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International Team Observes Human Rights Violations during Radioactive Waste Shipment to Gorleben

The Peaceful Atom?

by CounterPunch Wire

The Gorleben International Peace Team (GIPT) was established in 1997 to report on the human rights and civil liberties situation in the Wendland region of Germany during high-level atomic waste transports. The November 2001 GIPT observed that by placing the interests of the nuclear industry above the Constitutional rights of its own citizens, the German government violated the human rights and civil liberties of anti-CASTOR demonstrators and local residents.

Examples of these violations included the occupation of the Wendland region by very large numbers of police, the excessive use of force (such as batons, attack dogs and horses) against non-violent demonstrators, police anonymity and lack of accountability, the politicization of the police and the criminalization of the protestors, and the suspension of basic human rights such as freedom of movement, assembly, association and personal security and freedom from arbitrary detention, search, and seizure.

The November 2001 GIPT included members from seven nations: Julio Bosque, Costa Rica; J?rgen Sch?tz, Germany; Ben Kinross, Scotland; Gabriela Bulisova, Slovak Republic; Umut Pulat, Turkey; Kevin Kamps, John LaForge and Bill Mills, U.S.A.; and Marija Belic,Yugoslavia.

GIPT members expressed some initial observations about their experiences:

“Police attack dogs biting non-violent demonstrators is as shocking now in Splietau as it was 40 years ago in Alabama during Martin Luther King`s civil rights movement,” said Kevin Kamps of the U.S.A. “GIPT wholeheartedly agrees with the Lower Saxony State Police slogan “Show Civil Courage,” so whether citizens are protesting against racism or atomic waste dumps, their basic human and constitutional rights must be protected.”

“I saw a situation in Splietau which was very brutal,” said Julio Bosque of Costa Rica. “A police dog was attacking a person, so we ran there, as did media people, first aid people, and some other demonstrators. It was obvious that the police horse commander did not want anyone there to observe what was happening. He tried to take the video tape from a woman who was filming. The horse commander then gave the order to charge the horses right into the people. We all tried to jumped aside, but some of us were caught right in between the charging horses. It is very disturbing that the police commander refused to give his name and where his unit came from. Is this proper police behavior?”

“Having followed the political discussion in Germany about the dangers of Right-wing extremism from the UK, I was shocked by how freely neo-fascist groups can demonstrate as compared to the police state introduced when non-violent CASTOR opponents wish to exercise their right to protest,” said Ben Kinross of Scotland, GIPT`s volunteer coordinator. “The German government, hand-in-hand with the nuclear industry, is blatantly violating the civil liberties and basic human rights of its citizens, by placing nuclear waste over the constitutional rights and the voice of the affected local population, and irrevocably stigmatizes the Wendland region as a nuclear sacrifice zone,” said Gabriela Bulisova of the Slovak Republic. “Like a destructive addiction, the German government is willing to sacrifice anything, even democracy, for the needs of the nuclear industry”.

“Even though I was an international human rights observer standing some distance from the action, I was almost kicked by a police horse,” said Umut Pulat of Turkey. “The commander of the police horse team suddenly decided to charge his horse right into people. I cannot understand the use of huge, fast, and strong horses against demonstators who are just sitting non-violently in the road.”

“As a citizen of this area as well as an observor for GIPT, there is no way to understand how such police actions can be allowed to override the legal rights of protest,” said J?rgen Sch?tz of Schreyahn. “I myself have seen that police horses were not only “protecting” the road to prevent demonstrator actions, but were ridden by police men and women directly into people who were standing aside, not moving or acting at all. So I clearly observed that at least one person was hit hard by a horse. Within the same scene, a man was attacked by a police dog while he was standing on the “Landgrabenwall” (wall) east of Splietau. This wall is about 300 meters south of the road, so this happened at least 250 meters beyond the “forbidden zone”. It is unbelievable that these police men and women will not be held accountable for overstepping their responsibilities or for their unnecessary actions against legal human rights.”

The final goal of GIPT is to publish a report and analysis of its observations, and to distribute this document around the world. The report is due to be published by February, 2002 and can be obtained by contacting KURVE-Wustrow at: Kirchstrasse 14, D-29462 Wustrow, Germany; phone 05843-9871-0; fax 05843-9871-11; e-mail: info@kurvewustrow.org.

“GIPT believes in, utilizes and supports the ideals and methods of nonviolence”, said Marija Belic of Yugoslavia. “Nonviolence ? as both a philosophy and strategy ? provides an essential safeguard against the degradation of human rights, individual dignity and the environment.”

GIPT maintains its international character because nuclear waste and the violation of human rights are global problems that demand the attention of the international community. GIPT is also a vehicle for raising international awareness about the dangers of nuclear energy, awareness that can help prevent radioactive waste from being dumped in areas that are politically and economically vulnerable.

GIPT was established in response to an appeal from the Wendland region for international support before, during and after the on-going, controversial high-level nuclear waste CASTOR transports to the temporary radioactive waste storage facility at Gorleben, Germany. GIPT is dedicated to protecting human rights, civil liberties, and the natural environment.