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Lord Marsh: My Lords, the noble Lord has started off on a false premise. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest that everyone who is opposed to the order is ipso facto in favour of terrorism. The noble Lord knows that that is unfair nonsense.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me, but the tone of his remarks was such as to suggest that anyone who dared to question the sagacity and wisdom of the committee to which he referred, which comprised very distinguished people, is in some way complicit in collaborating with the upholding of terrorism in this country or overseas. I entirely dispute that, as I dispute the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, who spoke in a similar vein, suggesting that anyone who supports the Mujaheddin or the Council for Resistance in Iran is somehow a closet Marxist or Leninist. That was one of his throwaway lines.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I shall come to those arguments in a moment. The noble Lord should read the remarks of Elizabeth Sidney, the chair of the International Network of Liberal Women. I had the pleasure of working with her when I was a member of the noble Lord's party. She is a most distinguished woman who is hardly the supporter of revolutionaries worldwide. Last week, she said:
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, the noble Lord has twice inferred from what I said some slur on those in this House who support the Mujaheddin--namely, that they are Marxist-Leninists. I made a simple factual remark that the Mujaheddin has Marxist-Leninist-Islamist roots. If he can deduce from that any such slur, he is a better man than I am.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble Lord will accept that some Members of your Lordships' House were once members of the British Communist Party. I suppose that they could be caricatured as having Marxist-Leninist roots. I refer the noble Lord to the correspondence that your Lordships have received, as I have, from a number of Iranian organisations in this country. These are respectable groups who have been accepted here under our asylum and immigration rules. They have stated clearly that they are not involved in any terrorist activities and we have accepted that by allowing them to reside in the United Kingdom. The Anglo Iranian Community in Greater London states:
It is significant that the US State Department lists the Iranian Government alongside the governments of countries such as Iraq and Libya as those that are most likely to be involved in acts of state-inspired terrorism. We seem to have some confusion about who are the perpetrators of terrorism and who has been resisting it. Would we have proscribed the French resistance during the Second World War? That is the sort of parallel that we should draw. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, mentioned Nelson Mandela. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will recall that 20 years ago he and I visited Beirut and met members of the Palestinian resistance, including Yasser Arafat. We should think about people such as Menachem Begin or Eamon de Valera. The examples could go on and on.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I have just mentioned Menachem Begin. At the time of the blowing up of the King David Hotel 50 years ago, he was placed on the proscribed list and regarded as a state terrorist. We acquire a different view with the passage of time. I suspect that we shall also have a different view of the Mujaheddin in the fullness of time.
I also refer your Lordships to the lucid and powerful speech made by Robin Corbett on 13th March in another place. He, of course, is the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee--not someone who will easily be taken in by an organisation run by terrorists masquerading under another name.
So far as concerns the noble and learned Lord, it is 20 years since he and I dealt with Northern Ireland matters in another place--he from the Opposition Front Bench. On regular occasions I was happy to support many of the speeches that he made. I believe that he took a clear, unequivocal line against terrorism. There are no lovers of terrorism in the Chamber today, but there are many who uphold the principle of free speech. Many of us believe that it is vitally important that we recognise the nature of the regime with which we are dealing.
Six or seven years ago, I took up the cases of two Christian leaders in Iran--Medi Dibaj and Bishop Haik--both of whom were executed. Interestingly, at that time the regime tried to lay the blame at the door of the Iranian resistance. Last year, it emerged in its official propaganda that the regime now accepts that it was the regime's agents who took the lives of those two clergymen.
Therefore, the dark process that has been taking place inside Iran is not a simple or easy one. It is not one which we should be misled into believing will be easily resolved, and certainly not by acts of violence. In that respect, I agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. We all want to see, wherever possible, a peaceful transition and the emergence of true democracy.
I believe that all the indications show that Iran is on the brink of change. Almost four years have passed since Mohammad Khatami became the president. He came then with the promise of reform. Western governments, eager perhaps, as the students suggested in their letter, to have more trade with Tehran, embarked upon a more conciliatory approach towards the mullahs' regime.
