The UN Charter, article 11.1 states: "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence." http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/eng.htm
In many modern nations people accused of crimes enjoy this legal right. Also in Austria. Or so one would have thought. Unfortunately the fate of some animal rights and veg* activists now raises serious doubts as to the appropriateness of police work in that country: According to press information, doors were kicked in when balaclava-wearing, armed special units of police stormed apartments and store-rooms at 6 a.m. last Wednesday. Guns were pointed at some half-asleep and confused civilians, they were handcuffed, and their terrified dogs noosed and removed.
During hours flats were searched from top to bottom, creating havoc, dirt and destruction. 14 activists were imprisoned. All electronic equipment, the complete address-material and basically every work-tool for everyday business was confiscated so that the respective organisations are more or less paralyzed because of this brutal official intervention. Punishment before being pronounced guilty?
This kind of police raid would not surprise in some countries known for their brutality. One may even understand such violent strategies when dangerous terrorists have to be arrested. But this incredible action happened in Austria of all places, and the activists are not suspected of having murdered humans, tortured animals, or committed other heinous crimes!
No concrete charges were brought against the imprisoned activists so far, which represents a breach of the convention of human rights. They do not know what wrongs they are personally supposed to be guilty of since only general allegations against the animal rights community were made. The law is the law and has to be respected. However, at the same time there is also a civilized way of executing legal procedures and another one giving serious cause for concern. Could the heavy-handedness shown by the Austrian police today happen in your country tomorrow?
It is certainly in the interest of every activist to keep a watchful eye on what is going on and to give all possible support to everyone suffering from excessive zeal in a certain European country right now. We have done just that. The EVANA team has reacted quickly and within a few hours the news was published on our website (see the link on top/ in the middle of each page of the eight language sections). Some demos and actions of solidarity in different countries are being announced or organised right now. In case you know of events supporting the Austrian activists, please send us the details so that we can add the news: mailto: email@example.com
Please spread the word! Make people aware of what happened to our friends and colleagues in Austria, and monitor the situation closely! The addresses of Austrian Embassies in your countries can be found here. http://www.embassyworld.com/dev/result.php?guest=14&host=%25count=0&menu=1
Our next Newsletter in June will hopefully bring happier news. In the meantime we can only wait and hope for a just and fair treatment of the Austrian activists and send them our very best wishes.
Best regards Your international EVANA Team
--VGT PRESS RELEASE (SPANISH)
Send the two links above to the press addresses:
https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/05/399502.html - Solidarity
https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/05/399441.html - Press release
https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/05/399334.html - Dawn raids