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EU to pursue thought crime (format-corrected repost)

Commentator | 02.01.2003 16:27

The Council of Europe has ruled that member states must pass law to criminalise not only the expression of certain views or publishing of certain insults on the internet, but even the "aiding and abetting" of someone else to do so. The thin end of a very wide wedge.

[ Note to Indymedia : This is a format-corrected reposting from yesterday - original was virtually unreadable. Please delete yesterdays version.]

The Council of Europe has ruled that member states must pass law to criminalise not only the expression of certain views or publishing of certain insults on the internet, but even the "aiding and abetting" of someone else to do so. The thin end of a very wide wedge. 

It is true that the views they will repress are views that most of us would think offensive, but I find the wording dangerously wide and an open invitation to governmental abuse, and prosecutions for what is in effect "thought crime".

We already have laws against incitement to racial hatred, of which I wholeheartedly approve, but this goes much much further. 

I am talking about the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime of The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. 
Overall details are here  and the full text of the Additional Protocol itself is /a> as an acrobat file. 

The protocol states (Art 6) that each member state must act to criminalise: 
"distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 April 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party."
and (Art 7): 
"Article 7 — Aiding and abetting 1. Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, aiding or abetting the commission of any of the offences established in accordance with this Protocol, with intent that such offence be committed."

Notice in particular, that while each state (Party) has the right in general to choose which international courts to trust for these purposes, there is one and only one court whose findings every state is compelled to support.
A court set up 57 years agoby the victors in the immediate aftermath of a long and bloody war. A court which was making decisions in the white heat of emotion, and with all the triumphalism and bias which one might expect of the victor. A court which treated as an equal participant, whose word was to be trusted, the Soviet Union. The same Soviet Union which we afterwards discovered was itself guilty of state-sponsored genocide, and of repeated show trials with totally invented evidence, fraudulent depositions and forged documents on a massive scale.

Why must this one court, from long ago, be singled out as the only one which is compulsory ? 
I think we can all see the hidden agenda. 

But turn nearer to the present. Kosovo for instance. A long history of two racial groups taking alternate turns at being first the perpetrator and then the victim of genocide. Will websites speaking of the suffering of one side be criminalised if they even hint at any justification in previous history? And websites which even carry a link to such sites (aiding and abetting).

And genuine historical reserch websites, which discuss cause and effect. Where is the line between identifying the possible causes of genocidal abuse, and justifying that abuse? Between investigating the historical accuracy of abuse reports and "grossly minimising" them ? Way too much scope for governmental abuse to suppress free speech. Remember, this moves it out of the domain of civil action, defamation etc. This makes it criminal, ie your government can imprison you.

And look what is missing. 
It is clear that no international cooperation can be compelled over prosecutions justifying genocide or human rights abuses until a suitable international court has so branded it. 
The political power to prevent such branding is in the hands of a few large nations. Many around the world believe that Israel is committing crimes against humanity in the West Bank. But there is no chance of getting any internationally significant court to verify this due to US veto power. 
So the power of the Convention in forcing States to cooperate in each others prosecutions will never be enforced against web-sites advocating, for instance, mass deportations of Palestinians. (I've seen them). 

My personal view is that true democracy rests on free speech. 
On the right of even the vilest of maniacs to have his say in public so long as he stops short at directly inciting violence against others. 
On the right to probe, investigate and argue over every and any viewpoint, historical event, political agenda, etc. 
The protection which a democracy has against hate-pages is the good sense of the majority of its people, who know what rubbish to ignore. 
It all comes back to the old saying "I may loathe what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

I fear the people who rule us are not pleased with the power given to the ordinary people by the internet. We can expect steadily more repressive legislation, of which this is part. 

It is of course this same Convention which forces member states to criminalise the ISP who fails to cough up not just the information on your internet traffic, but the ACTUAL CONTENT OF YOUR MESSAGES. Read the main body of the convention. I don't think you'll be very happy. 

And no, you nitwits at who are trying to suppress honest reporting, I am not an anti-semite. I am trying to defend free speech and democracy for my children. I am not interested in your racist games. I want you to have free speech too.