Friday, October 14, 2005

Football fans' human rights "fly out of the window"

Despite no prior record of engaging in terrorist activities, football fans attending the FIFA World Cup in Germany next year will be tracked by military spy planes and challenged by regulations and ordinances that target specific national groups. "This is the latest in an extraordinary battery of measures that governments have deployed against the minor problem of fat men misbehaving at football matches. When it comes to football hooliganism, fashionable concerns about human rights fly out of the window," commented Mick Hume in The Times (London).

"Judges and opposition politicians object loudly to the Government's draconian proposal to detain terrorism suspects for weeks without charge. Nobody seems to mind when police ask the courts to issue a football banning order taking away a British citizen's passport without charge or trial. There are more than 3,000 FBOs in force, and will be many more before next summer as a joint Home Office/police chiefs body enforces a new 'zero tolerance' policy on minor offences. When two men objected that their six-year football banning orders infringed human rights laws, the courts ruled that such 'very firm measures were justified to confront the various sickening ills of football violence'. It seems strange that these 'very firm measures' are deemed more legitimate than draconian anti-terror laws.After all, the 'various sickening ills of football violence' do not include suicide bombings," he complained.

Another English newspaper, Daily Star, also claims that German authorities will specifically ban English fans from drinking alcohol at World Cup stadiums: "Officially, the decision on which matches will be prevented from having alcohol sales will be decided when fixtures are released in December, with 'high-risk' matches to be declared booze-free. However the ... decision had already been made on England games," AAP reported. Only about 8,000 English fans travelled to the last World Cup in Japan and Korea in 2002, but early estimates put the number of English supporters expected in Germany at about 100,000.

UPDATE(S)

Reader Haydn K reminds us that some "civil liberties campaigners" were recorded as criticising the British government's "emergency measures to combat football hooliganism" that were "successfully rushed through" parliament, in just two weeks, in 2000.

*****

Earlier this year, Germany's federal Minister of the Interior, Otto Schily, warned of even tougher measures against football militants: "Security comes before freedom of movement. If there are serious indications that hooligans or other violent trouble-makers are making their way to Germany, depending on the situation, we may even temporarily reimpose border controls."

*****

Walter Gagg, FIFA's director of stadia and security for the World Cup, now assures that "the security focus now is as much about preventing terrorism than hooliganism" ... [and] ... while we don't want to consider that every spectator is a potential terrorist - at the same time we are aware it could be a wonderful platform for terrorists."

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