Republican News · Thursday 29 March 2001

[An Phoblacht]

British government extends proscripted groups


The British government has published the list of the organisations it intends to ban under the new Terrorism Bill 2000, the permanent legislation which has replaced the PTA and Emergency Provisions Act.

As well as all the Irish groups originally included in the PTA, the list has been extended to include 21 new, almost exclusively Islamic, groups.

During a shortened debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 13 March, the Home Secretary defended the list of proscribed organisations using the catch-all that it is ``proportionate to the threat the UK faces, and may face, from all forms of terrorism''. The list was voted through last Thursday, 15 March, and its publication has attracted serious opposition, not only from some of the groups themselves, but from several MPs, particularly those working with the Sikh and Iranian communities. During the debate, Straw was evasive, cloaking the undemocratic nature of the Terrorism Act in the language of human rights legislation and repeatedly refusing to answer questions on the grounds of ``security''. He also pointedly refused to disclose which foreign governments had lobbied the British government to close down the political activities of groups opposed to their regimes, even those engaged in entirely lawful and peaceful campaigning.

However, it is known that the Indian government has applied such pressure in respect of the International Sikh Youth Federation and the Iranian Foreign Minister recently told the British government that the `normalisation' of relations between the two countries would be largely conditional on the banning of the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin e Khalq in Britain. Astonishingly, MeK has been proscribed on the grounds that ``it claims to be seeking the establishment of a democratic, socialist Islamic Republic''.

Robin Corbett, speaking in the debate, told Straw that members of the MeK are ``in every sense of the word, the victims of terrorism. They are among the relatives of an estimated 30,000 political prisoners butchered by the regime in Iran in the single year of 1988, and of the estimated 700 people executed under the rule of the so-called reformist President Khatami, and of the 35 political opponents that the regime has murdered abroad.

``During the passage of the Bill that became the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary said that the legislation was aimed at groups in Britain that supported efforts to overthrow democratic regimes abroad, but he made it clear that dissent was a vital part of our democracy. Does he consider the present regime in Tehran to be democratic?''

Jeremy Corbyn told the House of Commons that he was aware that the Indian, Turkish, Sri Lankan Iranian ``and undoubtedly many other governments'' have lobbied the British government in respect of opposition groups, groups which have duly found their way onto the list. ``I also believe'' he continued, ``that all those organisations - surely it is purely coincidence - are also on the State Department list in Washington. I am sure that that is just a coincidence of history and that there is no complicity whatsoever.''

Corbyn pointed out: ``If this legislation had been in place 10 or 15 years ago, the ANC would certainly have been on the list, as would Umkhonto we Sizwe - which was undertaking some forms of military activity in South Africa - and many other organisations from different parts of the world. Had such legislation been in operation in 1945, when the Pan-African Unity Conference was held, every one of the people there would have been arrested for being a terrorist, because they were seeking freedom from the British empire. Later, however, every one of those people became either a Prime Minister, President or Cabinet Minister of one African country or another. Later, without exception, every one of them took tea with the Queen.

``I also ask the Home Secretary to think through the implications... None of us wants violence. The end game to violence and to achieving peace is a political process, giving people and their organisations the political space to argue and debate.''

Speaking of the situation in Sri Lanka, he raised the fact that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are on the list of organisations to be banned, despite currently observing a ceasefire: ``What message are we sending to the Tamil people living in this country, perhaps because they have gained asylum here? We are saying that an organisation that many of them support is to be banned. A similar point can be made in relation to the peace process in Turkey, where the Kurdistan Workers Party is also observing a ceasefire. Surely it would be far more useful to work with international organisations that are attempting to achieve ceasefires and peace than to ban them from operating in this country?''

Under the legislation, groups can technically, through a third party, appeal their inclusion on the list by reference to the De-proscription Appeals Committee, a nominally independent, judicial body. During the debate, however, it was pointed out that such appeals would be fatally hampered at every level because any group appealing would be denied information about the grounds on which it had been proscribed in the first place and so would be unable to mount a proper defence. The matter could subsequently be sent for judicial review, but at that stage the government would almost certainly make use of public interest immunity certificates to keep the relevant information out of the public domain.

During his campaign for the London mayoralty, Ken Livingstone told Irish people in Camden that he felt the act was essential to protect them and other ethnic groups from racist groups like Combat 18. The exclusion of C18 from the Proscribed Organisations List, therefore, has exposed even this flimsiest of defences for such draconian and undemocratic legislation. Given the inclusion on the list of peaceful, democratic groups who are campaigning against despotic regimes abroad, the exclusion of British-based, extreme right-wing groups is even more astonishing.

The list has also thrown up some other strange anomalies; for example, the so-called RIRA is not on the list because, according to Jack Straw, ``I am advised by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Real IRA is covered, as is the Provisional IRA, by the description `the Irish Republican Army'''.

Full List of Proscribed Organisations

  • Irish Republican Army

  • Cumann na mBan

  • Fianna na hÉireann

  • Red Hand Commando

  • Saor Eire

  • Ulster Freedom Fighters

  • Ulster Volunteer Force.

  • Irish National Liberation Army

  • Irish People's Liberation Organisation

  • Ulster Defence Association

  • Loyalist Volunteer Force

  • Continuity Army Council

  • Orange Volunteers.

  • Red Hand Defenders.

  • Al-Qa'ida: inspired by Osama bin Laden

  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad

  • Al-Gama'at al Islamiya: directed primarily at Egyptian government

  • Armed Islamic Group: aimed at Algerian government

  • Salafist Group for Call and Combat: aimed at Algerian government

  • International Sikh Youth Federation

  • Babbar Khalsa: Sikh

  • Harakat Mujahideen: Kashmiri

  • Jaish e Mohammed: Kashmiri

  • Lashkar e Tayyaba: Kashmiri

  • Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: directed at Sri Lankan government

  • Hezbollah External Security Organisation: Palestinian

  • Hamas Izz al-Bin al-Qassem Brigades: Palestinian

  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

  • Abu Nidal Organisation: Palestinian

  • Islamic Army of Aden

  • Mujaheddin e Khalq: Iranian

  • Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)

  • Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front:Turkish

  • Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA)

  • 17 November Revolutionary Organisation: Greek

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