Updates from February, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 11:03 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Germany´s neo-Nazi terrorism: time for reflection 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In February 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had apologized to the families of the victims of apparent hate crimes for the failure of the German state to find and prosecute perpetrators. The so-called “döner murders” of mostly ethnic Turkish entrepreneurs had taken place between 2000 and 2007, but had remained unresolved until a recent and accidental discovery of the neo-Nazi link.

    “Most of you were abandoned in your time of need. Some relatives were themselves for years suspected of wrongdoing. That is particularly oppressive. For this, I ask for your forgiveness,” stated Ms. Merkel.

    Establishing the neo-Nazi connection to the murders had prompted soul-searching among the German authorities trying to understand how and why so many hate crimes against immigrants could have been overlooked for so long. The answer to this mystery may be closer than many think, as Ms. Merkel´s apology stands in a stark contrast with her earlier speech on the failure of multiculturalism in Germany. Then, in no uncertain terms, the German Chancellor suggested that the immigrants bore at least partial responsibility for failing to integrate… or to leave:

    “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality.”

    That is the crux of the problem, isn´t it? Immigrants would not leave. Immigrants would not put their lives on hold while giving their best years and energy working in host countries. Immigrants would go on to have families and children. Immigrants would not abandon their identity, culture, religion, food, or dress code. And so they are charged with being responsible for inspiring distrust, hate, or envy, or all of the above. The long tradition of xenophobia and blaming (perceived) outsiders for political, economic, or social failures of the country is carefully omitted.

    Of course, immigrants are still needed, just as they were needed after the WWII rebuilding their host country from the ruin in which extreme xenophobia and racism had left the entire continent. Today as ever Germany depends on the immigrant labor to power its economy. This is why Ms. Merkel´s belated apology, albeit welcome, seems somewhat disingenuous and self-serving. But genuine or calculated, this is a high time for reflection, in Germany and elsewhere, as to who their real enemies are.

    There is poignant symbolism in the “döner murders” affair. The law-abiding, entrepreneurial immigrants were slain by German criminals that hardly made any contribution to German society. However, even the reputably efficient German police could not escape the usual stereotyping and by default looked for perpetrators among the immigrant community. That, despite the growing evidence that the threat of violence emanates not only or not as much as from immigrants or minorities, as from poorly educated, disenfranchised, racist and increasingly extremist majority youths falling prey to clandestine yet highly organized right-wing organizations. Suffice it to mention the Breivik´s killing spree in Norway and his ideological influences to underscore the reality of the threat.

    While even mainstream politicians across Europe try to score cheap victories by engaging in demagogic populism and indulging public intolerance with myths about immigrants “stealing jobs,” “scamming welfare,” or “engaging in terrorism,” the much deadlier threat comes to fruition: the neo-Nazi terrorism.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 1:44 pm on February 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    The Spanish Supreme Court upholds the sentence for the Spanish Hammerskins 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In February 2012 the Spanish Supreme Court upheld the sentence giving prison terms for members of the Spanish section of the neo-nazi organization “Hammerskin” and ordering the dissolution of the Hammerskin-España. The 16 neo-nazis in question were handed penalties ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 years in prison, in addition to 2700 euro fine for each. The original sentence was issued in July 2009 by the Madrid court and was in essence the first such indictment in Spain.

    Note: The “Nation Hammerskin” was established in Texas, USA, in 1987 by a group of white supremacists. The movement gradually spread to other parts of the country as well as abroad. There are sections in France, Italy, Germany as well as Spain. Each national section functions autonomously, but maintaining close links with other sections. The organization´s name derives from the organization´s logo: two crossed hammers.

    The Spanish hammerskins were arrested as a result of the “Operation Dagger”in 2004. The operation was triggered by a string of racially-motivated attacks around Madrid in the final months of 2003. The investigation carried out by the Spanish Civil Guard and lasting several months led to the arrest of 16 individuals in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Guadalajara. The arrested, aged between 27 and 43, had the history of 48(!) prior arrests for violence and illegal possession of arms. The Civil Guard uncovered numerous material evidence of the group´s violent activities: firearms, ammunition, knives, daggers, baseball bats, and nazi paraphernalia and propaganda materials inciting to violence against other racial/ethnic groups.

    Note: Hammerskin España was established around 2000. It was a structured and organized movement, spreading across the entire country and funding itself through the sale of magazines, concerts, and other economic activities. It carried out regular attacks on Blacks and other persons perceived to be “foreign” in Spain. Their activities came to light following an undercover journalist investigation.