Four years later, reform and change within the clerical establishment in Iran have proved to be no more than an illusion. That is not strange because Khatami himself is part of that clerical regime, responsible for the atrocities committed over the past two decades. In 1988, he supported the massacres of 30,000 political prisoners. Not once has he publicly criticised the regime's conduct in such atrocities. However, he has repeatedly expressed allegiance to his mentor, Khomeini, and the current spiritual leader, Khamenei. Not long ago, he said--the noble and learned Lord referred to this during his opening remarks--that there is no talk in Tehran of changing the constitution. In fact, he said:
British foreign policy is not well served by hitching it to that kind of tarnished star. Khatami had four years in which to bring about change, but he chose not to do so. He wants cosmetic change and not real reform. He knows better than anyone else that moving in that direction will jeopardise the survival of the theocratic regime.
No longer can anyone deny that Khatami has failed and that the people of Iran are continuing to demand change. Over the past year, through dozens of anti-government demonstrations across the country, they have clearly stated that demand. They want to establish a new system which will respect human rights; a system that will guarantee a free and fair election; and a government who will recognise the rights of women and respect the rights of religious and national minorities. Those people have no doubt that the present regime is not the one to do that.
However, it seems that the cry of the Iranian people is currently falling on deaf ears; or perhaps we are listening too much to the mullahs and to their apologists in this constructive engagement so that we do not hear what the people themselves are saying. I believe that the decision by the Home Secretary to proscribe the Mujaheddin is a clear example that we are siding with the mullahs instead of with the people.
I have been following the situation in Iran for some 20 years. It was as a young Member of another place that I organised a meeting on behalf of the resistance 20 years ago at my then party's conference. Indeed, I organised a meeting for them at each and every subsequent conference, even while I was that party's then Chief Whip. Therefore, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who mentioned the meetings that have been held at Labour Party conferences over the years, I also ask whether in the future such gatherings will be legal or whether they will be proscribed under these orders. Will it mean that even at party political conferences it will not be possible to hear the voices of people who resist that regime? It is quite extraordinary that we should have created such a situation.
Therefore, I was very disturbed to see that the Home Secretary had included that organisation in the list. I am in no doubt that the decision has nothing to do with terrorism but that it is a political decision. It is a sad day for our democracy. Values that we have upheld for decades and even centuries are being violated. Defending the Mujaheddin in this case is defending not only the right of Iranian people to resist; it is defending our own values. It is defending the most fundamental rights of human beings: the right to freedom of expression; the right to freedom of assembly; and the right to freedom of association.
Thank God that we do not have the death penalty, although I believe that it is gratuitous to compare capital punishment, which I oppose, in the United States with the type of public executions which the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, rightly reminded us of during his excellent contribution earlier. None the less, the Government are saying to those people, "If you express your views, you will be imprisoned". The families of many Iranians in the United Kingdom have been executed in Iran for being a member of the Mujaheddin. I wonder whether they will be able to hold, for example, a memorial in the future for their beloved ones or whether that, too, would be considered as support for the Mujaheddin.
I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lord Colville, who earlier asked the Minister directly--I hope that he will reply later when he replies to this debate--whether or not the information to which he has been privy will be made available to the Court of Appeal if and when this matter finally comes to rest there.
Four years ago we were told that the new government here would follow an ethical policy in foreign affairs. Today we are confronted with what I consider to be a most unethical policy. For economic or whatever reasons, we have given in to the demands of a brutal regime. How can we justify holding a dialogue with those who stone their own people and yet accuse their victims as terrorists? How can we talk of an ethical policy, yet take sides with the oppressors and not with the victims?
I end by trying to set out my view clearly. I believe that our Government are making a serious mistake. Proscribing the Mujaheddin is not only wrong morally and unethical; it is also unwise from a hard-headed, political point of view. The mullahs' regime is in real trouble and the people of Iran have made it absolutely clear that they want an end to the present dictatorship. Therefore, I believe that this Government are betting on the wrong horse. I have said it before and I stress again that the solution for Iran is democratisation. In that respect, the NCR is the force that cannot be ignored in the current situation in Iran. I believe that we would be wise to support the amendment laid before the House tonight by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, perhaps I may make the shortest speech in the debate tonight and refer to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I well understand the reasons which motivate the noble Lord in seeking to delineate the different varieties of IRA. However, I have some reservations.
