Britain Releases Radical Cleric Abu Qatada

13./14./15.02.2012

Last Monday, Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist (and, what is more, figurehead) and who is thought to pose a serious risk to the UK’s national security, was released from jail after bail was granted by a London judge the week before. Qatata, who spent the last six-and-a-half years in detention in the UK, was released under some of the toughest bail conditions imposed since 9/11.

 

Qatada, who has never been formally charged with a crime in the UK, was in an out of jail since 2002, when he was detained under the anti-terrorism laws that – at the time – allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge. Authorities had accused him of advising militants and raising money for terrorist attacks. However, when the unpopular anti-terrorism law was overturned in 2005, Qatada was released from prison – but kept under surveillance. He was arrested again a few months later and help pending deportation to Jordan. Yet, plans to deport him were halted by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The European judges ruled that he could not be deported without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would be be used against him. The same Court ruled last week that Qatada’s detention without charge was unlawful – which led him to apply for bail.

 

Under the terms of his release, Qatada must obey a 22-hour curfew and wear an electronic tag; he is only allowed outside his London home in a prescribed area for two one-hour periods a day. Furthermore, he is banned from using the phone or the internet and must not communicate with a long list of people, including al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and radical cleric Abu Hamza. The bail terms also banned him from leading prayers, giving lectures and preaching. In addition to these conditions, 60 police officers and MI5 agents provide 24/7 “protection” for Qatada, which costs around £10,000 a week. Amongst other, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson said it was “eccentric” to have so many offiers on duty to guard Abu Qatada. Johnson said it would be a good thing if he was put on trial as soon as possible. The Government stressed that they were considering “all the options” for removing Qatada from the country at the earliest opportunity. As he was still a national security risk, he should especially be deported before the Olympic Games in London in July/ August.

Accusations of Racism as Turkish Man Dies in Dutch Detention Cell

8 July 2011

 

Family and friends of a 22 year old Turkish man found dead in his detention cell in the Netherlands are accusing police of brutality. Dutch officials claim the young man died of a heart attack. The man was arrested in Beverwijk after a fight with a bistro owner regarding use of the restrooms. He was detained by police using physical force after attempting to resist, and was found dead 12 hours after being taken to custody. Arif Yakisir, head of the Federation of Turkish Islamic Culture Associations commented that the organization would send a letter of condemnation to the police department and the Ministry of the Interior. Mehmet Yaramis of the Islamic Federation of the Netherlands commented that racism was involved in the incident.

 

Supreme Court: Ashcroft not liable in detention of American Muslim post-9/11

Former attorney general John D. Ashcroft cannot be sued for his role in detaining an American Muslim, even though the government did not charge the man with a crime or bring him as a witness in a terrorism investigation, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

By a 5-3 vote Tuesday, the court said Ashcroft did not violate the constitutional rights of Abdullah al-Kidd, who was arrested in 2003 under a federal law intended to make sure witnesses testify in criminal proceedings.
Justice Antonin Scalia said using the federal “material witness” statute to detain but not charge Abdullah al-Kidd in a terrorism investigation does not give al-Kidd a right to sue, because no court precedent had said such a use of the law was unlawful.

“Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions,” Scalia wrote. “When properly applied it protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.

“Ashcroft deserves neither label.”

Kidd has reached a settlement with the government for his treatment in detention. Ginsburg noted that the use of falsehoods and misrepresentations could negate any claim of immunity on the part of the federal agents, whom Kidd has sued in a separate case.