So i am back in Europe for four days and today the whole concept of Europe (and its sick permutations) has been omnipresent wherever i went. In the afternoon i went to the dutch pre WSIS event ‘fill the gap 3’ organized by a couple of Dutch development NGOs in an apparent attempt to get some kind of public backing for their presence at the upcoming summit in Tunis. The whole event was dominated by a discussion around ICT, human rights and related to that the fact that the summit will take place in a country with a rather poor human rights record. Consequently one of the questions posed to the members of the final panel was something to the extend of if Europeans can demand compliance with human rights from developing countries at a time when human rights are curtailed in the same European countries.
To illustrate this the moderator pointed at the data-retention directive, that the EU council wants to get adopted in order to more effectively combat terrorism. Now is respect the work edri and its members are doing to fight this (and i am both donor to bits of freedom and a signatory of the petition against this stupid piece of legislation) but this is hardly the most drastic human rights violation (if at all) that Europe is capable of. It is something that mainly effects european citizens who at least on paper can influence this through democratic processes (and lets not forget that most people are stupid or paranoid (or both) enough to find this a perfectly fine instrument in the ‘global war on terror’).
Real human rights violation look a lot different if you ask me. How about looking up people who have done nothing wrong that coming to europe in fire unsafe cells and the threaten to shoot them when the express the desire to help their co-detainees who are burning to death in their looked cells, as reported in yesterdays volkskrant:
“We wanted to save others, but we were not permitted to do so. They pulled out guns and pointed them at us” said Afghan Momen Nouri, who had been released from cell 8 in wing K. “I heard ‘Help, Help’! A policeman replied : ‘I shoot you’.” “Then we were sitting in wing J and six or seven policemen arrived, who pointed guns at us, handcuffed us and locked us up in a cage”, said Algerian Mohammed Tahir from cell 2 in wing K. “The fire came nearer and nearer, and we heard screaming and yelling.” […] A fireman who arrived at the shift change around six o’clock, couldn’t believe his eyes. “There was a fascist atmosphere. Heavily armed men surrounded the poor bastards. It looked like Guantanamo Bay.”
Or even more cowardly getting so-called safe third countries so far that their security forces are willing to shoot people who are desperately trying to enter europe in the back. apparently this is more or less a prerequisite to receive European development help or to become a member of the European union (as seen in a less publicized incident involving turkish forces).
And then i am not even talking about yesterdays washington post report that claims that eastern European countries allow the CIA to run sekr!t torture prisons for ‘terrorists’ on their soil.
Data retention might be a troublesome and stupid thing (and during the discussion someone made the very valid point that once the necessary software is written it will probably find its best customers in authoritarian regimes outside of the Europe) but it hardly is the most drastic human rights violation going on in Europe right now.
But back to the beginning of the post. The other thing that made me think of europe was the premiere of the theater piece Europe an alien by andcompany&co in the gasthuis in Amsterdam. the piece itself is quite interesting (although the first half could be a bit more dense or faster or both if you ask me) and the sound-design is really amazing (it is still running on friday and saturday night) but more importantly it made me remember a text the ‘temporary association everyone is an expert’ published as a call to the noborder camp in Strasbourg back in 2002: ‘Let’s talk about Europe’
I still think that this is one of the best texts that we have ever published and given the situation described above it has lost none of its importance.