    The Movement against Intolerance that acted as a party to the case joined with the prosecution asking for up to 76 years in prison for the accused. Nevertheless, the Movement´s president, Esteban Ibarra, welcomed the sentence for “advancing fight against racism, xenophobia, and intolerance.”

    Indeed, it has been a pioneer judgment given decades of virtually total impunity for neo-nazi activism in Spain, as Pro Igual covered in its earlier article of the miniseries exploring the connection between neo-nazi movement and hate crimes in this country. CIDH Pro Igual looks forward to further instances of official investigation into neo-nazi crimes in Spain and meaningful sentences for all perpetrators of hate crimes.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 3:27 pm on February 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    The wasp nest: the origins and proliferation of neonazi organizations in Spain 

    By Demetrio Gomez Avila, CIDH Pro Igual

    This is the second issue in the mini-series of articles exploring the connection between neonazi organizations and hate crimes in Spain. The introductory article was published last month at the Pro Igual blog and is available here.

    The connection between contemporary hate crimes and neonazi movement has its origins in Spain´s troubled history since the end of the WWII. At the time when some countries sighed human rights treaties and created institutions to ensure that past atrocities would never happen again, some other countries – including Spain – did everything in their power to help nazis flee and evade responsibility for their participation in the biggest crimes committed against humanity. Thus, the country on the one hand acquired a toxic asset of influential nazi criminals settling and operating on its soil, and on the other hand missed out on the development and maturing of human rights institutions capable to contain the proliferation of anti-democratic and violent forces in the society.

    Despite official declaration of neutrality following the fall of the Third Reich, the Franco regime provided a refuge to the nazi fugitives, turning Spain into a genuine safe haven for hundreds of high-profile nazi criminals, including “Dr. Death” (Aribet Herbert Heim). Upon their arrival, the nazis immediately established a network of communication and mutual assistance via three principal organizations that facilitated their escape and resettlement. (One such smuggling organization was called ODESSA, a German abbreviation of the “Organization of former SS-members.”)

    Thanks to this mutual assistance network, as well as the tax haven the Franco´s Spain presented to them, the nazis have strengthened their cohesion as a group and grew their financial resources flowing from money laundering during unfettered property speculation on the Mediterranean coast. The old nazis lived in complete tranquility, passing their ideology and methodology on to new groups of violent extremists quietly growing and maturing within the Spanish society. By 1966, the nazi fugitives together with radical Falange members created CEDADE (Circulo Español de Amigos de Europa), the only neonazi organization in Europe legally established since the end of the WWII. Among CEDADE members were former officers of Gestapo and SS (including Otto Skorzeny and León Degrelle), high-ranking Spanish military and members of Franco´s Guarde. CEDADE was dissolved only in 1993.

    Last but not least list link in this chain of events was a total absence of any judicial action against the nazis in Spain. Survivors of nazi crimes almost did not press charges, with a notable exception of Violeta Friedman, and the Spanish authorities did nothing to prosecute any nazi crimes on their own. The nazi fugitives enjoyed complete and utter impunity. They published fighting manuals, delivered revisionist speeches and presentations, and harbored Holocaust deniers wanted internationally. Some of their published materials (i.e. SS-Werewolf Combat Instructions) serve as a reference point for neonazi groups around the world, while the so-called “Liberia Europa” in Barcelona is known as one of the chief distribution centers of nazi publications in Europe.

    Following the establishment of democracy in Spain, the nazis had to adopt a low profile to avoid deportation and subsequent criminal prosecution. At that time, international hunt for Dr. Heim brought investigators to Alicante and Malaga, and although not resulting in the capture of Heim, it shed light on a lot of forgotten information. The German police that traveled to Spain to complete investigation uncovered scores of former SS officers hiding and actively operating in Spain. (An excellent account of the nazi post-WWII activities in Spain is given in Joan Cantarero´s book “La Huella de la Bota.”)

    Thus we can see that there is a clear ideological and generational connection between nazi criminals finding a refuge in Spain after the WWII and the modern neonazi or pro-nazi organizations. Contemporary nazi criminals cannot and must not be dismissed as “maladaptable youths” “acting on an impulse,” but must be taken seriously as heirs and bearers of a deadly ideology, acting as part of an organized clandestine movement and responsible for carefully thought-out and extremely violent acts. Spanish judicial system must react accordingly, dedicating adequate resources and energy to stop and prevent legal functioning of neonazi organizations and pursue perpetrators of hate crimes with all severity of the law.

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