PRESS RELEASE - HUMAN RIGHTS SCANDAL IN AUSTRIA
Non-governmental organisations express concern about what may be a case of state repression of social activism.
On 21st May 2008 at 6 a.m., heavily armed police officers from an elite unit stormed 21 homes and the offices of a number of non-governmental organisations in Austria. Breaking their way in, the masked police surrounded frightened civilians in their beds at gun point. Ten people were arrested and have been held in custody without specific charge since that day. Despite the statement by the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior that "The measures taken by the police (.) were in no way directed against animal welfare or animal welfare organisations", the removal of computers, documents and other assets has effectively crippled some of the organisations involved.
Those asking the media to look at this case draw attention to the fact that Amnesty International (1) and the Austrian Green Party have reacted strongly, questioning police methods and the treatment of detainees, particularly the absence of actionable evidence justifying "strong suspicion" (dringender Tatverdacht) or the "reason (or grounds)" (Haftgrund) for the arrests. Detainee accounts of what has happened are alarming: see, for example, this appeal sent out by Martin Balluch on June 9 (2).
In recent years, milestone reforms in animal law have been achieved in Austria including bans on fur farms,
battery cages for hens and the use of wild animals in circuses.
Should those who have achieved advances that are an example to the rest of the world be blamed for all the unsolved cases of damage to property in Austria over the last eleven years?
"All citizens have the right to actively stand up for or demonstrate against something. It is particularly important to stand up for animal rights because animals cannot stand up for themselves. People must do it for them. Animals, like all the defenceless, rely on this protection." (Elfriede Jelinek, Nobel Prize for literature 2004) (3)
Should organisations acting for animals that have always operated peacefully and within the law have their functioning hampered by the seizure of their material?
The undersigned express deep concern at what appears to be an attempt to criminalise the animal advocacy movement and to stifle the political freedom of those involved in it.
(1) Amnesty International statement
(2) Appeal Martin Balluch
(3) Elfriede Jelinek http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=34576〈=en
Information in German and English is available on the website of the Association Against Animal Factories (Verein Gegen Tierfabriken): http://www.vgt.at.
All Info about the case:
http://www.myspace.com/againess (see blog)
http://www.care2.com/c2c/group/VGT (a lot of info, actions to take, news, photos etc.)