Moving away from the generic IRA label and specifying the varieties may be counter-productive to his aims. I believe that it would merely tempt the growth of further adjectival innovations, such as the "Artificial IRA", the "Episodic IRA", and so on. It is better simply to proscribe the IRA per se as it is at present in the schedule to the Act. That is the best way in which to deal with these particular terrorist groups.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I shall make only a short contribution. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, mentioned the meeting that was held this morning in Committee Room 3, organised by Liberation. It was attended by members of a number of the 21 organisations, and they discussed the order that we are debating tonight. It was an extremely well ordered meeting and the contributions were constructive. It was also extremely colourful because people came in their traditional dress. There were Sikhs, Kurds, Kashmiri, Tamils and Iranians, to name but a few. It did not appear to me at all that I was in the presence of terrorists.
The question that first springs to mind is: why introduce the order at this time? So far as I can discover, there has been no particular escalation of acts of terrorism during the past few months, and none of the proscribed organisations has committed illegal acts in the United Kingdom. There is little evidence that any of the organisations plotted their acts of violence in the UK. Perhaps my noble friend has other evidence; if he does, it would be nice if he could share it with us.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, discussed much more eloquently than I could the problems associated with secretly held information. As my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and other noble Lords pointed out, most members of those organisations who live in the UK are refugees and had to leave their countries precisely because of their membership of one or other of the 21 organisations in the order. They had to leave not because they had committed acts of terrorism but simply because they were members of an organisation. It is somewhat ironic that they should face prosecution for the same reason for which they were granted, or applied for, asylum in the first place.
The listed organisation with which I am most familiar is the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is based in Turkey and which is often criticised. I am puzzled by its current inclusion because, for the past two-and-a-half years--well before its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in Kenya--the PKK has declared a ceasefire. Previous ceasefires before that period broke down not because the PKK violated them but because the Turkish Government took no notice and continued their military operation against the Kurdish population in south-east Turkey. Even now, Turkey is illegally and relentlessly pursuing members or supporters of the PKK who are sheltering in Iraq. The Turks are destroying the villages of Kurds who give those members or supporters shelter. That is done with the connivance of ourselves and the United
The PKK has clearly declared its intention to pursue its aims by political means. To proscribe it now, when it was not proscribed in this country during the period in which it engaged in armed resistance--it was tolerated by the previous government--is extremely odd to say the least. Perhaps my noble friend will explain why the Government choose to proscribe the PKK now. Is it perhaps--perish the thought--in order to please or placate the Turkish Government at their request in return for allowing our aircraft to use Turkish air force facilities at Incirlik? We used that as a base in our efforts against Iraq.
My noble friend can expect busy legal moves for "de-proscription" from the PKK and other organisations. I expect that the courts and the legal profession will have plenty of extra work as a result of the order.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I have waited until almost the end of this debate before contributing because it is regarded almost as an irritant to speak about terrorism in Northern Ireland. Speeches have been delivered with great passion and solemnity about terrorism or alleged terrorists in far outposts of the world.
I recall vividly that in August 1998, a few days after the Omagh bombing, the House met in sombre mood. I recall the speeches that were made then about the atrocity that had been carried out by the Real IRA. I recall that it was said that we would leave no stone unturned until we had apprehended those people and that we would use every endeavour to bring them to justice. The pages of Hansard are littered with such proclamations. Yet today the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, made a simple request for the three organisations that are mentioned in his amendment to be included in the order.
We have heard today about atrocities that were carried out by the Iranian Government and about other activities that are alleged to have been carried out by other terrorist organisations. All last week and all this week, the national newspapers in Belfast have been reporting daily that someone has been murdered by one of the organisations or kneecapped by them and left disabled for the rest of their lives.
