Nobbled by Qatar?

A GNRD supporter at the UN Human Rights Council accused Norway's public prosecutor of racism

In recent statements the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) has portrayed itself as an organisation struggling to "forge a genuine international will to combat terrorism" – in the face of obstruction and opposition from Norway.

Referring to the Norwegian police investigation into suspected money-laundering, GNRD says most of the material seized during the raid on its offices last May has been returned but documents relating to its "counter-terrorism" efforts have not:

"Økokrim [the Norwegian economic crimes agency] returned the most papers and computers it seized ... but retained several documents the most important of them being GNRD’s correspondence with countries on its proposed convention on balancing human rights and counter-terrorism measures, and most of the documents related to this project."

GNRD asks: "What is the relationship between the convention on counter-terrorism and money laundering, if this was the aim of the raid?"

This is a very good question, though GNRD seems to be asking it rhetorically, implying there is no connection. Instead, it has made two alternative suggestions about the reasons for the raid.

One is racism. A GNRD statement read out by one of its supporters at the UN Human Rights Council said the raid may be "linked to the non-Norwegian origin of the GNRD President, Dr Loai Deeb, and other members of GNRD management".

Deeb is of Palestinian origin, and the speaker continued: "At the social network page of the public prosecutor … an unprovoked attack on the citizens of Gaza and the Palestinians was found."

Unfortunately the speaker gave no further details about this. The reference to the public prosecutor can be heard in a video of the speech posted on GNRD's website (at 1 min 32 sec) but does not appear in a text version of the speech below it.

GNRD's other suggestion is that the police raid could have been instigated by Qatar

"Does a privilege [sic] and active position of Norway at the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Doha, Qatar have any connections to the raid at GNRD or the roots of the attack are coming from there?"

The congress in Doha took place between 12 and 19 April, and according to GNRD Norwegian authorities took their first steps to obtain a search warrant for GNRD's premises shortly afterwards, on May 7.

It is unclear what GNRD is alluding to when it says Norway had a privileged and active position at the congress. It was one of 149 countries attending and one of more than 70 countries that made a "high level" statement.

In its statement to the congress, Norway explained that because of its opposition to capital punishment "we have limitations in our national law as to how far we can cooperate in the justice area with countries practising capital punishment". It also referred to transnational crime as "a defining issue of this century for all our countries". 

GNRD portrays the continuing retention of its counter-terrorism documents as part of broader opposition by Norway to its efforts in this area, citing Norway's "refusal to participate" in the 
counter-terrorism conference that it organised in Geneva last February.

There are many unanswered questions about the Geneva conference. It's clear that GNRD attached great importance to it and that it served some kind of political agenda (though whose agenda we don't yet know). It was almost certainly the biggest and most expensive event organised by GNRD and, according to Deeb, took almost two years to prepare. The preparations (again, according to Deeb) involved sending "thousands of field researchers around the world" to compile information about terrorism.

(It may or may not be relevant that the month-long campaign of online harassment directed against me during February and March began just a few days after I wrote my first sceptical blog post about the conference on February 9.)

In recent statements, GNRD presents the conference as an uncontentious affair – the sort of thing Norway could not reasonably oppose. Referring to the conference in its latest press release, for example, it says Deeb "put forward a new agreement for collective cooperation in the fight against terrorism that seeks to develop effective international coordination mechanisms":

"In his speech to the participants, Dr Deeb called on all states to support the proposed Convention in order to work collectively to develop new strategies to prevent terrorist attacks all over the world by various armed groups, and to take punitive action against their supporters."

However, GNRD has been oddly coy about the nature of the counter-terror mechanism it proposed. There's no detailed explanation on its website and the draft convention it presented at the February conference hasn't been posted on its website either (though a leaked copy can be read here).

The centrepiece of GNRD's plan is to set up an International Council for Counterterrorism, closely modelled on the Human Rights Council – one of the UN's most ineffectual bodies. I discussed possible political motives behind this plan in an earlier blog post; one effect is that it could help some governments to designate local opposition movements as terrorists without necessarily producing solid evidence of terrorism.

But, to return to GNRD's important question: Is there any conceivable connection between the counter-terrorism conference and money laundering? 

The answer depends largely on how it was funded, and by whom. So far, GNRD has not been very forthcoming about that. There have been repeated claims that Mohammed Dahlan, the corrupt former head of Palestinian "preventive security" in Gaza, provided at least some of the funds. Up to now, GNRD has made no public comment on those claims. If the Norwegian authorities find evidence of funding by Dahlan they might then be in a position to argue that GNRD was benefiting from the proceeds of crime.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 2 July 2015