British National Party MEP Andrew Brons today questioned whether the Taliban should be on an EU list of banned terror groups which includes al-Qaida.
Organisations and individuals on the list are subject to sanctions and travel restrictions in Europe, but Mr Brons told fellow MEPs in Strasbourg that whilst the Taliban was an “appalling, repressive and anti-democratic organisation” it was not in the league of global terrorism alongside Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida and had no known cross-border ambitions.
The leader of Britain’s Labour MEPs Gelis Willmott said Mr Brons was “confused”, adding: “The Taliban are purposefully killing and maiming innocent women and children: of course they are terrorists.”
Mr Brons, referring to the current terrorist list of proscribed organisations, said: “What is the justification for placing the Taliban in the same category as Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida?
“Osama bin Laden and al Qaida are terrorists who have already committed terrorist acts worldwide and intend to commit more in the future. We must pursue those people to the ends of the earth and restrict them as much as possible.”
But he went on: “Whilst the Taliban are an appalling, repressive and anti-democratic organisation, the world is full of unpleasant regimes and the Taliban are not even in government.
“They are also killing and maiming our troops in Afghanistan, for which they are quite rightly hated.
“However, they would not be killing and maiming our troops if our troops were not deployed there. The Taliban, as far as I know, have no ambitions beyond their borders.”
He suggested that placing the Taliban and al-Qaida in the same category could provide ammunition for “the warmongers in the US and British Governments to pursue a pointless, murderous and unwinnable war in Afghanistan for years ahead”.
He added: “Furthermore, wars against Muslim countries only provoke terrorist outrages.”
On al-Qaida, Mr Brons said there was “considerable doubt” about its existence “as an organisational entity, as distinct from an ideological one.”
That meant there was no possibility of drawing up a definitive and inclusive list of its operatives: “The only strategy is to be watchful of those communities from which it recruits, regrettably including innocent people as well as the guilty.”
Ms Willmott commented: “Does Andrew Brons actually want to use this legislation to victimise innocent people in Muslim communities in the UK?
“The BNP are a party based on fuelling hatred. Their populist policies simply don’t work.
“I am very proud of the efforts of British troops in Afghanistan, often paying the ultimate price for everyone else’s freedom. And every British MEP should say they are too.”
This afternoon the European Parliament approved a resolution urging the EU to improve respect of human rights in the fight against terrorism.
“People suspected of terrorism or of links with Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida or the Taliban can end up on a UN ’black list of terrorists’ without knowing it.” said Dutch MEP Emine Bozkurt.
“As a result, they cannot travel freely and their bank accounts and assets are immediately frozen without any possibility for them to claim their innocence and appeal against such measures. Once a name is on that list, it is almost impossible to delete it as no revision mechanisms are foreseen.”
Labour MEP and civil liberties spokesman Claude Moraes said the grounds for placing individuals and organisations on the terror list should be “defined by law, in a transparent and democratic manner”.
He added: “Recently, the European Court of Justice called on the EU for a revision of this procedure. A stronger role for the European Parliament is of significant importance to guarantee transparent procedures.”