As to far-away places, I am inclined to think of Czechoslovakia just before the last war. However, we can do something about the situation in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Although we express our concerns and disappointment about what is happening in other far-away countries, we have the ability to take whatever steps are necessary to inhibit the organisations that are mentioned in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, mentioned the fact that the Continuity IRA held a meeting in a pub in north London because it was collecting money for its organisation, which is allegedly an illegal organisation. The person who led that collection effort was none other than one of the Price sisters, who were convicted of murder in what is known in Northern Ireland as the Old Bailey bombing. Someone convicted of murder for an IRA terrorist offence in 1971 can now walk freely in London and support an organisation--the Continuity IRA--which is in open war with the Government.
When we say anything about the Provisional IRA, others say, "They are observing a ceasefire and are not murdering policemen or soldiers or carrying out major explosions in Northern Ireland or in this country. Don't be too critical of them because that may in some way harm the peace process". We hear repeatedly--I listened to it all weekend--"Do not say anything about the Provisional IRA members because they are on a cease-fire". That is the wrong attitude. We should continue to harass all sections of the IRA, whether it be the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA. Those people are still engaged in terrorist activities, not against the Army or the police on this occasion, but against ordinary members of the community, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. In that respect I cannot see any justification for the Government not accepting the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, supports the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on the proscription of certain organisations not mentioned in the schedule. But he will agree with me that the reason why nobody was prosecuted for the Omagh bombing has nothing to do with proscription and that the experience we have had with proscription in the past in Northern Ireland shows that it does not necessarily help to catch the criminals who perpetrate terrorist acts. The Omagh bombing is a good example of the difficulty we face;
The same may be true of the other organisations listed in the order. We are satisfying ourselves that we are combating international terrorism, but we may not be doing a great deal to put the perpetrators behind bars. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, put his finger on it when he said that the trouble is that we have been friendly with a great many people in the past who have attended our party conferences. We are suddenly criminalising them and do not know how that can happen with people we know are not terrorists.
The fact is that any armed opposition group or anybody who supports an armed opposition group in whatever country in the world is ipso facto a terrorist. That is what the definition in Article 1 says. It was pointed out that if the order had been in force at the time, it would have caught people like Nelson Mandela of the ANC; it would have applied to the opposition parties which contested the Zimbabwe elections after the Lancaster House conference in 1980, and to Fretilin in East Timor after 1975. So the examples given could be multiplied almost indefinitely.
The West has not always taken such a rigid stance against armed oppositions in other countries combating repressive regimes. At one time the United States backed UNITA in Angola. Of course the outstanding example which we live to regret is the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. President Bush senior tried to persuade the Shi'a of Iraq to rise against Saddam in 1991 after operation Desert Storm. So there are plenty of examples in the recent past where states and our own governments have supported armed oppositions which are fighting repressive regimes.
The UN General Assembly repeatedly recognised that peoples under colonial or alien domination have the right to struggle and to seek and receive support in the exercise of their right to self-determination. It ruled that the use of armed force in those circumstances fell outside its definition of aggression. If we had been more careful to uphold the principles of international law, we ought at least to have excluded those cases from the definition. If that much is accepted, should we not at least have required the Secretary of State to consider whether, in each of the 21 cases listed here, the organisation could have sought its objectives peacefully through the political system in the state concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned the PKK. The Kurds in Turkey had no chance, as a minority, to exercise the rights laid down in the OSCE's Copenhagen declaration because, as your Lordships are aware, the Turks do not admit the existence of any minorities other than those mentioned specifically in the Lausanne treaty of 1923--the handful of Christians who remained in the country at that time.
The People's Mujaheddin of Iran cannot pursue its goal of a secular democratic state by peaceful means when the supremacy of the religious leader is the fundamental principle of the Islamic revolution and anybody rash enough to question that idea is a criminal. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned, the president himself said that that person is guilty of treason and 30,000 of the members of that organisation were slaughtered in cold blood in 1988 on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. Many other opponents of the regime like Dr Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah's last prime minister, and Dariush Forouhar, a distinguished political peaceful activist, have been murdered by the agents of the mullahs.
On the other hand, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, like other Tamil political parties, could have worked through the political system. There is on offer in that state a substantial devolution package which gives wide powers of self-government, or would do, to a Tamil-elected agency in the majority areas which are generously defined. Whatever the faults may be of that scheme, once the government recognised the need for a kind of home rule, there was no excuse for continuing to use the gun.
None of those considerations affected the mind of the Home Secretary in deciding how to pick the 21 organisations with which we are dealing out of the many thousands which satisfy the Act's definition. He said that the factors he took into account, which were repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, were the nature and scale of the organisation's activities; the specific threat it posed to the UK; the specific threat it posed to British nationals overseas; the extent of the organisation's presence in the UK and the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism.
If one looks at the list and the helpful notes provided by the Minister, 11 of the 21 organisations have no overt presence in the UK or only one or two members who are being held already on extradition warrants. Those bodies are therefore untouched by the proscription and their inclusion seems to be a political gesture with no meaning--what the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, called a "badge of disapproval". For instance, the November 17 organisation is undoubtedly a vicious murder gang responsible for the killing of the British defence attache, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, in Athens in June last year. But it has operated entirely in Greece. We cannot any longer send the navy, as we did in the days of Don Pacifico and civis Romanus sum; but we can strike fear into the hearts of those who attack our citizens by putting them on a list.
On that principle we should have proscribed a great many other organisations, such as the FARC in Colombia, a faction of rebels in Chechnya which was guilty of kidnapping and murdering British citizens, and the former junta of Pinochet in Chile and the Indonesian army, which murdered two British citizens in 1975. All those have wilfully killed British civilians.
As regards fundraising, people do not go round saying that they want money for explosives and firearms. As the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, remarked, we do not see terrorists with placards saying, "Poor terrorist, RPG and two kalashnikovs to support". They operate under the guise of charities. Even the LTTE, which has its international secretariat in the UK, operates through front organisations which are ostensibly for the relief of hardship and suffering in the north and east of Sri Lanka. The Charity Commission is already seized of that matter. It is looking actively at one body, the Tamil rehabilitation organisation, and scrutinising two others.
The Charity Commission needs to be even more active in its inquiries into bodies which claim to be charitable where there are grounds for suspicion that their funds are being diverted into terrorism. But that will not be achieved under this order. In the case of the International Sikh Youth Federation, which has been mentioned, the Home Office states that it provides a base for fundraising. That implies to me that it does not itself raise money for terrorism. It would be useful to know how the Minister thinks it operates. The ISYF has vigorously denied to a number of your Lordships that it has anything to do with terrorism. Looking at its published objects, it is entirely peaceful. It points out that a prominent member was awarded the OBE. As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, remarked, the president of the organisation met the Prime Minister, as did other senior members, on an occasion on which it celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Sikh nation. The fact that two members of that organisation were found to be a threat to national security--though for other reasons they were not deported to India, as the note states--poses two questions in my mind.
First, where any organisation has peaceful objectives but some of its members have engaged in violence, is it terrorist? If so, why do we make the distinction in Ireland between Sinn Fein, whose objectives are political but some of whose members have committed acts of terrorism, and the IRA, which is avowedly terrorist? Secondly, as has been mentioned by a number of your Lordships, what is our policy now concerning the people who have been given asylum here, partly on the basis of membership of or having links with one of the organisations on the list? Do those people automatically commit an offence immediately the order comes into effect, or would they have to renew their "subs" before they could be charged? The practice is that none of the bodies listed would have a formal record of membership. However, they have large numbers of supporters who take political action in support of their objectives. That is
Finally, I endorse the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, about the oddity of listing the PKK here two years after it declared a cease-fire. That seems not just odd but perverse. We are discouraging people from declaring cease-fires if we say, "It does not really matter" because, as the note tells us, cease-fires have broken down in the past. Therefore, the PKK is still to be classified as terrorist, no matter, presumably, how long the cease-fire continues.
There is a balance to be struck between the preservation of our rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on the one hand, and our commitment to the global fight against terrorism on the other. I agree with the Government that we should take steps to prevent the UK from being used as a base from which to plan, organise or finance acts of terrorism elsewhere in the world. However, I also think that since we cannot possibly proscribe all the thousands of organisations throughout the world which are concerned with terrorism within the definition of Section 3 of the Act, including some governments, we should have done better to go down this road cautiously, limiting the use of the power to states which have democratic, pluralistic governments.
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